Chris Roberts’ run in 32nd District part of larger movement

He’s among 8 Native Americans hoping for House or State Senate positions
By Ian Davis-Leonard | Jul 19, 2018
Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts is throwing his hat into the ring, part of a wave of Native American tribal members making a run at congressional positions in Washington state.

The three-term Shoreline City Council member and two-year Shoreline mayor is looking to climb the political ladder as he makes a run for State Representative Position 2 in the 32nd District, which encompasses parts of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Shoreline.

The House Position 2 seat is vacant after the retirement of Ruth Kagi. Also hoping to fill her seat are Democrat Lauren Davis and Republican Frank Deisler.

But more than just politics were on Roberts mind when he chose to run for office. Roberts is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and Native American representation is an important issue for him.

“These are exciting times, because it is really important that tribal members are able to look up to their representatives and see someone like them serving. It gives them hope, more faith that the government is representing them and listening to their interests.”

According to Roberts, previously the Washington state Legislature has had just 16 Native American representatives in its history. This year, eight candidates are making runs for state House or state Senate positions.

“I am very excited to see tribal members running,” Roberts said. “It is important to have that kind of relationship in the legislator, because there are a lot of people who don’t know much about what is happening within Indian country.”

He cited the high homelessness rate and low high school graduation rates as two of the biggest issues facing urban Native Americans in Washington, as well as the importance of representing the tribes who are collectively the fourth largest employer in the state.

“We have done a lot to recruit candidates as part of the Native American caucus, to make sure that we have good representation of the interests of Native Americans in the Legislature and in cities across the state,” he said.

For Roberts, the issue of representation goes beyond just Native Americans. The Washington state Legislature currently has just 16 members of color, and Roberts believes diversity is the key to making sure that all voices are heard.

“This is why representation is so important, because hey, if someone like me can do this, they can do it too,” he said.

Beyond Washington state, Native American politicians are making noise as well.

In New Mexico, Deb Haaland is making a push to become the first Native American woman in Congress and Paulette Jordan is aspiring to be the country’s first Native American governor in Idaho.

“I am hopeful that all of us are able to be successful in the upcoming election,” Roberts said.

While Roberts’ native heritage is important to him, it is not what he wants to define him during this political season.

“I wear many hats. Being a tribal member is one important hat that I wear and it is part of my identity, but it is just one hat.”

His experience on a plethora of local boards and committees is one reason why Roberts believes he can offer so much to the 32nd District.

He has served as a member of the Association of Washington State Cities Legislative committee, as the PTA Legislative liaison for his son’s school, and as the state chair and a national board member of the Democratic Municipals Official Organization.

In addition, with experience on the executive board of the Puget Sound Regional Council, Roberts feel prepared to handle issues facing every city in the 32nd District, such as population growth and affordable housing.

“I think that people want a steady hand, and that record of action when they elect people,” Roberts said. “I think I am the best candidate to represent the district. I have the experience, I have a strong record of taking bold action to help the community.”

The Democrat has chosen to make a bid for state level politics after seeing some of what he calls the pitfalls of local government.

“There’s a lot of things I’ve realized we need to do at the state level that we couldn’t accomplish at the city level.”

He cited revenue opportunities for cities and cleaning up Puget Sound as two of his primary targets for progress.

“The state doesn’t give cities enough tools to have a more progressive stream of revenue,” he said. “Additionally, we need the state to take action and make stronger and bolder choices to make sure we have an environment where my kids and their kids have a clean, safe environment, and that they can continue to enjoy the area’s natural beauty.”

 

Comments (1)
Posted by: Cathy Baylor | Jul 19, 2018 22:57

Chris Roberts has years of  civic experience and education that  far exceed those of his Primary Opponent. In addition to the vast experience detailed above, he earned his PhD from the University of Washington in 2012 in Political Science.

His experience as a public servant and his status as an enrolled tribal member place him in the position of being able to represent the needs of the  majority population while simultaneously being a voice for a Washington state community that has been under- or un- represented since before Washington gained statehood.

Our government is stronger if it is more diverse. Lauren Davis is a good candidate with admirable values. But make no mistake:  our legislature will not become more diverse if a white woman is replaced by another white woman.



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