Education Housing Affordability Homelessness

Transit & Transportation Environment Income Inequality & Taxation

Labor Organization Police Use of Force Gun Violence Prevention

Women’s Issues LGBTQ Issues Criminal Justice Reform



As your representative, I will work to fully fund our public schools as required by the Washington State Constitution in the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

Dan (center) standing with other parents and teachers demanding that the legislature fully fund public schools

The legislature’s failure to fully fund public schools threatens to have a lasting impact on an entire generation of children. The funding gap is currently left to local school districts, property tax levies, and individual school fundraising.  This results in a horribly inequitable and unconstitutional system where school funding and quality depend on the tax base of each school district and the wealth of parents at each individual school.  Our state must not put off proper funding any longer.  That’s why I stood with other parents and teachers earlier this year to demand that the legislature fully fund public schools.

I am honored that The Seattle Times endorsed me, crediting my understanding of our state’s education funding issues in its decision:

The toughest task facing the 2017 Legislature is full compliance with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary order to fully fund K-12 basic education. It’s complex stuff, but Shih clearly understands the monumental task of adding at least $3.5 billion to the state education biennium budget and complying with the court’s mandate.

We also need to fund the state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).  Too many kids in low-income families who are eligible for this program are not getting access to high-quality preschool because of a lack of funding.  The result is an unacceptable achievement gap that exists before kindergarten and persists afterwards.

ccf_tp I’m thrilled that the Children’s Campaign Fund endorsed me as a Champion for Children, noting:

Dan will be a champion for the well-being and education of the children of our state, especially those most at risk due to limited means, hunger, homelessness, special needs, or involvement in the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

In addition, college and vocational education costs too much.  In 1976, a student could earn a full year’s tuition at UW by working just seven weeks at a full-time minimum wage job.  Now it takes over eight months just to cover tuition—without even beginning to cover living expenses!  Today’s students deserve the same state support their parents and grandparents received.

Too many students are graduating with debt that limits their ability to succeed in the future.  I will work to fully fund the state’s Need Grants for the 27,000 to 30,000 students who qualify but do not receive a grant because there is no money.  We also need to educate for the future by expanding college computer science and other in-demand programs so graduates can participate in our region’s technological boom and in tomorrow’s job market.

Moreover, many parents and students in disadvantaged communities do not understand how college admission and financial aid programs work.  As a legislator, I would champion programs that help high school students and their parents, especially those in disadvantaged communities, to understand the opportunities available and to navigate the process.

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Housing Affordability

Seattle has a housing crisis.  Too many people and families cannot afford housing in our city as home prices and rents skyrocket.  Seniors and people living on fixed incomes are being forced from their homes by regressive property taxes.

Like me, realtors want more housing at affordable levels. They’ve recognized that my policies would achieve this.

The overarching issue is that demand for housing has increased at a much faster rate than supply.  Our state has failed to make local governments accommodate actual population growth under the Growth Management Act.  We must address this problem if we are to make housing more affordable for everyone.

As the Seattle Transit Blog notes, Dan Shih understands “the importance of more housing units, and in particular the continued importance of market-rate housing alongside subsidized units.  That’s a shockingly rare insight in the 43rd, and enough to earn Shih our endorsement.”

As a legislator, I will work to ensure local governments plan for enough housing supply to meet demand (for both renter and owner-occupied units), make affordable housing a healthy proportion of that increase, and preserve existing affordable housing.  This includes a sufficient allocation for the state’s critical Housing Trust Fund to help cities build thousands of low-income housing units.  In addition, I would look for opportunities to allow state-owned land (or other government-owned land) to be dedicated to affordable housing, along with properly funding the Rapid Response Loan Program to enable non-profits to act quickly when opportunities arise to acquire land for affordable housing.  And I would prioritize such efforts in neighborhoods where diversity is most at risk of being lost.

