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Marilyn Strickland's Black and Korean-American roots mark historic firsts for U.S. Congress

The former Tacoma mayor heads to D.C. as the Pacific Northwest's first Black U.S. Representative as well as the first Korean-American woman ever seated in Congress

SEATTLE — Congresswoman-elect Marilyn Strickland said she’s ready to get to work after a win on Tuesday to claim the 10th Congressional District.

“Our positive message, our focus on the issues that mattered most to voters really helped push us over the top,” she said.

Strickland had a convincing lead over Beth Doglio for a seat vacated by Congressman Denny Heck, who retired from his seat and successfully ran for Washington state lieutenant governor.

Strickland, a former mayor of Tacoma, will be the first Black person to represent the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Idaho, and Oregon) in Congress and will be the first Korean-American woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

“It's a deep sense of pride because, you know, what I'm doing now is making it more commonplace for this to happen,” she said.

Strickland said she’s eager to represent a Korean-American community that often is ignored on topics like immigration and trade.

“The ability to travel back and forth to get and visas to find ways to find a path to citizenship for Korean adoptees here, those issues are very important,” said Strickland. “We want to make sure we have fair and free trade, but also the ability again, because a lot of people who are here in the United States who are of Korean descent, travel to Korea and have relationships there.”

Steve Kang, president of the Korean American Democratic Committee which endorsed Strickland this past summer, agrees.

“Especially with improving relations with South Korea, and also with North Korea, because of her experience," said Kang. "I think there's a lot of expectation within the community to be that really a bridge between East Asia and America."

Kang said Strickland’s election is the latest win for an underrepresented community within Congress.

“Our community has been yearning for a member of Congress for many decades,” he said.

Strickland will join Andy Kim of New Jersey, who was elected in 2018 and re-elected on Tuesday, as the only other Korean-American in Congress.

Before Strickland and Andy Kim was Jay Kim in California in 1999. Kang said adding Strickland is an important step for proper representation.

“Having one Andy Kim was an amazing victory for our community. But now we have two, male and female, I think I mean, we're, you know, we're breaking glass barriers here,” he said.

Kang added Congresswoman-elect Strickland’s long track record of working with organizations within the Korean American community made it a “no brainer” for them to endorse her.

Strickland will officially take office on Jan. 3, 2021.