Correction: See the underlined and struck-out text in paragraph 3.

In a wide-open race for State Senator from the 34th District (representing West Seattle, Burien, and Vashon Island), there are several good candidates from whom to choose. Joe Nguyen stands out as having a razor-sharp understanding of transit and land use issues, and firm commitment to siding with transit.

Joe Nguyen

By day, Joe Nguyen is a Senior Manager at Microsoft. He gets around mostly by bus, light rail, and bike, except for when he has to get the family around by car.

By night, Nguyen is involved in various community groups, including as Chair of Wellspring Family Services’ Associate Board. Wellspring is committed to housing 2000 families in the next two years. “We have a housing crisis now, and it doesn’t require requires public/private partnerships to build” the housing we need, he said in our interview. In defense of allowing for-profit developers to build some of the needed housing, he mentioned the condo warranty law as a reason why for-profit developers will choose to build apartments when given the opportunity to build multi-family housing. He understands the bureaucratic hurdles that get in the way of building anything, including housing.

Regarding transit, Nguyen expressed frustration not only that the Center City Connector might not be finished, resulting in having to return a lot of federal grant money, but also that the CCC isn’t planned to go all the way to UW. On that point, he said he would support trying to get the state to throw in some money to get the job done.

We asked why Senators Maralyn Chase and Bob Hasegawa, no friends of light rail, endorsed him. He said their endorsements are based on other issues, such as making stuff accessible to regular people, and that he does not agree with them at all on transit issues. In particular, Nguyen does not support the rollback of Sound Transit car tabs.

Of particular relevance to many of Nguyen’s would-be constituents on Vashon Island, he “100%” supports getting Washington State Ferries to accept PugetPass and interagency transfers, and also pointed out the need for more pedestrian-friendly paths at the ferry docks. He is passionate about using price elasticity to incentivize more ferry walk-ons and make them cheaper for families.

Nguyen also points out the irony that most businesses have 5-year plans, have interest in building here, and find that the local governments have not planned ahead. He would like to see development plans prepared by local governments that include pedestrian and bike access to and through new construction projects, and that these plans be ready when prospective tenant businesses show up, so that shovels can be turned faster.

Shannon Braddock was a strong second, based on her experience dealing with transit issues as a legislative aide for several years. She understands the complex work of building regional partnerships. She commutes downtown by bus, and says “people want light rail to come faster,” especially the many people with whom she talks while commuting. “I’ve seen what it means to manage transit.” She added that “It’s cost-effective” for moving people to and through urban areas.

In response to our question about her call for “preserving housing affordability”, she clarified “I am a supporter of urban density”, and that preserving single-family houses around light rail stations probably doesn’t make sense. “Four stories is probably not enough” for new apartments in those locations. She is willing to take a look at all the barriers the state throws in the way of building more housing, but also defended the need for Comprehensive Plans with long cycles between updates, as part of the need to get buy-in from stakeholders and to plan growth well.

On several transit and climate action questions, Braddock said she would follow Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon’s and Sen. Marko Liias on these issues, including on resolving the car tab debate (other than not wanting to raid the $500m education fund). But she has heard far more complaints about property taxes than car tabs.

However, Braddock doesn’t provide many policy details. She has a tendency to talk around taking positions, which may be either open-mindedness or centrist calculation. She is generally supportive of state funding of transit, and pointed out that the state hasn’t given the county enough of a toolbox for transit funding. But we don’t think she has Nguyen’s firm policy commitments.

Lois Schipper has spent most of her career in nursing, and has traveled around the world to offer her services to many who need the help. Her work and travels have colored her reaction to those wanting to stop growth. “We are growing as a population worldwide. The world we live in today is not the world we lived in 40 year ago.” She is a staunch advocate of affordable housing, and putting it in Seattle, especially downtown. In particular, she would like to do away with the payments developers can make to push affordable housing out to South King County, and require the affordable housing on-site.

