King County Executive – Joe Nguyen

Municipal/Other Questionnaire

Candidate Information

  • Candidate Name: Joe Nguyen
  • Position Sought: King County Executive (Non-incumbent)
  • Home Legislative District: 34
  • 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.

Born and raised in King County, I am the son of Vietnamese refugees, proud father of 3, and the current State Senator for the 34th. Long before getting involved in politics, I have been involved in various organizations working to better our community.

-I serve on the Board of Wellspring Family Services, which serves thousands of families across King County who are experiencing a crisis.
-In 2018 I was honored to be chosen as a Jackson Leadership Fellow, a 9-month intensive leadership fellowship that brings together civic leaders from across the area and seeks to make lasting impact in our communities through values-based approaches to leadership.
-Enraged and appalled by the police murder of Tommy Le in 2017, I have been dedicated to systemic police reform, and dismantling institutional racism at all levels. I currently sit on King County’s Community Advisory Committee for Law Enforcement Oversight.

Professionally, I have executive experience as a Senior Manager at Microsoft working to provide job training that supports all people with the skills needed to succeed in this rapidly changing, technologically dependent economy.

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

I’m running for King County Executive because the pandemic exposed what so many people in communities like mine across King County already knew: our leaders haven’t been delivering for us for far too long. It’s time for that to change. Politics should be about people, not careers, and it’s increasingly clear that governments run by transactional politicians do not serve communities nor solve real problems. Born and raised in King County by Vietnamese refugees reliant on public housing and social services, I understand the issues that so many of our residents face. Bringing a representative, transparent, and accountable leadership style to the County Executive’s role will be incredibly impactful for the region as a whole. My campaign will center all of our communities needs, but our platform focuses largely on creating a Just Economy, the Environment, Transportation, Criminal Justice Reform, and Housing and Homelessness. You can find a complete overview of my priorities on my website, meetjoenguyen.com.

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

Pouring over campaign data from the last few years, we know King County voters are hungry for a change and we know exactly who and where these voters are. By focusing our efforts on the progressive heart of Seattle, South King County, and doing outreach to voters on the Eastside, we have enough voters who align with us for victory.

Fundraising wise, Dow is likely close to his fundraising ceiling because he’s spent nearly $700k of his current raised total on a shadow campaign for governor, and many of his top donors and PACs have already maxed out. We have a strong grassroots fundraising plan in place that will bring us to our goals by the primary, with regular house parties and events lined up through our donor base. In 2018, I beat an incumbent despite being outspent 4-1. This year will be no exception.

We’ve also had a strong earned and social media presence this year, which shows no signs of slowing. Poised to earn the influential endorsement of The Stranger, which brought 6 of their 7 Seattle City Council candidates to victory in 2019, we expect to carry Seattle progressives and earn substantial organic fundraising boost post endorsement.

Part II – Local Issues

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

Yes

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

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

Yes

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

Yes

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

Yes

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

Yes

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

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

Yes

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

Yes

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

Yes

Part III – Free Response

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

I am a progressive Democrat, through and through. I’m a Democrat because I believe that communities should take care of their most vulnerable members, because our strength should be measured by our willingness to help those around us, not by a self-serving accumulation of wealth and power. I’m a Democrat because I believe that it’s the government’s job to invest in people to guarantee that no crisis deprives us of the chance to make something of ourselves. Bottom line, I believe that we have an obligation to provide the infrastructure it takes for all of us to have an equal opportunity to succeed. I am proud to have called myself a Democrat my entire life, and to serve as a Democratic State Senator representing the 34th LD.

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?

Many of the issues that affect the communities I came from, those who are the most marginalized, are paid little attention to by both the media and those who are meant to represent us. A great example of this is the issue of juvenile justice.

Despite widespread media attention on police and criminal justice reform in general, much less is paid to the issue of the treatment and involvement of our youth in these systems. Our legal system in general is broken, but it should be an outrage that our youth are put into jails period. We need to invest in our kids before things become an issue, solving systemic issues of poverty, racial inequities and domestic violence, and providing access to high-quality and trauma-informed education and opportunities.

The broader issue of criminal justice reform is the outcropping of rampant inequality, underinvestment in communities, not having adequate resources for everything from schools and public transportation to economic opportunity and access to nutritious food. Half of the King County budget goes to jails and courts, and we’re using that to criminalize poverty, Blackness, mental health crises, and addiction.

King County had the opportunity to move away from youth incarceration and invest in more preventative and restorative solutions, but instead, we put over $200 million into building a new building to jail more of our kids. The truth is: a bigger youth jail should have never been built, and 2025 is too long to wait to shut it down. We’re going to use the county’s $12B budget to invest in communities. I plan to make juvenile justice a key part of my campaign platform, and if elected, I will commit to freeing our kids and investing the resources currently used to lock them up into holistic, restorative justice options and evidence-based preventative solutions.

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

Everyone in King County deserves a safe place to call home. But more than 5 years after declaring homelessness an emergency, our county leadership has only allowed the crisis to get worse. Study after study has told us what it will take to resolve this crisis, and it’s not complicated. What we need is leadership unwilling to compromise on ensuring basic human dignity for all our neighbors.

My determination to solve this crisis comes from my gratitude for the assistance my family received when I was growing up. My parents came to this country as refugees from the Vietnam War, and we relied on public housing for much of my childhood. That support allowed us to make a home in the community of White Center, and inspired me to enter public service to protect the programs kids like me and my siblings needed to thrive. Everyone deserves the same opportunity to succeed in King County.

