With Democrats facing headwinds as the economy struggles under high inflation, many Democratic incumbents are at risk of losing in a potential red wave. The 45th District state Senate seat, which represents parts of Sammamish, Redmond, Duvall, Bothell, Kirkland, and Woodinville, is one that Republicans hope pick up in the upcoming general election.
Ryika Hooshangi, a Republican candidate and Sammamish resident, will challenge incumbent Sen. Manka Dhingra for this seat in November. Hooshangi served as an attorney and diplomat for the U.S. Department of State for 10 years before returning to Washington state. She is currently a commissioner for Sammamish Plateau Water.
Despite a national political environment that seems favorable to Republicans, winning the election will not be an easy feat for Hooshangi.
The 45th District is commonly viewed as leaning blue. In the August primary, Dhingra had over a 30-point lead over Hooshangi. However, during an interview with the Sammamish Independent, Hooshangi said she believes the 45th District is best represented by a moderate Republican, noting that the Senate seat was held by Republicans for 35 of the past 45 years. She said she is not conservative on every issue, citing her pro-choice stance as an example.
“I consider myself socially liberal and fiscally conservative and think I am a more accurate reflection of the people in the 45th legislative district,” Hooshangi said.
Dhingra, who resides in Redmond, has served as a county prosecutor for 20 years and led various community volunteer organizations. She is currently the deputy majority leader of the state Senate and is running for her second full term. She has represented the 45th District since 2017, when she won a closely watched special election that flipped the seat, as well as the entire Senate, to Democratic control.
In an interview with the Sammamish Independent, Dhingra said that her work as a prosecutor allowed her to see the real-life experiences of people across the community, especially those underrepresented in politics. She believes true change and power starts in communities. She pointed to her leadership experience in volunteer organizations such as Hopelink and API Chaya as examples of her dedication to serving at the grassroots level.
“My opponent has been in politics for a long time,” Dhingra said. “But to me, you get the best leaders from people who have been in the community doing real work.”
Hooshangi wants to use her broad experience to work across the aisle. She criticized the legislature as being unnecessarily polarized, and that “escalating crime, surging gas prices, and a mental health and addiction crisis” were consequences of the lack of moderate lawmakers.
She also blamed Democrats for pushing agendas that she believes are out of touch with the needs of regular people. She pointed to increasing property taxes and the new long-term care payroll tax as examples.
“Instead of working in the favor of our families and small businesses, our elected officials opted to create new taxes,” Hooshangi said. “We need common sense legislators to put our state back on the right track.”
Dhingra maintains that Washington Democrats are committed to supporting communities. She pointed to several 2020 policies, including tax cuts for small businesses and relief for landlords and renters as examples of the Democratic-controlled government’s intent to assist those who are most in need.
“It is not accurate to say Washington increased taxes,” Dhingra said. “[We provide] help to individuals most impacted by our economy.”
Both candidates want to focus on similar issues, but their solutions come from very different perspectives. Take the issue of affordability, for example.
Dhingra previously sponsored a bill that provided property tax relief for seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. She plans to continue pushing to increase the supply of affordable housing within the 45th District.
Hooshangi believes tax cuts are the solution to affordability. She will push for legislation that exempts the first $250,000 of a property’s assessed value, or the entirety of the property’s value if it is less than $250,000, from property taxes. She also plans to utilize budget surpluses to provide temporary gas tax holidays.
On public safety, Hooshangi wants to make the state safer, especially for youth. She wants to invest in mental health and support law enforcement, particularly the recruitment of additional police.
Dhingra will continue to push for evidence-based policies to improve safety. She noted her role in the creation of the state’s Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention as an example of her dedication to public safety.
Both candidates want to create a more positive learning environment for youth. Hooshangi intends to work with the technology industry to ensure all students are prepared to join the global workforce. She also wants to create a post-COVID tutoring program using budget surpluses that encourages different learning styles for students.
Dhingra’s focus is on addressing mental health. She points to the establishment of the new 988 suicide and crisis hotline this year as one of her proudest achievements. She also hopes to continue working with schools to expand mental health services and assist students with childhood trauma.
“I really feel like when our children are successful, the issues we deal with as adults become less,” Dhingra said.