Democratic candidates Joe Nguyen and Shannon Braddock rose to the top of the 11-candidate field to win the Aug. 7 primary with the goal of replacing Sen. Sharon Nelson in Olympia.
They each received far more votes than the closest competitors — and ended the primary season with what first looked like a neck-and-neck finish but grew as votes were counted throughout the week. As of Monday morning, Nguyen was in first place solidly with 12,924 votes (31 percent) and Braddock with 10,500 votes (25 percent). The next closest competitor was Lois Schipper, with just under 10 percent of the vote. Island candidate Lisa Devereau received more than 1,200 votes, 3 percent of the total votes cast.
Looking ahead, Nguyen and Braddock say they plan to visit Vashon repeatedly between now and the November election. In conversations last week, each spoke about their priorities in Olympia for all people in the 34th District, including improving access to health care and addressing the state’s tax system. They also talked about their understanding of priorities for residents of Vashon and Maury Islands, with improving ferry service heading both their lists.
Last Wednesday, when the previous evening’s primary victory news was still fresh, Nguyen said he was surprised to have come in first in the race.
“I knew that we worked hard. I don’t think anyone worked harder than us on this campaign, but I thought we were going to come in second because of the machine our opponent has behind her,” he said.
Nguyen is a Microsoft executive and a child of refugees, who grew up in White Center and Burien and now lives with his family in West Seattle. He said he has come to Vashon as a candidate and attended a Unifying for Democracy event, the Farmers Market and musical venue The Coop, where he attended a musical tribute to Bob Dylan earlier this year. Islanders will be seeing more of him, he said, as he and his team continue and expand the work they had been doing for the primary.
“We will be doing a lot of door knocking, a lot of meeting with folks and a lot of raising money to make sure we have what we need to put up a good fight,” he said.
The first priority he would like to achieve in Olympia, he said, is health care for all. He noted that in the run up to the primary, he knocked on countless doors and talked to “tens of thousands” of people, and health care was mentioned over and over as one of their largest concerns.
Second, he said, he would like to see progressive tax reform, noting there is considerable misinformation about how tax money is generated and spent.
“I think between having progressive tax reform and health care for all would put us in a really good place as a state,” he said. “There is no reason why in the wealthiest nation in the world and in one of the wealthiest states in that nation that anyone should be too poor to live, and no one should be taxed out of their home,” he said.
Braddock, the deputy chief of staff for King County Executive Dow Constantine and a single mother of three, said universal access to health care is among her top concerns. She added income inequity, saying it is related to the state’s regressive tax system, and she included a third priority: supporting healthy development for infants and young children.
“Zero to 5 work is really important,” she said. “It is a big area where we need to focus more energy and more resources.”
In the coming weeks, she said she plans to continue to listen to people about their needs and concerns and continue to make the case for herself as a state senator. She noted her work experience, her support from labor and her life experiences — including being a woman with school-age children, which she called “a good perspective to bring to the legislative body.”
“I just hope to demonstrate I am the best candidate,” she said.
Braddock, who previously worked for King County Council chair Joe McDermott, said she is familiar with many areas of concern for Vashon. She quickly mentioned ferry service as a top concern.
“We need to make sure that we have the resources and that we are doing good management work,” she said. “ We cannot have ferries leaving half full when we know how long the lines are. We need to make sure we are continually on the folks at the state and at Washington State Ferries. Whoever is in this seat has to be pounding that drum consistently and wisely to make sure we are doing everything we can to make sure we have an effective transportation system for the island.”
Next she cited Neighborcare’s current operating deficit, saying she would consider “anything and everything” to make sure islanders have access to preventive, basic health care services.
Finally, she cited the ability for people to live and work on the island as a top concern as well.
“I think making sure people have living wage jobs and have housing on Vashon is going to be super important,” she said. “It’s urgent.”
Nguyen, who travels to Vashon on his motorcycle because it makes ferry travel easier, mentioned the ferry system as a top priority as well, and gave a nod to his family history.
“My parents were boat people. I understand a boat as a lifeline,” he said.
He noted that traffic, including for commerce, has to be able to travel efficiently on the ferry, and he said he would like to make sure that fares are equitable, noting that ferry users pay a higher share of operating costs than other transit users do.
“Ferry commuters deserve a break,” he said.
He added that investing in infrastructure is essential, including widening the Fauntleroy dock to hold more cars so vehicles can board faster, making sure there is a pipeline for candidates to replace the many ferry workers who will be retiring in the coming years and ensuring that there is adequate service when a ferry breaks down.
He also mentioned Vashon’s water as an important resource to protect.
Nguyen called Vashon “a very uplifting place” as a candidate. He mentioned the recent candidate forum, saying he had never seen so many people with their voters’ pamphlets taking notes. He added that he knows islanders care about many issues, the community and one another.
“We need to replicate that type of engagement and behavior,” he said. “That would make our politics less divisive.”
The election will be certified on Aug. 21.