Shift’s Newsmaker Interview is with Republican state senate candidate Ryika Hooshangi who is seeking to remove controversial Democrat Senator Manka Dhingra. This 45th Legislative District (Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish, and East King County) contest will be one of Washington State’s most watched campaigns in 2022 as Republicans seek to pick up four seats to take control of the state senate. Hooshangi is an attorney, small business owner, PTSA president, water commissioner, and mother of two children. She says she is running for the state senate because “we need real solutions to our problems, not extreme personal agendas.” Hooshangi’s opponent has received much criticism for her efforts in passing the Democrats’ 2021 anti-police package (Senator Dhingra even went so far as to defend her Democrat colleagues who failed to support a legislative fix to the state’s police pursuit laws which have allowed thousands of suspected criminals to flee police).
In her interview, Hooshangi provides her thoughts on the Democrats’ police pursuit restrictions, education, gas tax relief to help those who are struggling financially, and the Democrats’ “poorly written” Long-Term Care plan and payroll tax. She also provides an interesting choice for her favorite book.
First, please tell readers about yourself, and why you are running to represent the 45th Legislative District’s residents in the Washington State Senate.
I’m running because we’re on the wrong track in our state and in the 45th District, and I believe I can represent this district better than my opponent. The extreme views in Olympia have completely abandoned the middle. Right now, we need real solutions to our problems, not extreme personal agendas. We need to bring back some common sense and get the community I love and grew up in, back on track.
As an attorney with nearly two decades of legal and public policy experience, I know how to bring diverse interests together toward common goals. I’m currently a small business owner and have my own law practice while also serving as a Commissioner and Board President for Sammamish Plateau Water. My entire career has been devoted to public service. I have a proven record of working across the aisle as an attorney for the U.S. State Department and as a senior foreign policy advisor and international trade counsel in the U.S. Senate.
You are running against incumbent Senator Manka Dhingra who was one of the leaders in passing the Democrats’ controversial anti-police legislation, and she recently defended the Senate’s decision to not fix the pursuit laws which allow criminals to flee police. How do you differ with the Democrat incumbent on laws governing police?
People want the police to show up when they call and want the police to be able to do their job and track down those responsible for the surging property crimes and vehicle thefts we are seeing in our community. As a mom of two young kids, maintaining the safety of our community is of the utmost priority for me. My opponent’s views on laws governing police do not represent the common sense values of this district.
Since January 2022, there have been over 900 drivers that have failed to stop for a Washington State Patrol officer trying to pull them over. In a recent incident in Redmond, a driver with a suspended license called 911 and cited House Bill 1054 as the reason why he refused to stop for a police officer and told the 911 operator, “It’s a violation of 1054. He’s not allowed to chase me.”
We can have rules governing police pursuits, but the new law has gone too far and is a prime example of extreme policymaking.
You have two children, and you have been president of your PTSA. Education is obviously very important to you. What changes would you support to our state’s education system?
Growing up, my parents made sure that education was always a fundamental priority for me. I feel so fortunate that I was able to learn from such incredibly talented public school teachers and even had the opportunity to participate in the Running Start program in high school. With college credits from the program, I was able to graduate from the George Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in political science within two years, at the age of 20.
We need more school programs that encourage different learning styles. We know that children learn better when they are actively engaged, and parents should be able to choose what schools and programs best meet their child’s learning style.
I’ve been the PTSA President at my daughter’s school for the last two years and have consistently advocated for students in our public schools. Even when school buildings were closed during the pandemic, I worked hard to support our teachers and families to build the best learning environment for our kids. When it comes to education, I believe all children regardless of zip code or circumstance deserve a world class education.
I talk to teachers all the time – and what they are saying comports with what we are seeing and hearing from families – many of our students are struggling and need additional time and help. This is an area where sadly my opponent is out-of-step and out-of-touch with the reality on the ground. My opponent introduced SB 5735, which would cut classroom instruction time for kids in public school by 20 percent. Essentially, this bill would allow for “asynchronous” learning one day a week. With all the lost academic and emotional learning during the last two years, this is the exact opposite of what our students need right now. Of course, there is also the additional burden placed on working parents to accommodate children in school only four days a week.
Now more than ever, we need to invest in our children’s future. We live in an epicenter of technology and innovation, and we should be utilizing this to our advantage by preparing our kids to compete in the global marketplace.
One of the best ideas I heard from a constituent in my district is for the state to temporarily hire tutors for the next few years to help students catch up to grade level. With a $1.5 billion surplus projected next legislative session, a post-COVID tutoring program should be at the top of our list of priorities.
What are your thoughts on providing tax relief to families who are struggling during these inflationary times with skyrocketing energy costs?
At a time when families are struggling, we need to do what we can to provide tax relief during these difficult times. With so many people unable to afford to live near their place of work, the record high energy costs become even more crippling for their livelihood. Residents are continually facing sticker shock at the gas station with no end in sight. In Washington, the combined state and federal gas tax is at 67.8 cents per gallon, which includes one of the highest state gas taxes at 49 cents per gallon. I support a suspension of the gas tax so we can provide immediate tax relief for Washingtonians.
The Democrats postponed their controversial Long-Term Care plan and payroll tax until after the November elections. What are your thoughts on the future of Long-Term Care in Washington?
The Long-Term Care plan and payroll tax legislation is just another example of why we need people with real policy experience in Olympia. It was so poorly written; it is no wonder it was doomed from the start. It should not have taken a public outcry for lawmakers to understand that the language and implications of the tax were a complete fiasco. I saw firsthand employees completely befuddled on what was happening and employers that could not properly explain what needed to be done to opt out, not to mention insurance companies that would no longer even insure residents in Washington State.
It is important to address long-term care needs, but with a lifetime limit of $36,500, often this only covers a few months of care. The fact that it did not take into consideration people who fully paid into the plan but end up receiving none of the benefits, like in the case of those that choose to retire out of state, is just another example of poorly drafted policy.
What is your favorite book? Why?
I like to read various genres which makes it very difficult for me to name just one favorite book. But, if I had to choose one to highlight right now, it would be The Prize by Daniel Yergin. It’s a great read and incredibly insightful as we look at today’s energy crisis.