This week’s general election appears to be moving the needle on diversity in Washington state.
Democrat T’wina Nobles is holding a narrow lead over Republican incumbent Steve O’Ban in the 28th Legislative District in the Tacoma area.
Nobles, who is the current president and CEO of the Tacoma Urban League, would be the first Black person to hold office in the state Senate in more than a decade.
Christina Blocker, a political consultant based in Tacoma, says Nobles’ success so far is part of a larger trend of more people running for office from diverse backgrounds.
“I think especially for communities now in the midst of COVID, in the midst of so many calls for action against systemic racism and overt racism, we are seeing folks really starting by running for office, by representing communities that have been just disenfranchised for so long, being able to kind of bridge some of that divide and help to re-establish some trust," Blocker said.
In an interview with KNKX Public Radio on Election Night, Nobles stopped short of declaring victory. But said if she holds onto her lead and wins the race, her place in the Senate also would be a win for representation.
“Being the only Black person in the state Senate means this state gets to see additional representation, increased representation,” Nobles said. “I don’t think any of us can say isn’t significantly important, especially now.”
Two other races also are breaking new ground this election.
One is that of Raquel Montoya-Lewis. Back in January, Montoya-Lewis was appointed to a vacated seat on Washinton’s state Supreme Court. She ran in this election to keep the position and is on track to becoming the first person of Native American descent to be elected to the high court.
Another historic contest is the race for a state House seat in the 23rd District, which includes Bainbridge Island. Tarra Simmons — an attorney, criminal justice reform advocate and recovering addict who served time in prison — is on track to become the first formerly incarcerated person to serve in the Legislature. Simmons has a healthy lead over her opponent, April Ferguson, and already has declared victory for her campaign.
“I think people are recognizing the importance of second chances and that our past doesn't dictate our future,” Blocker says.
Blocker says Simmons’ perspective is going to help create a more level playing field for so many people who are dealing with the struggles Simmons has been able to overcome.