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Strickland wins 10th District race, becomes first Korean-American woman to serve in Congress

Former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland poses for a photo, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Tacoma, Wash.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press (file)
Former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland poses for a photo, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Tacoma, Wash.

Washington has a new congresswoman-elect. Former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland will represent the 10th District. The seat was left open after Denny Heck retired from Congress (Heck is currently leading his race for Washington state lieutenant governor).

Strickland defeated fellow Democrat Beth Doglio, a state legislator and environmental activist, who conceded the race Wednesday morning. The split between the two Democrats was roughly 50 to 35 percent in early results, with about 80 percent of the votes counted.

Strickland says she captured a broad base of support in a diverse district by addressing the economic challenges of the pandemic. She also emphasized her successes as mayor, often using the example of how she improved graduation rates in Tacoma Public Schools.

She’s perceived as the more conservative candidate in this contest, having most recently led the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m a lifelong Democrat and proud of it, and my lane is left of center. So there are times that I am more progressive policies and there are times I will be more moderate,” she said. “And so, as far as the spectrum, I don't think that the voters of the 10th District was interested in what we labeled ourselves as they were with having confidence that someone is competent, has proven leadership is going to work with all people.”

Strickland will be the first Korean-American woman to serve in Congress, as well as the first Black member from Washington.  

She often tells her story of coming to Pierce County with her family because of her dad’s military career, and being born in Korea to a mom who became a U.S. immigrant. She thinks sharing these details of her life are part of what helped her connect with the diverse voters of the 10th District. But she’s not so keen on being labeled.

As a woman who's Black and Korean, the world has been trying to label me all of my life,” she said.

But, she stresses, what’s important to her is representation. She’ll only be the second Korean-American in Congress, joining New Jersey Democrat Andy Kim, who was re-elected early Wednesday.

And so now we've doubled in size. There will be two of us,” Strickland said, adding that diversity is not just window dressing — it influences the work politicians are able to do. “When you look at the makeup of any elected body, you want it to be a reflection of the entire community that it serves.

“When you have more diverse perspectives of life experiences, you get better policymaking — so, everyone benefits from having diverse voices at the table.”   

Strickland says she hopes to represent the district as someone who "can bring people together and get things done."

In a statement shared on Twitter and email, Doglio thanked her supporters for helping to bring progressive values into the conversation, especially on climate change and Medicare for all.

The 10th District includes Tacoma and Olympia, covering most of Thurston and Pierce counties and part of Mason County.