I would also work with our federal delegation to expand the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, which is administered at the state level and is the single largest producer of affordable housing.  In addition, I would look for ways to facilitate the availability of flexible, modest-cost capital (potentially using “social-impact bonds”) for affordable housing providers to bootstrap their projects and for down-payments on acquisitions.

I would also work to improve the rental process, such as by making background checks transferable between rental applications to reduce the costs to tenants and by prohibiting source-of-income discrimination.  I also support giving local governments more authority to protect renters from unscrupulous landlords.

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Our homelessness situation is unacceptable. We must help those experiencing homelessness get safe housing and rebuild their lives. The focus must be on getting people housed. We need to rely less on overnight emergency shelters and instead provide more low-barrier 24-hour shelters (ideally ones open to partners and pets so that more people will use them), more permanent supportive housing options with co-located mental health and addiction treatment services, and more mainstream housing opportunities for people experiencing homelessness.

We also must advance policies that address some of the root causes of homelessness, such as making housing more affordable, improving the foster care system, expanding health insurance coverage, providing more well-paying jobs, reducing income inequality, and fixing our regressive tax system.  We must prioritize mental health and addiction treatment services, especially preventive services, which address problems at the cheapest and most effective time.  (The Seattle Times has credited my “nuanced critiques of … mental-health policy.”)  We also must help people on the brink stay in housing, for example by providing rent and security-deposit assistance in addition to improvements in the rental process.

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Transit & Transportation

The Link Light Rail extension is a fantastic example of how efficient mass transit can be when it is fully funded.  I will support more funding for projects like that, as well as improved investments into existing mass-transit infrastructure and bus.  I also support a constitutional amendment to allow gas tax revenue to be used for mass transit.

We need to expand transit to reduce congestion on our roads and in our neighborhoods.  Too many buses (and even occasional Link Light Rail trains) are standing-room only, and for transportation to be reliable, you have to be able to get aboard.  Our transit system is decades behind the growth of our region.  We must ensure that transit options are readily accessible in areas where there is new development.  I support ST3, making our streets safer, prioritizing maintenance of our existing roads and fixing our aging infrastructure, and making transit more attractive to ease congestion.

I am honored to have the sole endorsement of the Seattle Transit Blog.

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Protecting the environment is a top priority.  Conservatives in the legislature are starving the Department of Ecology of funding and are working to roll back environmental protections.  They must be stopped.  We also need to create financial incentives to reduce carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases.  As your representative, I will champion putting a price on carbon pollution in a manner that is not burdensome for low-income households.

i732 I have endorsed Initiative 732 for two big reasons.

First, a carbon tax is an amazingly simple and effective way to reduce carbon pollution.  The science tells us we need to act now, and I-732 is so straightforward that it can take effect and begin delivering results immediately.

Second, by reducing the sales tax and funding the Working Family Tax Rebate, I-732 provides tax relief to all and very significant benefits for nearly half a million low-income households.

It’s good policy for both the environment and struggling families.  A progressive twofer!

Our state must do more to provide incentives for clean energy use.  As your representative, I will fight to halt state investment in dirty energy and instead require all new energy needs to be met by clean energy sources.  I will also support state subsidies for sustainable energy sources such as solar for individual homes and businesses.

Transitioning toward a clean-energy economy will increase opportunity in our state.  Much basic technology and engineering research remains to be done, and we have world-class research universities here with the ability to drive innovation and to nurture a startup community to commercialize those innovations and create jobs.  We also benefit from being a great place for a knowledge-based economy in the clean-energy sector that will create wage growth.

The biggest source of carbon emissions is transportation.  Because of this, I support funding mass transit infrastructure that reduces the need for more cars and trucks on roads that are already congested.

In addition, as a member of the floating homes community on Lake Union, I am keenly aware of the many recreational, commercial, and industrial uses of our lake and the lakes, waterways, and watersheds connected to it, each with the potential to impact those resources.  I will work to ensure we protect our aquatic environment.