Schipper is a bicyclist and defender of road diets. She also has dug deeply into the situation with the Fauntleroy Ferry Dock, pointing out that there is not enough staging area for all the cars that could fit on the ferries’ card decks. When asked about getting more walk-ons, she said the ferries and other modes are “interdependent”, and that it makes no sense to have to pay three different fares to get to the ferry, get on the ferry, and then get back onto buses.

Schipper is skeptical of the value of the Center City Connector and painfully aware of the dangers for bikes. But she is also a light rail commuter and fan. She is not interested in rolling back the voter-approved car tabs for ST3, and staunchly opposed to raiding the $500m education fund. However, she does want more transparency, from ST, from SDOT, from the Legislature, and from politicians in general. “I have never been good at lying.”

Sofia Aragon serves on the board of WA Low Income Housing Alliance. She wants to streamline processes at the state level to allow affordable housing to be built faster. She said the people she has talked to while doorbelling know more density is coming, but they also want more transit to come with it, whether it be buses or rail. But she also supports the rollback of the Sound Transit portion of car tabs to better reflect car values. “Voters are feeling pretty maxed out.”

Lem Charleston is another, more outsiderish, candidate who is making an effort. He is a motorcyclist who cares passionately about bike safety. He wants the Department of Motor Vehicles to do more to train car drivers how to drive safely in the presence of bikes, and vice versa. In particular, he sees a need for cyclists to have a better understanding of car drivers’ blind spots. His attitude toward light rail — which he points out he will probably never get to use, but for which he has had to pay over $200 in annual tabs — is somewhat skeptical, with a call to have more independent review of how all the money is being spent. But that is also his practical attitude toward how his church doles out grants to worthy causes: an attitude of demanding to see results, which he doesn’t see among most current elected officials. On housing affordability, he would like to see some sort of subsidy for low-income renters and property tax relief. He is also not happy about the rate at which Seattle is densifying, and how quickly we are losing our views.

All candidates were offered the opportunity to interview. These are the five who responded.

Ballots for the primary election must be postmarked or turned in by August 7, and postage is pre-paid thanks to the County.

The STB Editorial Board currently consists of Martin H. Duke, Brent White, and Dan Ryan.

13 Replies to “2018 Primary: 34th District Senate”

  1. I don’t live in the 34th, and don’t know any of the candidates (I know a little about Broderick from her near-miss run for City Council), but … that being said, I think this is a really excellent example of a good endorsement article. By its extensive coverage of positions and attitudes on transit / land-use matters (which is and should be the bases for your endorsements), rather than just a simple “we think A is better than B”, it allows voter to assess the nature and spread of their transit / land-use positions against the other issues which may count in determining one’s vote.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Don’t live in Joe Nguyen’s district, but it’s likely to be on my favorite route to Seattle, because it’s pretty and a long way from I-5. Olympia to Tacoma to Gig Harbor to Southworth, ferry ride to Fauntleroy, and RapidRide from there.

    Agree with you about him as a candidate, and as a Senator. Butt here’s nothing suspicious about a candidate whom you support also being supported by other legislators with whom you disagree on one proposition.

    BUT. I do wonder whether being a manager is an ideal path to electoral politics. Absolute worst is likely a commission in the Armed Forces, closely followed by a career as a corporate executive. Even when not a putrid lying traitor of a Fake one.

    Reason being that in these fields, everyone subject to your orders, as a condition of their hiring, has promised to obey all of them without question. Richard Nixon discovered that the President of the United States cannot order his own dog not to wet on the carpet and be obeyed.

    So. Anybody riding the both the 545 and the C-line between home and work…would this candidate lose your vote solely because the Connector should really terminate at Discovery Park? Now that Almost Live is no longer on the air, we have to take a lot about Microsoft on faith.

    Mark Dublin

  3. Thanks for doing these interviews!

    I live in the 34th and was unaware of this race until quite recently – it hasn’t gotten much press. None of the candidate statements in the voter’s pamphlet addressed transit directly, so I was unsure where to head.

    It seems that Nguyen’s campaign has the most momentum, so I’m glad to see he is the best on transit and land use issues.

