This story is part of KNKX's series "Five Voters, Fresh Perspectives." We're looking at the 2018 election through the eyes of five people who are at a turning point in their lives.
When Curn and Nemesio Domingo Jr. go shopping at the Asian food market Uwajimaya in Renton, it’s almost like they’re on the set of the TV show “Cheers.” They know everyone.
There’s the manager of the meat department with whom Curn trades recipes. In between loading up the cart with flank steak and prawns, she stops to show him pictures on her phone of their newest granddaughter.
And there’s the cashier who always hands their two-year-old granddaughter a cookie.
Tuesday mornings are when Curn comes to shop here because that’s when seniors get a 10 percent discount. Curn is 65 years old and has been retired for about two years from her career as a social worker.
Curn came to the U.S. from Korea as a toddler and likes to cook Korean dishes like bulgogi. Nemesio’s family is Filipino, so they make a lot of Asian food. Uwajimaya is the place to shop for because of the vast array of Asian produce.
But the discount is also a draw.
“I always look for the sales and specials to try to save as much as possible,” Curn said, while deciding which meat to buy.
She said she's always been frugal, but now she's living on savings and will collect social security when she turns 66. So her own finances are top of mind when she looks at her ballot.
Seniors are an important voting bloc. People who are 65 and older make up the largest number of registered voters in Washington, and political campaigns court their votes.
For example, a mailing from groups supporting Initiative 1634 that would ban local taxes on food and beverages shows a gray-haired woman cutting out coupons.
But standing in the supermarket, Curn and Nemesio said they plan to vote against that initiative. It would prohibit cities from adding sales tax on sugary drinks. Nemesio said he has no problem with Seattle's soda tax.
“It makes perfectly good sense to exercise good public health policy,” he said.
“Especially soda. Soda’s not part of the food group,” Curn said. “So if they want to tax something, I would rather them do that and kind of lay off our property taxes just a little bit here. A lot of us seniors are going to end up homeless, if those go up anymore,” she said with a laugh.
Property taxes have been on her mind lately. She recently applied for a reduction as a low-income senior citizen.
Concerns About The Environment
She’s owned her house in Skyway for 19 years. Curn grew up on a farm on the Long Beach peninsula and spends a lot of time tending her backyard garden.
It’s filled with raised beds and pots of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries (both white and red varieties), rosemary, sage, oregano, squash, beans and multiple kinds of tomatoes. Even now, in late October, there are so many ripe tomatoes she jokes she had to give them away to strangers.
“And this here’s our carrots. The kids really love the carrots,” she said.
Curn brings her two-year-old granddaughter out in the yard to help.
“She does a lot of digging,” Curn said.
Since she retired, Curn has been taking care of her granddaughter when her daughter's at work and will soon watch her daughter's new baby as well.
Being a grandmother shapes her thinking about voting. She supports education levies and measures aimed at limiting climate change.
For example, she said she plans to vote for Initiative 1631, which would impose a carbon fee on large polluters and generate revenue for clean energy projects. Opponents have said it’s a flawed measure that will exempt some large polluters in the state and lead to higher gas and electric prices for consumers.
Curn said she supports the measure because climate change poses such a significant threat.
“I think we need to save our planet,” she said. “I think all the damage that we’ve done, we need to get serious about trying to reverse it, save it and anything I think that’s a step in that direction, we should support it.”
She said she's always been an active voter, but now in retirement her thinking is shaped in part by friends and acquaintances who have limited income.
“A lot of people that I know that either lost their jobs or retired or their jobs were eliminated so they were forced to retire are living very carefully,” she said.
So she says she thinks of her wider circle as she weighs what and whom to vote for. And she focuses on growing a lot of her own food to feed her grandkids pesticide-free vegetables and keep her own costs down in a region that's grown more expensive.