I am proud to support the pro bono work that my partners at Susman Godfrey have provided dealing with environmental protection, conservation, and sustainability issues.  For example, my firm represented the Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition to successfully stop the construction of coal-fired electricity plants in Texas.  My firm also took on major carbon polluters on behalf of the residents of the island of Kivalina in the Alaskan Arctic, which is disappearing due to rising sea levels.

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Income Inequality & Taxation

Addressing income inequality is the great challenge of our generation.  Rising income inequality is not inevitable.  Much of the increase in income inequality is due to policy failures, including our state’s failure to fully fund public education, provide early childhood learning opportunities for disadvantaged kids, ensure nutrition for expecting mothers and young children, fund Need Grants for higher education, address racial and gender pay disparities, increase the minimum wage to ensure it keeps up with the cost of living, and more.

In addition, our state’s broken tax system exacerbates income inequality because it is horribly regressive and makes those near the bottom pay too much.  As your legislator, I will fight for a high-earner capital gains tax, which would primarily affect the wealthiest in our state and which at a modest rate will nearly close the gap in public education funding.

Of course, that won’t fully fund the other services our state needs.  To address those needs in the near term, I support taxing carbon emissions with certain exemptions to prevent such a tax from becoming regressive and burdening commuters.

Furthermore, we must rein in corporate exemptions, starting with those that are unproductive at providing jobs.  There is no sense in rewarding corporations with tax exemptions only to see them ship jobs out of our state.

I also will lead by laying the groundwork for a broad-based income tax.  To get there will require not just building support within the electorate but also chipping away at legal barriers and Supreme Court precedent that limit our ability to diversify our state’s revenue sources.  The revenue from a progressive income tax would allow us to lower sales taxes and property taxes, reduce the burden on low-income and middle-class households, and increase funding for our state’s services that reduce inequality.

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Labor Organization

The right of workers to freely organize a union is critical to a fair labor economy. I support legislation and policies that improve workers’ ability to organize and to collectively bargain from a position of strength. I believe that workers should be able to have strong labor organizations that can collectively bargain for what workers most want in the way of compensation, benefits, and terms of employment.

A union shop, or at least an agency shop, is fundamental to labor organization. So-called “Right to Work” proposals—a misnomer if I’ve ever heard one—are an assault on this foundation. I would oppose any attempt to undermine the union/agency shop.

Labor law makes an arbitrary distinction between employees and contractors. I support allowing workers misclassified as independent contractors to unionize and collectively bargain.

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Police Use of Force

Too many citizen encounters with police are leading to unjustified violence and death.  We are right to be outraged at such killings, which disproportionately involve people of color.

Police training and culture needs to include far more emphasis on de-escalation.  Police need more and ongoing training in de-escalating potential use-of-force situations.  Police currently receive far more hours of firearms training than de-escalation when the priority should be given to the latter.  Police also need to develop better relationships with their communities, especially where relationships are strained or adversarial.  That’s not to belittle the substantial efforts many are making to do that, but more is needed.

In addition, the legal standard for police to be charged for homicide in our state is absurdly high as compared to other states, making it essentially impossible to prosecute police officers even in those exceptional cases when their use of force was unjustified.  I support Initiative 873 that would harmonize the legal standard with those of other states that strike a better balance.

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Gun Violence Prevention

Our state can and must do more to prevent gun violence.  We currently don’t require purchase permits, registration, or licensing, and we are a “shall issue” state on concealed carry.  There’s not even a requirement of passing a basic course on gun safety before a person can purchase and own firearms, a requirement we should have.  Unlike states like Colorado and Utah, a gun safety class is not even required for a concealed carry permit in Washington.

Preventing gun violence is a priority for me.  I’m currently serving on a King County task force to develop protocols for better implementation of H.B. 1840 (passed in 2014) to protect survivors of domestic violence and require their firearm-owning oppressors to surrender their weapons if they are deemed by a judge to pose a credible threat to the survivor.  I also support I-1491, which would build on that model and allow for “extreme-risk protection orders.”

