King County Council Position 9 – Kim-Khanh Van

Municipal/Other Questionnaire

Candidate Information

  • Candidate Name: Kim-Khanh Van
  • Position Sought: King County Council Position 9 (Non-incumbent)
  • Home Legislative District: 41
  • Democrat: Yes!

Campaign Information

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience.

I was born in Vietnam and resettled to the United States as a refugee and immigrant. Growing up, every member of my family worked long hours across multiple jobs. From a young age, I helped support my family, from working as a classroom tutor to a part-time janitor, even after college graduation.

As I grew older, I served as my family’s go-to translator – helping them communicate in English, while at the same time I learned about the law, our systems of government, and more. I was the first in my family to attend and graduate college and law school at UW and the Dayton School of Law. Now, I serve as a Renton City Councilmember and an immigration attorney – championing issues of inclusion and equity, drawing on my experience as a small business owner and immigrant.

As my husband and I raise our two children here, we are grateful to call this special region home. I am honored to continue giving back to our community as a member of Renton’s Rotary Club, co-PTA President, where my son attends public school, and through my work with the Renton Technical College Foundation, the Mayor’s Inclusion Task Force, and Asian and non-Asian community groups.

EDUCATION:
University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio (2008-2010 & 2011)
Juris Doctor, Concentration in Intellectual Property, Cyber Law, & Creativity
Recipient, CALI Award, Social Justice Scholarship, and Legal Opportunity Scholarship

University of Washington, Seattle, WA (2003-2006)
Bachelor of Arts, Double Degrees in Law, Societies and Justice; and Sociology
Study Abroad Exploration Seminar, Contemporary Human Rights in Guatemala; Co-created Guatemala Scholarship Fund for leadership development in children and youths

Seattle Central Community College Running Start Program, Seattle, WA (2002-2003)

PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYMENT:
Renton City Council, Renton, WA (2020-Present)
Councilmember, Chair of Community Services Committee, Vice Chair of Transportation Cmte, Vice Chair of Finance Cmte, Member of Utilities Cmte, and Member of Transportation Cmte

Board Memberships (2020-Present)
Sound Cities Association Representative on regional boards of Seattle-King County Advisory Council for Aging & Disability Services and Regional Law, Safety, and Justice Committee
Member, King County Regional Approach to Gun Violence and Youth Impacts
Member & Volunteer, King County Office of Equity and Social Justice, Coalition Against Hate and Bias

Law Office of Kim-Khanh T. Van, PLLC, Renton, WA (2012-Present)
Supervising Attorney & Member, Practice personal injury, family, and immigration law; Manage operations of office from marketing, payroll, invoice reconciliation, hiring of staff and staff training, to full client representation; Hosted free legal clinics and consultations to community members via non-profits; and Presented our KKV LAW Social Justice Scholarship (2015)

AFFILIATIONS:
Co-Founder, AAPI Against Hate; Organized and led, with help of youth committee, rallies across the county against AAPI hate (2021-Present)
Board Member, Renton Technical College Foundation (2020-Present)
Volunteer Attorney, Northwest Immigrants’ Rights Project (NWIRP) and OneAmerica (2012-2018, ongoing)
Member, Washington State Bar Association (WSBA), Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ), and American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA, in renewal process)
Member/Co-Chair of Vocational Services, Rotary Club of Renton
1st Vice President, Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Engagement (APACE Votes) (2018-Present)
Founder, Cao Dai Community Services
President, Vietnamese American Community of Seattle, Sno-King Counties
Volunteer, COVID19 Community Response Alliance; Chair, Anti-Hate and Bias Committee Member, Leadership Circle.
Founder, People Power WA
Supporter/Volunteer, the Seattle Stand Down Veteran’s group, American-Vietnamese War Memorial Alliance, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Wounded Warrior Project
Member, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Engagement (APACEVotes) (2018-present)
Member, Seattle Martin Luther King Jr Organizing Coalition Rally and March (2020-present)
Member, League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County, Climate Action Guide (2021-present)
Member, BIPOC Collective on Equitable Vaccination Distribution (2021-present)
Member, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Peoples May 15th Event (2021-present)

Union affiliations: As a courtesy clerk at Safeway, I was part of UFCW 21, and as a Student TA at the Seattle Public Library, I was a member of AFSCME Local 2083. I am unionizing my campaign at the moment.

