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Diverse newcomers seek 48th District House seat
Two political newcomers – one Hispanic, one blind – who are running for Rep. Deb Eddy’s 48th District seat are bringing voters a dish of candidate diversity.
The Kirkland resident is new to the Legislature, but not to campaigning as this is his second time running for the position. Eddy defeated Ramos in the 2006 primary election, garnering 73 percent more votes, according to King County Elections.
“I had fire in my stomach to go do it,” Ramos said of running against Eddy when he was just 25 years old. “I learned a lot from that race and it got me more involved in my community.”
Bellevue resident Cyrus Habib, who lost his eyesight to a rare childhood cancer, quietly launched his campaign on Feb. 15 as Eddy had not yet formally announced her retirement.
"Having lost my eyesight at a young age to cancer, I have learned first-hand the importance of listening," said Habib, age 30. “I am able to work with a wide array of stakeholders and individuals.”
Both Democrats, the candidates have similar platforms, crediting their own education as the main reason for prioritizing public schools.
Ramos’s family moved from Mexico to Kirkland when he was 9 years old. He went through the Lake Washington School District, from Lakeview Elementary to Lake Washington High School, where he graduated in 1998.
“I’ve had the opportunity to go from being a kid who spoke three words – please, thank you and bathroom – to having a graduate degree,” said 31-year-old Ramos, who lives in the South Rose Hill Neighborhood. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in accounting from the University of Washington and an MBA from Western Washington University. “I want to renew the opportunities. I want to make sure people have the same opportunities I did. The opportunities are there and we’ve got to make sure we provide them.”
Ramos added that education is in jeopardy with all the state budget cuts and he wants to change that. He said the Legislature needs to also ensure adequate college funding and he will prioritize stopping the cuts to Washington’s four-year universities.
Habib’s family moved from Maryland to Bellevue when he was 8 years old, around the time he was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma and lost his eyesight. He went to Stevenson Elementary and was in the second graduating class at Bellevue International School in 1999. He said that is where he first became passionate about public school education.
“That was a really remarkable school for me and it’s proven quite successful for many students,” Habib said of Bellevue International School, noting the school was founded by teachers who put student achievement at the center of the public school system.
He said the state Supreme Court’s recent ruling that the state is failing to meet its duty to fund K-12 education “made it clear to everyone what I think we already knew, which was we are failing a generation of young people by not fully funding public schools.”
He vows as state representative to ensure that public education is properly funded.
“I do believe that the public school system in this country is the single-greatest asset we have to remain competitive, to ensure equity and to provide a life of dignity and opportunity for every student,” said Habib, who is a trustee of the Bellevue College Foundation, which raises scholarship funds to help economically disadvantaged students.
Habib’s other priorities include making sure the state is competitive in a knowledge-based economy and maintaining his constituent’s quality of life.
He said that includes maintaining clean air and water, protecting green spaces and parks.
As a board member of the Bellevue Downtown Association, he has championed light-rail expansion to the Eastside, keeping with the BDA's vision of promoting walkable communities.
“With the loss of Rep. Deb. Eddy, it’ll be important that we have somebody in the Legislature who understands and can champion the completion of the 520 project,” said Habib. “There are so many opportunities for (public works projects) to go sideways and she has in her service in the legislature kept a laser-like focus on that project.”
He also promises to toughen drunk driving laws in Olympia. As a disability advocate, he has also testified before both houses of the state Legislature in support of tougher distracted driving laws.
A Yale Law School graduate, Habib is a technology attorney for the Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie, where he assists startup technology firms with their early-stage legal needs. He is passionate about technology and entrepreneurship, and understands the needs of small businesses on the Eastside.
As a small business owner, Ramos also understands small businesses. He is a commercial real estate broker and director of property management for Summerfield Commercial in Bellevue, overseeing more than 30 employees and nearly 30 buildings.
Ramos also promises to review and sunset tax breaks to ensure the state is creating an economic climate that creates jobs.
He currently serves as chair for the City of Kirkland’s Human Services Advisory Committee and is a former chair of the 48th District Democrats.
Ramos says he is still working out the details of his campaign and has not yet raised any campaign funds or received any endorsements, since he just announced his candidacy.
Habib has raised more than $60,000 toward his campaign, according to the Public Disclosure Commission.
He has also been endorsed by Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee, Congressman Adam Smith, and Bellevue City Councilwoman Claudia Balducci, among others.