    1. As a voter in the 34th, I would have supported Shannon Braddock. She simply gets things done. Perhaps you found her answers not as bold because she has a long history of working on Sound Transit and King County Metro issues as Chief of Staff to CM Joe McDermott and as deputy Chief of Staff for King County Executive Dow Constantine. Her transit experience is much deeper. Joe’s talking point about transit agencies not having long range plans betrays his inexperience. King County just completed a 25 year plan, Metro Connects, with rolling five-year implementation plans. Sound Transit is also heavily involved with long-range planning. Although I respect STB a great deal, I wouldn’t blindly accept their recommendation on who is best on transit issues. I am voting for Shannon Braddock. As we move forward on light rail to West Seattle and designing a bus network to compliment that, I think her relationships and knowledge make her the superior candidate.

      1. This is great! First time in a lot of elections I’ve gotten this much excitement over competing candidates like Joe Nguyen! Also first time I’ve had any sadness about not being able to vote in Seattle.

        Looking across the lake at the Chernobyl type containment dome, I only wish the two of them could flip a coin to decide who’d move to another district. Is that OK in Seattle? Because based on their statements here, have never seen two candidates with the experience and backgrounds that so strongly complements each other’s.

        Another very strong point. My favorite coffee-house, Capitol Hill cafe for Olympia Roasters, the most professional business I’ve ever seen in any trade, is an easy walk, bus ride, and with no prejudice to transit, car. Too bad I can only buy them coffee at same end of an early morning trip to Seattle.

        So good excuse to intensify my efforts to bring Olympia into Sound Transit. Capitol Hill to Beacon Hill without leaving ST property. Then, whichever one wins, they’ll be prone to tell ST that if I get nailed by my own ORCA card, they’ll invalidate the tabs for every Agency car and van. My day is made!


      2. “He would like to see development plans prepared by local governments that include pedestrian and bike access to and through new construction projects, and that these plans be ready when prospective tenant businesses show up, so that shovels can be turned faster.”

        What Nguyen is talking about is clearly something much different than Metro’s high-level Long Range Plan.

    2. Chad (and all others reading),

      Legislative races are every two years, both for State Legislature and Congress, always during even-numbered years unless there is a death or resignation triggering a mid-term election.

      Senate seats are on a 6-year rotation, also on even-numbered years, with a third of seats up for election every two years, both for State Senate & US Senate. Look for this race to repeat in six years, unless you move to a different district before then.

      Local races usually occur during the odd-numbered years.

      STB, thanks for doing the interviews. We need voices other than the big-$$$ news centers chiming in on topics. I always appreciate that you bring a different perspective.

      1. Thanks, Engineer. And Chad. I don’t think there’s any rule, but in your experience, do people who lose a race for one house, like the Senate, often go for House of Representatives in two years? And also, will the winner for the Senate help their opponent get elected to the House?

        I think being an activist is best possible practice and entry-point for the shorter term office. Especially for starting a legislative career that’ll place the longer one in closer reach. Starting an eventual Senate career with a “feel” for both grass-roots politics and the controller and the steering wheel.

        Making themselves gut-level attractive for many voters who otherwise might not vote. Uniform, you know. What’s really making me so positive is the number of young people who’ll bring skill, character, and enthusiasm to politics at every level.

        Incidentally- world’s easiest method for spreading justified terrorism. Will turn some very deserving people a Whiter Shade of Pale (a lot of them are old enough to remember that weird song) when the returns inform them that 18-year-olds can be in the legislature.

        So everybody fifteen year old voter, get onto Twitter for something besides walking lies back like a poodle going home. Most effective first move is to tell kids that despite the law, they’re not allowed to be a Senator. And hey, ST and KC Metro, you’ll get executed if you forbid Operations to tell LCC that they are not allowed to run the DSTT so it works.


      2. State Senate races are at least every four years. Decennial gerrymandering can reduce some terms to two year.

      3. What you say is true for the Federal Senate, but not true for the State Senate. Terms are four years with half the seats up every two years. There are two “classes”.

  4. And that’s Capitol Hill South Campus. So at a critical time, neither candidate goes to the wrong Campus for work.


  5. how does advocating the extension of a one-car streetcar to the U District merit the STB endorsement?

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