As your legislator, I will be a champion for stronger gun laws.  I support a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, as well as a limit on the number of firearms that can be bought at once, a requirement for a license to purchase and own, and stronger measures to prevent domestic abusers from having firearms.  I support requirements for the safe storage of firearms to keep them away from children and others.  I also support giving local jurisdictions the power to enact gun restrictions appropriate for their area.

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Women’s Issues

prochoiceendorseI am deeply honored to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and recognized as a leader dedicated to securing, protecting, and strengthening reproductive freedom and the rights and safety of women.

Although Washington has strong reproductive rights laws, we must be vigilant in protecting and enforcing them.  Some public hospital districts providing maternity services are failing to meet their legal obligation to provide substantially equivalent abortion services.  Hospital mergers are increasing the number of doctors subject to employer “religious directives” that interfere with the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship and women’s ability to get full medical advice and treatment.  Some pharmacists are refusing to fill some legal prescriptions.  As a board member of the ACLU of Washington, I have supported our litigation and advocacy work in these areas.  As a legislator, I will continue to fight to protect access to abortion and contraception.

Moreover, because not everyone has insurance that covers all reproductive health services, public funding remains critical to ensure access.  Providing access to everyone is important as a matter of personal and public health, and ensuring that women have control over their reproductive decisions (along with paid family and medical leave) is critical to improving gender equality and reducing the gender pay gap.

I have a long history of support and advocacy to prevent, and help survivors of, domestic violence and sexual assault.  In college more than 25 years ago, I volunteered in women’s self-defense classes to help women (many of whom were survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault) be more empowered.

I serve on the board of API Chaya, a nonprofit that helps people and families impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, primarily in refugee and immigrant communities.  We help people experiencing oppression to understand their options, find safe housing, deal with immigration issues, get medical assistance, and get training or education to secure their futures.  And we train “natural helpers” in the community who are more likely to come into contact with survivors, who often face language barriers and have limited access to electronic communication, to make sure survivors know how they can get help.

I also am serving on a King County task force to develop protocols for better implementation of H.B. 1840 (passed in 2014) to protect survivors of domestic violence and require their firearm-owning oppressors to surrender their weapons if they are deemed by a judge to pose a credible threat to the survivor.

As a legislator, I will ensure that legislative policies include the trauma-informed perspective to ensure that survivors—especially those in disadvantaged communities or with language, financial, or other difficulties accessing the justice system or getting help—get the support they need.

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LGBTQ Issues

SEAMEC's highest rating for leadership on LGBTQ issues!I am proud to be a member of the LGBTQ community in a district that has led our city, state, and nation on LGBTQ rights.  We are a vibrant and diverse community, and we must continue fighting for full equality for all of our members.  We must continue to stand strong with our transgender friends and family and fight discriminatory measures.  As your legislator, I will stand against those who would turn back the clock on civil rights.

I am proud to have received both the sole endorsement and the highest rating (“5 – Demonstrates Leadership”) from the Seattle Metropolitan Elections Committee (SEAMEC), which rates candidates based on their knowledge, record of commitment to, and activism for the concerns of the LGBTQ community.

Fight Discrimination

I will fight against attempts to carve out “religious exemptions” from antidiscrimination law.  We live in a pluralistic society that rightly respects religious beliefs, and it is appropriate for employers to make reasonable accommodations for their employees’ religious beliefs—for example, scheduling to allow observation of holy days or prayer times.  However, religious beliefs should not be permitted to override important government policies, such as antidiscrimination.  Allowing a business or employee to opt out of treating people equally is irreconcilable with the principle of antidiscrimination.