Political Activities:
PCO at LD 41st (2021-Present)
Volunteer Organizer, Biden Campaign 2020
Former Secretary for LD 33rd and Alternative King County Democrat Representative (2019)
Graduate, EmergeWA and National Women’s Political Caucus, WA State Campaign Heroine 2018
Organized fundraisers and canvassed for democrat candidates
Election poll observer and canvassed for Obama 2008 in Ohio

ACHIEVEMENTS:
Recipient, King County Bar Association Young Lawyers Service Award, Annual Pro Bono Award and Certificate of Appreciation from American Immigration Lawyers Association-WA Chapter (2013), Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority Alumna Service Award (2007, 2016, 2017, 2018), Desmond Tutu Emerging Leaders Award
Foreign Languages, Fluent Vietnamese, Basic Spanish and American Sign Languages Organizer, Hosted benefit events for Nepal Earthquake Victims (2015), Standing Rock Fundraiser Against Dakota Access Pipeline (2016), Wounded Warrior (2015), Standing Rock(2016), The Seattle Stand Down (2016), Hurricane Maria Victims in Puerto Rico, USA (2017), Solidarity Flower Drive helping Hmong farmers and essential but excluded workers (2020), Community Hate and Bias Reporting Tools: Online @ unitedallianceagainsthate.org and Hotline 18443NOHATE (2020), Vietnamese American Legislative Day (2020), Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag Proclamation in the State of Washington (2020), Rotary Membership Flowers and Masks Drive (2020)

2. What prompted you to run for this office? What are your campaign’s most important themes, issues, or priorities (three to five)?

I am running for King County Council because I believe that representation matters – and that we need leaders who will stand up for our community and advocate for the programs, investments, and decisions that will benefit everyone who calls this region home. We need bold leadership committed to adequately addressing the challenges that face King County, including racism, inclusion and equity; housing and homelessness; climate change and environmental justice; COVID-19 recovery and small business support; traffic and transportation; veterans issues; and more.

The current King County Councilmember has served four terms without facing a serious challenger, and as a result, he is no longer equipped to represent our growing and diverse community, failing to act with needed urgency and initiative on the priorities and issues that matter. He has stood alone against hazard pay for essential workers and against declaring racism a public health crisis. It’s time for change.

I have a unique lived perspective, a deep community connection, a penchant for listening to others, and a proven record of collaborative problem solving. These are the priorities and experiences I hope to bring to the County Council – thoughtful, community-focused leadership committed to ensuring District 9 thrives. If elected, I will bring this new approach to the Council, centered on access to economic opportunity, innovative public safety improvements, and support for seniors, veterans, and immigrants.

3. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?

Running a campaign during COVID is difficult, but we are making the most of it – holding virtual events, keeping active on social media, and campaigning in person when safe. We plan to engage in a strong field campaign, taking safety precautions as the pandemic continues. As important as our campaign’s COVID response is our community’s COVID recovery: I am committed to ensuring an equitable recovery from COVID that centers the needs of our community and the most vulnerable.

So far, I have received early endorsements from: International Union of Painters and Allied Trades DC 5; State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti; Senators Nguyen, Wellman, Keiser, and Das; Representatives Macri, Slatter, Thai, Berry, Taylor, Bergquist, and Santos; former County Councilmember Gossett; former Representatives Maxwell and Hudgins; and former Senator Claudia Kauffman; Port Commissioner Cho; and a number of city council members and school board members around the district, in addition to countless community members like Rich Stolz, Estella Ortega, and Frank Irigon.

My opponent has never faced a serious challenger in his four terms on the County Council. That changes this year as we make a compelling case about why we need new leadership and representation, based on our community’s values and concerns. We will have the robust field program and fundraising needed to compete with Councilmember Dunn’s resources.

Part II – Local Issues

1. Would you support the establishment of a safe injection site in your district?

No

Addiction is a public health challenge that we must address through proven, evidence-based policies. I support expanding treatment options, utilizing drug courts, and exploring other alternatives, which offer a path to progress and recovery for those suffering from addiction.

2. Would you support the administration and police force in your jurisdiction adopting a sanctuary policy, forbidding the sharing of local resources and labor with ICE?

