“Women Who Run” is a series highlighting six female candidates currently running for office. Whether the roles they’re campaigning for are in local, state, or national government, they’re all proof that more women are getting involved in politics than ever before.
Jinyoung Lee Englund didn’t grow up in a politically charged household. As the daughter of Korean immigrants, there simply wasn’t time for that. “If you’re an immigrant, you’re trying to learn a language, buy a house, and figure out the school system for your kids and survive,” Englund tells us over the phone.
It wasn’t until Englund traveled to Mozambique to work for a nonprofit that she became interested in government. “[In Africa], I realized that, while the American government isn’t perfect by any means, something about it works. There are certain policies and ideas that really empower people to overcome their circumstance. [There are also] other policies that enable people to kind of stay where they are; they don’t address the core issue.”
Fast-forward 10 years and Englund is now running as a Republican for Washington State Senate in the 45th Legislative District. She’s a proud Pacific Northwesterner, a devoted advocate for bipartisan leadership, and a true believer in the power of building change by starting on a local level. It’s clear when chatting with her over email or on the phone (both of which we did for this interview) that Englund is curious, thoughtful, and above all, human. It’s those characteristics that she hopes to bring to Washington’s government come November.
B+C: Tell us more about the position you’re running for.
Englund: I am honored to be running for the Washington State Senate in the 45th Legislative District. That encompasses parts of Kirkland and Redmond, Sammamish, Woodinville, and Duvall. There is a special election in November that will elect someone to finish the second term for late Republican Senator Andy Hill, who tragically passed away last October of cancer.
Then, in 2018, there will be another election to elect someone for their own four-year term. The special election in November will determine whether or not Washington maintains a balance of power in our state government or if it will fall once again to one-party control.
I believe that people are best served when we have a balance of power, because then we as the people can hold elected officials accountable. When Democrats and Republicans are forced to come to the negotiating table as equals, neither can cater to their special interest groups and must compromise at some level in order to get to a solution.
B+C: What is it about America that inspired you to participate in its government?
Englund: My grandparents, father, and his sisters immigrated from what’s now known as North Korea to Washington in 1975. Like many families, we chose to be American, but more importantly, we chose to be Washingtonian. I’m alive and able to run to serve in elected office today because, in 1950, America defended a country they never knew and a people they never met. That country was Korea and those people are my people.
From the invasion of Korea to serving with the US military and my work in post-war Mozambique, my family has the unique experience of having experienced both political and economic oppression and freedom across three generations. Being American has afforded our family the gifts of life, freedom, and opportunity. That is a debt we can never repay, but it is one that we can certainly pay forward.
B+C: How important is bipartisan leadership to you?
Englund: I believe bipartisan leadership is central to this election — something we need not only in Washington state but at the national level. To me, partisan bickering is unhealthy and unproductive. Something I’ve learned from the neighbors I’ve met on the campaign trail is that they are looking for a senator who will work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find solutions.
Working across the aisle and seeking first to understand another’s point of view is a personal value of mine. I believe that a state legislator’s primary role is to be an independent voice on behalf of their constituents; to negotiate and mediate on behalf of their best interests, not that of the party. That is what I intend to be for the families that reside in my district.
B+C: What issues are most important to you and your campaign?
Englund: The train of thought I encounter most frequently in our district is, “Our economy is booming, our tax revenue is growing, so where is all the money going?” [I would work on] identifying cost-effective and immediate actions to reduce traffic congestion, increasing affordable housing, ensuring the prioritization of education funding in our budget and an opposition to new and more tax increases such as a state income tax, a capital gains income tax, carbon tax, and increase in B&O tax.
B+C: You’ve mentioned that you were essentially apolitical for most of your life. How did you come to identify with the Republican party?
Englund: After returning from Africa, I Googled the different political platforms in our state — Democrat vs. Republican — and I resonated a little more with the Republican side, because of the fiscal conservative aspect, that accountability, and also the emphasis on “local taking care of local.”
I decided I wanted to learn more about the Republican party, so I went to volunteer. I went and interviewed with them and said, “Look, I don’t know if I’m a Republican. I just want to learn.” That same day, they ended up calling me about a job opportunity. So I sat through two interviews for a job with the Republican party, before I was like, “What am I interviewing for?! Who are you people?!” I didn’t even know if I was a Republican yet, and I’d never done politics before. The guy who interviewed me said, “You worked for a nonprofit in Africa, right? It’s kind of the same thing.”
B+C: What did he mean by that?
Englund: When you think about things like working for a nonprofit, it’s filled with a lot of passionate people, but they might not have all the skills. They see through rose-colored glasses what things could be or should be. It also involves management of a lot of volunteers. So they offered me the job, and I took it. I thought, I can go to school and try to learn, or I can get a first-hand experience. I learned that I’m very good at taking chaos and converting it into order. My office outperformed every other office in our state.
B+C: What advice would you like to pass along to other women in or interested in politics?
Englund: Something that I learned along the way and that I still remain true to is to let your work speak for itself. And don’t sell yourself short. I think it’s becoming more and more obvious that women make up more than 50 percent of the total population in the US, but we’re still not equally represented. In the boardroom, in Congress, at all these negotiating tables. And I think that as women, we have a lot to offer. If you do good work, you will be recognized for that. And that is your best negotiating trick. Don’t let political parties take your power away. Instead, build up your power, be confident in your power and the quality of your work.
B+C: You’ve mentioned how important mentors have been to you, certainly in your political career. Tell us about how having a mentor has helped you move forward professionally.
Englund: I’m glad you’re asking about this because this is very important to me. My parents love me to death and would do anything for me, but they have no connections. They didn’t even know how to navigate getting me to college. So I am only here today because of the generous and kind people that I’ve met along the way who have invested in me.
What trips up a lot of young people is that mentorship has to look a certain way, but it doesn’t. Some of your guiding principles as a young woman, in either seeking out a mentor or building a relationship with a mentor, is to think about how you can add value to that person’s life. Think of a mentor relationship not as one-way, but as two-way. My mentors and I have a genuine interest in each other’s lives, passions, work, and families. It really is building a friendship over time.
B+C: When is your election and what do folks need to make sure to do before then?
Englund: The special election will take place on Tuesday, November 7, 2017. More information and ways to get involved with my campaign can be found on my website. For readers that reside in Washington state, the deadline to register to vote is October 9, 2017, for online and mail-in registration, and October 30, 2017, for in-person registration. The Washington State Secretary of State’s MyVote website provides voter registration information and details on how to vote.
What female politicians are on your radar? Send us a tip @BritandCo.
(Design by Sarah Tate, Photos courtesy of Jinyoung Lee Englund)