REDMOND — While Varisha Khan and her team were canvassing to tell residents about her candidacy for the Redmond City Council, someone called the police on one of her team members, who is black. The caller called him “suspicious.”
“It’s unfortunate that he faced that bias and someone was fearful, even though he was doing all the right things,” Khan said. “That goes to a much deeper level of the tough conversations we need to have in Redmond.”
She plans to have those tough conversations in her new role as a Redmond City Council member. After a month of flip-flopping results and a machine recount, Friday delivered the official results: Khan beat three-term incumbent Hank Myers.
She is one of the first Muslim women to ever be elected to local office in Washington, according to the state’s Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Washington). In Franklin County, Zahra Roach won a seat on the Pasco City Council.
“Everyone we talked to and all research pointed to them being the first Muslim women, which is kind of shocking to hear in 2019,” CAIR-Washington spokeswoman Jessica Schreindl said. “It shows Washington is a great state, but in a lot of ways we have a lot of work to do in terms of representation.”
Khan, a former political-action-committee director for OneAmerica Votes, will represent a city of 67,600 residents that’s seen rapid growth and demographic shifts: about half are people of color and 40% are immigrants. At 24, she’ll be the youngest member of the City Council. She’s a renter in a city where the median lease for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,800 and the median price for a house is $840,000.