Yes

As a refugee and immigrant myself, and as someone immersed in this work as an immigration attorney, this issue is incredibly important to me. When I first came to this country, it was the generosity of the community that allowed my family to get a foothold and work toward success. Now, facing a pandemic where immigrants are much more likely to contract COVID and lose wages than other residents, the government has a responsibility to step up and offer needed support.

I support our state’s “Keep Washington Working” policy and King County’s sanctuary status. Local sheriffs and police are not immigration authorities – and working with ICE does the opposite of promoting public safety by disrupting communities, making undocumented residents less likely to report crimes or appear as witnesses, and more vulnerable to wage theft, domestic abuse, and other serious issues.

3. Do you support raising revenue at the city level to expand transit service?

Yes

Public transit is essential, especially in South King County, where many residents don’t own a car. I strongly support investment in frequent and fast transit to serve every resident.

4. Should transportation policy discourage the use of private automobiles and encourage the use of public-transit?

Yes

Yes – transit adoption is critical for reducing cars on the road, as well as carbon emissions and travel times. It connects people to opportunity, and makes our region more accessible and affordable.

5. Do you support building a municipally owned and operated broadband system in your city or jurisdiction?

Yes

The past year of remote work, school, doctors visits, and social connections proves that a reliable internet connection is just as essential as water and electricity. When the pandemic began, many residents of South King County – especially in rural and unincorporated communities – lacked reliable internet. We’re living with the impacts of that disparity, as kids fall behind in school and families feel more isolated than ever before.

Public broadband would bring high-speed internet to every community, tearing down a major barrier to opportunity. I look forward to making progress on this issue.

6. Do you support requiring police officers in your jurisdiction to wear body cameras?

Yes

Body cameras are a common-sense reform that improves transparency and accountability. As the County Council takes on voter-mandated additional responsibilities over the sheriff’s department, I will be a steadfast advocate for body cameras and other essential reforms.

7. Do you support repealing Tim Eyman’s I-747, which artificially limits property tax increases to 1% per year, regardless of population growth, inflation, and need?

Yes

During my time as a Renton City Councilmember, I have stood against austerity budgets and advocated for renewed investment in our public services. This is the same approach I will bring to the County Council, where we need to eschew arbitrary limits, while also moving away from our reliance on property taxes that disproportionately affect seniors, low-income neighbors, and working families. I will work to pursue progressive revenue sources to maintain and expand critical services like Metro and Parks.

8. Should government assist individuals, and families who are without sufficient food, shelter, or basic necessities through no fault of their own?

Yes

I believe the government has a moral obligation to address food insecurity, homelessness, and poverty. The needs of our most vulnerable residents are more urgent than ever as the pandemic stretches to a second year. We need elected officials with lived experience, deep knowledge of our communities, and the energy to get things done – that’s why I’m running for County Council.

Compared to other King County residents, South County families are less likely to have access to healthy foods and far more likely to use SNAP and Basic Food benefits – this is an incredibly important issue for my district. Even as the pandemic begins to recede, we must remain focused on helping make sure neighbors have their basic needs met: food, shelter, healthcare, transportation, and access to opportunity.

9. Should the wages paid to workers in Washington State be raised incrementally towards the goal of living wages?

Yes

Workers deserve a living wage, and the minimum wage should guarantee that. I will always stand with workers and fight alongside them for better wages and safe working conditions.

The current councilmember has taken the opposite approach, casting the only vote against hazard pay for frontline grocery workers. Over a year into the pandemic, Councilmember Dunn refused to acknowledge the sacrifice of South King County workers. As a former grocery clerk myself, I was outraged by the callous disregard Councilmember Dunn showed towards essential frontline workers, who risk their health so we can put food on our tables every day.

10. Will you seek opportunities to mitigate the human activities that are contributing to disastrous climate change?

Yes

Climate change is an emergency, and we must advance urgent solutions that promote economic recovery and address environmental racism. This issue is too important to simply do the bare minimum — we can and should make King County a global leader. On the County Council, I would be a relentless advocate for investments in low-carbon transit, clean energy, and environmental health programs to benefit people and wildlife.

