Danni Askini, the transgender leader who rose to prominence this year fighting against and defeating GOP legislation that would have overturned state rules allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, announced today that she's dropping out of the crowded race in the 43rd state Legislative District.
Askini, the head of the Gender Justice League, was running for state representative Brady Walkinshaw's (D-43, Capitol Hill) seat; Walkinshaw is giving up his seat to run for U.S. congress. Askini said in a statement today that she wants to turn her attention to opposing I-1515, the North Carolina-style initiative that would ban local governments from passing laws protecting transgender people from discrimination in public places—including in public restrooms.
Walkinshaw, who is gay, had contributed $250 to Askini, though he had not endorsed her. Askini could have been the first transgender state legislator in Washington state history.
Several progressive candidates (representing key, specific liberal interests) are in the race: Labor leader and AFL-CIO organizer Marcus Courtney, homeless advocate and Downtown Services Emergency Center housing policy director Nicole Macri, environmentalist Washington Environmental Council staffer Sameer Ranade, and trial attorney and ACLU board member Daniel Shih.
Shih, with big support from the Asian community (including an endorsement from former governor Gary Locke), is leading in fundraising with $104,000 raised. Macri is in a distant second on the fundraising front having raised $44,000. (Askini was third in fundraising in the crowded field with $31,000. Askini is donating the money to organizations such as women's legal advocacy group Legal Voice who work in Olympia for the kind of policies she would have advocated for as a legislator, she says.)
Askini's announcement is likely to benefit Macri most; homeless advocate Macri, who is a lesbian, has been endorsed by progressive council members such as Mike O'Brien and Lisa Herbold along with police accountability leader Lisa Daugaard and homeless advocate Tim Harris. She appeals to the same activist left as Askini.
In addition to fighting the GOP attempt to roll back transgender rights, Askini did heavy lifting to put the light on gay bashing crimes, and she is a close ally of socialist council member Kshama Sawant. Sawant was one of the few council members who had not yet endorsed Macri.
Askini's statement says:
Due to ongoing attacks on the transgender community statewide, including the filing of Initiative 1515, Askini feels an urgent need to turn her attention full time to her role as Executive Director of the Gender Justice League, Washington’s only transgender civil rights organization.
“I have been overwhelmed by the support our campaign has received since I filed in March,” said Askini, ”This decision has weighed heavily on me, but I have come to the conclusion that I cannot run the campaign for State Representative that this district and my community deserve while also fighting attacks both nationally and across our state on transgender rights.”
Surplus funds from Askini’s campaign will be donated to a number of organizations including Legal Voice, Pride Foundation and the Transgender Law Center.
“These organizations are on the frontlines of the work I would be undertaking in Olympia if I were elected,” Askini continued, “I have deep faith in their ability to address the structural inequities and challenges faced by our communities and to continue the fight and spirit of our campaign moving forward.”