As an attorney, I recently took on a pro bono legal matter representing Lambda Legal and a wide-ranging coalition of other minority and civil rights organizations that I assembled (including Disability Rights Washington, El Centro de la Raza, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, PFLAG Seattle, Pride Foundation, QLaw Association of Washington, South Asian Bar Association of Washington, and Washington Women Lawyers) on an amicus brief in the Washington Supreme Court arguing that antidiscrimination law cannot yield to a seller’s religious beliefs—in that case, a Tri-Cities florist’s refusal to provide flowers for a gay couple’s wedding.  Protecting same-sex couples from discrimination was not part of most coalition members’ mission statements.  That was the point.  Their commonality—which I noted to the Supreme Court—was the recognition that allowing any exceptions to antidiscrimination law would spill over and obliterate protections for all.

Facilitate Parenting

With my husband Ted and our girls

As the parent of three children through surrogacy with my husband, I understand the importance of legal parenting rights for the non-biological parent.  And I believe we have much work to do to make it easier for LGBTQ people to have children, whether through adoption, surrogacy, or otherwise.

In 2011, I advocated for state legislation that would have legalized compensated surrogacy in Washington.  As reported in The Seattle Times, “women and family-rights organizations, including the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood, support the House bill, which they say ‘strikes the right balance’ in protecting women.”  Existing law forces most Washington couples who want to have children through surrogacy to go to states like California and Oregon, which have far more practical and progressive laws to assist with family formation.

Forcing couples to go out of state substantially increases the cost of family formation to the point where it becomes impossible for many would-be parents to have their own children.  As a legislator, I will champion improving our laws to remove such barriers to having children.

Protect LGBTQ Youth

In addition to policies generally directed at preventing homelessness and helping those experiencing homelessness, I would address the disproportionality of homeless LGBTQ youth caused in part by inequities in child welfare and juvenile justice systems, involvement in which often leads to homelessness.  LGBTQ youth, along with youth of color, face prejudices and problems in these systems.

We need to recruit more foster care providers that will provide a nurturing environment for racial minorities and LGBTQ people and ensure that existing providers and case workers fulfill their obligations to such persons.  And we need to ensure that truancy and other school issues do not unnecessarily lead to involvement in the juvenile justice system, for example by ensuring school officials, prosecutors, judges, and case workers understand when mental illness may be the underlying cause of bad behaviors and addressing that through intervention and treatment rather than punishment.

Full Equality for Transgender People

As the chair of Issues Advocacy at the QLaw Association (the association of LGBTQ legal professionals), I worked to build coalitions with other minority professional associations and community organizations in support of existing protections for transgender people and to fight I-1515.  I am thrilled that the initiative failed to gather enough signatures to make it onto the ballot, which means our education and outreach efforts can now take a strategically longer view.  I believe it is important to be working toward a more inclusive society rather than seeking to exclude those who are already vulnerable and spreading falsehoods about them.

In addition, equity for the transgender community requires full healthcare equality, including coverage of procedures and therapies necessary for transgender people to live according to the gender they know themselves to be.

Ban “Conversion Therapy”

So-called “conversion therapy” is incredibly harmful to its victims and should be banned.  In addition to its harms, the evidence is that such “therapy” does not even work, so practitioners also should face liability under our anti-fraud laws when they sell such quack services.

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Criminal Justice Reform

Our criminal justice system is too big, too expensive, and too unfair.  It’s also not very effective.  While serious crimes must be punished, we need to address huge failings in the system.  Many crimes are committed by people dealing with mental illness or substance addiction, and punishment without treatment won’t prevent future crimes.  We are using our criminal justice system as a terrible substitute for a mental health system.  Our current system holds people for minor offenses in the least rehabilitative environment imaginable for mental health issues that could be addressed more cheaply and effectively at the preventive stage.

We must build on diversionary models that offer deferred prosecution for appropriate people accused of minor offenses if they participate in treatment programs designed to break the cycle.  It’s better to give those who’ve made a minor mistake a chance to be productive members of our society rather than making them permanent outcasts.

In addition, we must stop the practice of using legal financial obligations to permanently burden offenders who have served their sentences but cannot afford to pay court costs, public defender fees, or other costs.  Without reform, too many people who are poor remain tied to the criminal justice system for years and find themselves arrested and jailed because they are poor.  There is a better way, and this practice must end.

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