Part III – Free Response

1. Why are you requesting Democratic endorsement? What aspects of the Democratic platform most resonate with you?

I am a proud Democrat, my priorities rooted in core Democratic values of fairness, inclusion, and opportunity for all. I will always remember when Senator Patty Murray visited my class in fourth grade. She inspired me to become a community leader and a woman in office.

When my family moved to King County as refugees, we didn’t have much. We depended on the generosity of a local church, and our friends and neighbors. I benefited from great public education, becoming the first in my family to go to college and law school.

Today, I bring this perspective and drive to my work on the Renton City Council – everyone deserves the support and opportunity to succeed and thrive, and our county government should be leading the way.

In March 2021, I was proud to stand with Governor Inslee at an event denouncing attacks on the AAPI community. I’m proud to be part of a party that is unafraid to call out racism and work to uplift all communities. I look forward to continuing this work as a Democrat on the County Council.

2. What important local issues have you worked on (or taken an interest in) that you feel aren’t getting enough attention from elected leaders and the media?

One of the moments that inspired my run for this position was when my representative Councilmember Reagan Dunn refused to acknowledge racism as a public health crisis. At a time of profound reckoning, when so many were engaging in deep reflection about race, inequality, and the ongoing legacy of systemic racism, Councilmember Dunn was the lone member of the County Council to vote against naming racism a public health crisis.

We deserve leaders who recognize the significance of racism and commit to acting boldly to address it. In response to rising anti-AAPI violence and discimination, I’ve worked with youth leaders to unite community members at well-attended rallies across the county to reject hate. Through this effort, we are building visibility and strength for our movement.

While my experience with racism is different from that of my Black neighbors, as a woman of color and an immigration attorney, I understand the urgency we face, bring a lived perspective, and am a skilled listener and advocate.

Representation and experienced leadership matters. If I am elected, I can bring this organizing effort to the County Council and serve as a strong voice for inclusion, equity, and welcoming communities.

3. Please list up to three specific, concrete actions you would support to ease the homelessness crisis.

On the Renton City Council, I was one of just two members who voted against a reactionary measure to close the Red Lion shelter that currently serves more than 200 unsheltered community members. I recognize housing is a first – and essential – step needed for progress on this challenging issue. Sadly, this decision was in part driven by a lack of coordination between the county and the city.

My opponent Councilmember Dunn has never been serious about addressing homelessness – made clear by his proposal to put unsheltered neighbors on a bus out of King County, and refusal to support critical funding for needed housing. His decision to leave the Governing Board of the Regional Homelessness Authority is more proof that he isn’t doing the job voters hired him to do.

Alternatively, on the County Council, I will be an advocate for regional solutions to ending homelessness, rooted in evidence-based best practices. Instead of finger pointing and passing the buck, I believe that by taking responsibility and listening to both our county and city partners and our neighbors in need, we can adopt a truly collaborative approach that will lead to real progress.

We need collaborative leaders who both work with the city on these issues and understand we need to follow housing first principles that allow for the services and support unsheltered neighbors need to get back on their feet. In the long term, we
must also work to improve housing affordability by increasing our housing supply – a key driver of homelessness. The county can make progress on this through reviewing and continuing to improve land use policies in unincorporated King County, and by encouraging partner cities to do the same.

4. What are the barriers to economic prosperity faced by residents in your jurisdiction, and how do you plan to address them?

There are many barriers to prosperity, but critical to addressing them is leadership committed to creating new jobs, strengthening support for working families, and helping new businesses and entrepreneurs thrive.

By investing in an equitable recovery, the County can work to strengthen economic opportunity for workers through public projects and labor contracts that include local and priority hire requirements for employees and apprentices. We can create good jobs with safe workplaces, living wages, and strong benefits.

Further, we have to strengthen conditions for working families who may be struggling to make ends meet. Affordability is key: Whether it’s access to affordable childcare, housing, or transportation – we need to make sure these priorities are top of mind. We have to protect public services that communities rely on, and change the way they’re funded by challenging our upside down tax code.

Finally, we need to support small businesses and new businesses, especially those owned by people of color, veterans, women, immigrants, and other underrepresented communities. Facilitating conditions that help these businesses grow, succeed, and create wealth and new jobs is very important – and can be done by listening to their needs and involving them in county efforts. This is something I’ve worked on at the city level, and it’s a focus I’ll bring to the County Council.

