State Senate to conduct inquiry into public comments by Das

Kent senator claimed racism, sexism present at Democratic caucus meetings

State Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent. COURTESY PHOTO

State Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent. COURTESY PHOTO

The Secretary of the Senate has asked the chamber’s human resources officer to investigate public comments by Sen. Mona Das about “racism, sexism and misogyny” she said she experienced during closed-door Democratic caucus meetings in Olympia.

Secretary Brad Henderson told the Associated Press that once he was made aware of a story last week by The Kent Reporter detailing the remarks by Das at a June 20 Kent Chamber of Commerce legislative forum, he requested the inquiry. The Senate Facilities and Operations Committee approved the request on June 27.

The inquiry began this week.

“After they close that door, that’s when it gets real,” said Das who was born in India and moved to the U.S. as an infant. “That’s when my 28 colleagues got real. And that’s when I heard hate, misogyny and racism and sexism from people you would not expect. That’s the type of light I want to shine. Now, when there are eight people of color in the Senate Democratic caucus, it was coded language – ‘those people.’ They would say things that were coded.”

Das, of Kent, posted on her Facebook page last week that the article was a “mischaracterization of my remarks.” She posted comments that she sent to the Democratic caucus. A day later, Das said she regretted accusing the newspaper of mischaracterizing her: “they didn’t misquote me,” according to an article on the Seattle Times website.

A video of her comments during the chamber luncheon shows she was not misquoted while talking about her experience as one of eight people of color in the Senate Democratic caucus.

Das also said in the Seattle Times article that she does not plan to file any formal complaint with the Senate’s human resources officer.

Das defeated two-term state Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, in November for the 47th Legislative District seat that represents parts of Kent, Auburn, Covington and Renton.

Das, who is in the first year of a four-year term, told the Associated Press that, “No one has said anything overtly racist or sexist, but it’s what I hear underneath it all, the coded language.

“I don’t regret the conversation because now it has opened the conversation and is shining a light on inherent bias and making people think about their language.”

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, told the Associated Press that he’s had several conversations with Das since the article came out. Billig said a caucus retreat in October already had institutional racism as a topic.

“I believe that institutional racism does exist in state government and the Legislature and in many institutions in our society,” he said. “Conversations like this will help us get better as a Legislature and as a state.”

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