That drive towards public service first started when I got involved with Wellspring Family Services, an incredible community organization providing services to families experiencing homelessness and working to divert people from losing their homes in the first place. They, and other community aid organizations like them, are changing people’s lives with the help they provide, but they simply don’t have the resources to meet the needs of our community.

As King County Executive, I’ll do more than make sure no one has to sleep on the street and ensure every family can afford to live here regardless of how much money they make. Here’s how we’ll make that happen:

-Work in coordination with our Regional Homelessness Authority along with community based organizations like Wellspring family services to dramatically scale up the direct aid to people experiencing homelessness while we work on ending this crisis.
-Work with cities throughout our county to invest in building thousands of new affordable housing units so that every family in King County can afford a home.
-Work with our Regional Homelessness Authority to build enough permanent supportive housing to provide people struggling with chronic homelessness the services they need to thrive.
-Provide alternative pathways to homeownership and housing stability for families in communities of color who have been excluded from traditional means to build intergenerational wealth for decades, particularly for communities in unincorporated King County like the one where I was raised.

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

Despite think pieces promoting rosy stock market numbers and “recovery rates”, we know that the pandemic has hurt people differently. For example, while those who make over $50k/year might have lower unemployment rates than they did pre-pandemic, those who make under $24k still have record high unemployment.

Before session, I championed gathering public support for a “no austerity budget”, demanding we create a budget that reflects our values, and we largely succeeded. We delivered a budget with record increases in TANF, Capital Gains, a Working Families Tax Credit, and avoided big cuts to social services that were rumored. But despite our state’s economic situation being “not so bad”, we aren’t solving for a budget crisis, we’re solving for helping people in crisis.

As Executive, I will double down on my ongoing commitment to working people. This means investing in social services, education, transportation, and community resources. My values have always been clear, and I’ve made it my mission to never let my foot off the gas when it comes to putting those values into action. That won’t change when it comes to leading the people of King County.

Here’s how we make that happen:

-Further address the unfairness in our tax code by building on the progress we made in the state legislature this year when we passed a capital gains tax; King County should pursue its own progressive revenue options like a wealth tax on the super-wealthy to fund investments in the well-being of working families.
-Work with unions to expand apprenticeship programs and diversify our skilled workforce by connecting students who don’t want to pursue higher education with opportunities to earn while they learn.
-Make higher education more accessible to students from low-income families by increasing funding for schools in communities who have been excluded from public investment to provide services like college preparation and career counseling while subsidizing costs.
-Guarantee every person in King County has their basic needs met by learning from the inequities in public health outcomes and vaccine distribution during the pandemic to identify communities that need urgent investments in essential infrastructure to deliver high-quality services to those in need

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?

We have to devote substantial resources to increasing the efficiency of using mass transit, because too many working people in King County still have commutes similar to mine growing up. When I was 15, my second job was at the IMAX on the waterfront. Getting there would have taken me 15 minutes by car, but since my family couldn’t afford one for me, I spent an hour and a half commuting by bus. That tradeoff will never make sense for working parents who we can’t ask to sacrifice time with their children in the name of reducing carbon emissions.

Our transit systems are largely disconnected, and are often inefficient and difficult to navigate. In order to fix this, we have to invest in our local public transit systems, making sure they are efficient, fully-funded, and well-connected. Here’s how we make that happen:

-Accelerate the expansion of Sound Transit to make sustainable commuting options available to as many people as possible, as soon as possible.
-Make the sustainable choice the right economic choice for working families by providing free transit for all like we’ve done throughout the pandemic.
-Expand public transit options to underserved communities isolated from economic and educational opportunities due to a lack of transportation.
-Streamline service across agencies that manage our transit systems to make commutes that require multiple modes of transit more efficient so that working people can spend less time in traffic and more time where they want to be.

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

In WA, 44% of our emissions are transportation based, much of which comes from King County. We must get our population out of cars and into multi-modal forms of transportation by:
-Investing in local public transit systems
-Ensure they are efficient, fully-funded, + well-connected
-Provide free transit for all

As I’m writing this I have just submitted an amendment to our transportation budget that would add:
-$50 million toward funding a Connecting Communities grant program
-An additional $50 million toward a Transit Access fund

I’ve also sponsored and passed legislation to:
-Strengthen our emission standards
-Put WA on track to phase out new ICE vehicles by 2035
-Invest in the infrastructure necessary to prepare for the electrification of vehicles

Our 2nd biggest emissions driver are buildings. Beyond making their energy use more efficient, 50% of building emissions comes during construction. We need to build smarter with tools like:
-Cross laminated timber
-Incentivize 0 emission and renewable options
-Work with zoning laws + union labor to create a robust green building industry

All of this must be done with an eye toward environmental justice. We know that lower income and communities of color are most impacted by climate change. In one of the wealthiest counties in America, your ZIP code shouldn’t determine your lifespan. We all deserve clean air, water, and land. To get this done equitably, our climate policy must center the experiences of historically impacted communities.

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

Yes, King County has some taxing authority. We need to work to further address the unfairness in our tax code by building on the progress we made in the state legislature this year when we passed a capital gains tax; King County should pursue its own progressive revenue options like a wealth tax on the super-wealthy to fund investments in the well-being of working families.

While the county is handcuffed in terms of being able to do too much in regards to taxes, they do control the property tax assessments and rate, so we have the power to do things like add more exemptions for seniors and people on fixed incomes, and adjust the tax rate. We should use all the tools available to us to make our tax system as just and effective as possible.


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

Printed Name: Joe Nguyen

Date: 04/27/2021

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