by Nura Ahmed
To help our readers make more informed voting decisions ahead of the Aug. 2 primary election, the South Seattle Emerald interviewed all four candidates for Position 2 of the 37th Legislative District. Each candidate’s Q&A portion presents their perspectives in their own words.
Andrew Ashiofu has been a fighter since birth. Born prematurely in Houston, Texas, he fought for his life for six months until his family moved to Nigeria because they couldn’t afford childcare in the United States. As a young adult in Nigeria, Ashiofu helped build economic opportunities for low-income families; he eventually moved back to Houston and started his advocacy career as a financial counselor for low-income families under the Obama administration.
In 2010, Ashiofu came out to his family as gay and was kicked out of his home. He moved to Chicago with a promise of a job, only to find that offer rescinded shortly thereafter due to the economic recession. “Without a job to pay the rent or a community to turn to, I became unhoused,” Ashiofu writes on his website. “I was in the same position that so many are in today: I had no place to live and no insurance.”
Unhoused and diagnosed with HIV at the age of 21, Ashiofu was hospitalized, and getting the resources that he needed wasn’t easy. His situation eventually improved due to help from health care workers, transit workers, and the public library. A job as a flight attendant brought him to Seattle, where he settled in the 37th District.
Ashiofu is now on the Seattle/King County HIV Planning Council, the Harborview Madison Community Advisory Board, and the Washington State Department of Health COVID Vaccine Implementation Council. He is also a founding member of House of Rainbow, a spiritual safe space for LGBTQ+ folks from Africa.
South Seattle Emerald: Describe yourself as a community member of the 37th District, and why your story makes you a unique candidate.
Andrew Ashiofu: I have spent the past decade living and working for my community. As an HIV+ community member, and one who has been unhoused, I have had to navigate broken systems and advocate for the right to survive. Now, I am campaigning to fix those systems in Olympia.
SSE: What calls you to run for the 37th District?
Ashiofu: Through my work for the community, I have realized the importance of having a voice and representation in the places where policies are being made. My lived experiences give me the ability to create effective solutions and true representation in Olympia.
SSE: What are the top three issues that are important to you and why?
Ashiofu: Access to health care is more important than ever. With costs skyrocketing and reproductive rights on the chopping block, we must empower our hospitals and clinics to provide comprehensive care for all our residents. I hope to be able to take what I’ve learned from my work for the HIV/AIDS+ community to Olympia, and to serve those most in need through policies such as price ceilings for life-saving, easy-to-produce medications like insulin and PrEP.
Rising rents are the No. 1 concern I hear from the people in my district, and as a renter, I know the anxiety that housing instability can cause. We need to build more affordable housing, bolster tenant protections, and end exclusionary zoning so that no one has to work multiple jobs just to keep a roof over their head.
As a Black person, racial equity and justice is a top priority. We need to invest in our Black youth, hold our law enforcement systems accountable, and create a safe environment for all.
SSE: Why are you the best person to advocate for South Seattle in Olympia?
Ashiofu: I am one who can combine a wide range of lived experiences with a lifetime of work and advocacy. I walk my talk. I have worked on the HIV Planning Council and the Harborview Medical Center Advisory Board to provide comprehensive access to disadvantaged communities and with Obama’s housing affordability program to keep people in their houses and maintain their economic stability. I know how to fix broken systems and am deeply familiar with the struggles of my community.
SSE: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Ashiofu: As a frontline worker during the pandemic, I lost 60% of my income and saw other workers struggling to pay their rent. The financial and mental effects of the pandemic are not over. I am campaigning to protect the rights and interests of working people and small businesses, and to bring about economic stability and justice for our community.
SSE: Is there anything else you believe that South Seattle Emerald readers should know about you or your campaign?
Ashiofu: We are a grassroots campaign, built on small donations and volunteers. The support of my community means the world to me. We believe the right representation matters in Olympia.
Support one of the 37th Legislative District candidates by voting in the Aug. 2 primary election. The deadline to register or change your address online is July 25, though you may also register and vote in person through election day. Confirm your voter registration now at VoteWA.gov.
This story was funded in part by a Voter Education Fund grant from King County Elections and the Seattle Foundation. The credit was inadvertently not included with the original publication of this story on July 20, 2022.
Nura Ahmed is an organizer, writer, and artist based in Seattle and South King County.
📸 Featured Image: Andrew Ashiofu is running for the 37th Legislative District. Photo courtesy of his campaign.
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