It was a night of mixed emotions for the Asian American community as primary elections results rolled in with Kip Tokuda winning the Democratic nomination for state representative in the 37th District, position 2, but Congressional hopeful Paull Shin losing in this bid to replace retiring Rep. Al Swift.

While there were a total of 13 Asian Americans vying for elected posts, Tokuda and Shin garnered the most attention.
Election watchers expected it to be long night for Tokuda, but by 10:30 p.m., it was certain that he snatched the race from Rep. Vivian Caver. The final tally showed Tokuda with 5,373 votes (44.9 percent) to Caver’s 3,419 votes (28.6 percent). Tokuda will face Republican Dan Ellis in the November elections.

“I expected it to be close to the very end,” said an elated Tokuda.

While the general elections are still to come, Tokuda is almost a sure bet since the district is a strongly Democratic one.

For Asian Americans, a Tokuda win is vital. The 37th District is where Seattle’s Asian American population is concentrated. According to the Seattle Planning Department, Asian Americans constitute 27 percent of that area’s population while the group’s city-wide total is 12 percent.

In addition, the number of Asian American representatives on the state Legislature has been dwindling. In the past year, three out of five left the Legislature. Last year, Locke (D-37th District) was elected to be King County Executive. In spring, Rep. Art Wang (D-27th District) was appointed by Gov. Mike Lowry to the state Personnel Appeals Board. And now Shin, whose term expires this year, is out since he ran an unsuccessful bid for the House of Representatives.

“With Art, Gary and Paull gone, we need Kip there to represent us and our concerns,” said Arlene Oki, a longtime community activist and political watcher. “But he’ll be good for all communities in the area. He was born and raised there. His roots are there.”

Shin conceded to his main opponent Harriet Spanel at 11:30 p.m. Spanel racked up 23 percent of the votes (22,158) and Shin came in second with 18 percent (17,131). John Sandifer trailed behind with 9 percent (8,997) of the votes. Spanel will face Republican Jack Metcalf in November.

“That’s how politics runs,” said a disappointed Shin last night from his campaign party at the West Coast Everett Pacific Hotel. “There’s no place for No.2, so you have to accept that gracefully and exit gracefully.”

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