5. What are the transportation/transit challenges which face this jurisdiction and how would you address them? What role does rail play in your proposed solutions?

Growing up, access to bus service connected me with so many opportunities – from jobs and work to education, sports, and friends and family. Those early experiences left an indelible mark, showing me firsthand how transit access can drive equity and reinforcing the ideal that transit should serve every neighbor.

It is a tragedy that our system does not better serve vulnerable community members, especially those with differently-abled bodies. This has surely been made even more difficult by the pandemic. One of my top priorities is returning Metro to full strength post-pandemic and expanding service with equity being the key lens through which that extension is determined.

I will also work to keep Sound Transit 3 on track, especially investments in expanded Sounder South rail service. Working with regional leaders, I will advocate for an on-time delivery of Sounder South upgrades, which will improve access to opportunity for South King County communities. This project is critical to our post-COVID recovery.

My plan is to involve leaders from underrepresented communities in that process, including advocates for people with disabilities. Inclusivity should be at the center of Metro and Sound Transit’s efforts, not an afterthought. I appreciate King County’s existing paratransit system, and will work to make it more convenient and reliable for the people it serves.

I also believe we must make cycling accessible for everyone, especially those in unincorporated King County. We have to prioritize expanding bike lanes and safety measures, so more neighbors feel comfortable biking. Better connecting a network of bike lanes to transit will help create more sustainable alternative transportation options for those who would otherwise drive. As we review Metro’s routes, we should pay close attention to existing bike infrastructure and plans for the future.

Ultimately, one of the best ways we can protect the safety of pedestrians and cyclists is by reducing cars on the road. I will push to ensure our communities in unincorporated King County, where possible, are walkable and bikeable, and continue advocating for an expanded Metro and Sound Transit system.

6. What are your jurisdiction’s environmental issues, which ones are urgent and what will you do to address them?

As a City Councilmember, I apply the lens of climate change to every issue, working to create a greener city that centers impacted communities and works proactively to reduce emissions and the effects of climate change.

King County has an integral role to play in our state’s efforts to combat and defeat climate change. Acting on the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan, we can cut emissions in half within the next ten years through energy efficiency targets, building retrofits, fleet electrification, implementing the state’s 100% clean electricity mandate, and more.

We can’t stop there and have to push the boundaries of ambitious emissions reductions targets. There is a lot the county can do within its purview, especially by looking at climate as an all-encompassing issue. We must strengthen our Metro transit system, critical for reducing cars on the road and the emissions they release. Parks and open spaces are key – they must be maintained and we must further conservation efforts by restoring forests, shorelines, and waterways.

I have concerns about the proposed asphalt plant near the Cedar River, which is a critical habitat for our endangered salmon. I’m committed to working with experts, environmental advocates, and nearby communities to preserve the beautiful wilderness that is so unique to the Pacific Northwest.

We should push forward and embrace new innovations, which can create jobs while reducing emissions. I’m encouraged by the successful deployment of renewable natural gas generators at two regional landfills. Working with local communities and tribal governments, we should expand clean energy technology to bring new opportunities to South King County.

Climate justice must be integral to these efforts, so frontline communities are the first to see the positive impact of our investments and efforts.

7. Does your district have a taxing authority or propose levies and what changes, if any, would you seek?

While we are generally limited in our options at the county level, I am still committed to doing everything I can to reduce the regressive nature of our tax system and protect working families, low-income neighbors, seniors, and others disproportionately hurt by our reliance on this upside-down tax code.

As we seek new funding and make needed investments, we must exhaust all progressive tax options before once again relying on sales taxes and other regressive means that harm the most vulnerable. This includes asking the legislature to pursue new tax options, including giving King County the ability to tax businesses who have made record profits this year to pay their fair share.

I also believe we must offer relief to the seniors and low-income neighbors who are at risk of being pushed out of their homes and communities due to rising housing costs and related property tax increases. Seniors should be able to age in place, and the best way to help people out of homelessness is to prevent them from ever entering it. I know how difficult a strain this system puts on our neighbors, and I will not forget that when new revenue is needed.


By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.

Printed Name: Kim-Khanh Van

Date: 04/24/2021

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