Meet the 2024 candidates: Dunia Wabenga, 32nd Legislative District, Position 2

Dunia Wabenga

Ahead of the Aug. 6 primary election, the My Neighborhood News Network submitted a list of questions to candidates running for election. We are publishing responses as we receive them.

Dunia Wabenga is a first-time candidate seeking election to Washington’s 32nd Legislative District, Position 2. The 28-year-old, running as a Democrat, is a National Guard/Army veteran who works as a program assistant at the University of Washington’s International Program in Public Health Leadership.

Wabenga was raised by a single mother and has spoken about his experiences going through a refugee camp before immigrating to the United States.

Tell voters about yourself. How long you’ve lived in the district you’re hoping to represent/represent, what platforms/issues you’re running on and how your experiences benefit the position you are running for. 

 My name is Dunia Wabenga, and I’ve had the honor of calling the 32nd Legislative District my home for over a decade now. This district has shaped my journey, from my service in the U.S. Army National Guard to my public health and education work. I am running for state representative to ensure that every voice in our community is heard and that we continue to make progress toward inclusivity and progress. 

My platform is rooted in my belief that everyone in our community deserves a fair chance at a prosperous life. It focuses on inclusive economic growth, robust public health initiatives and educational equity. Drawing from my public health background and my journey as an immigrant and veteran, I am committed to creating policies that provide equitable opportunities for all, ensuring the prosperity of my constituents stands behind my every decision.

How do you plan to stay in touch with constituents while you are in office?

I plan to hold regular town hall meetings in person and virtually to ensure ongoing dialogue with the community. Additionally, I will maintain an open-door policy at my office and utilize social media and newsletters to keep constituents informed and engaged.

What are the top three priority areas you would focus on as a lawmaker?

1. Health Care Access: Expanding health care services for mental health and substance abuse treatment. This would also include increased access to abortion services statewide.

2. Affordable Housing: Implementing policies to increase housing supply and support struggling renters.

3.  Education Funding: Ensuring our schools are fully funded and every child – regardless of race, gender or economic background – has access to quality education.

What are the priority areas of your legislative district?

1.  Economic Development: Fostering job growth and supporting small businesses.

2. Public Health: Addressing the opioid crisis and improving mental health services.

3. Environmental Sustainability: Protecting natural resources and mitigating climate change impacts.

What do you think the state’s top three budget priorities should be?

1. Education: Fully funding public education and supporting teachers.

2. Health care: Investing in healthcare infrastructure and other health services.

3. Housing: Increasing affordable housing options and addressing the homeless problem.

Recent state legislation has focused on housing initiatives to increase housing supply and the construction of middle housing. Do you support these initiatives? Why or why not?

 I support recent state legislation increasing the supply of housing and constructing middle- and low-income housing. These initiatives are crucial for addressing the housing crisis and ensuring everyone has a safe and affordable place.

With rent rising, does the state have a responsibility to cap rent increases? Do you have ideas for supporting struggling renters?

 The state should protect renters and tenants from excessive rent increases. To help this sector, I propose a cap on rent hikes and increased support for affordable housing projects.

Is there more that lawmakers could be doing to address behavioral health issues related to mental health and substance abuse? What about homelessness? 

I believe it is our job as lawmakers to address mental health and substance abuse issues by increasing funding for treatment programs and creating integrated services within housing projects to reduce homelessness.

What responsibility does the state have in mitigating the impacts of climate change? 

The state must proactively mitigate climate change by investing in renewable energy, promoting sustainable practices and protecting natural resources. 

What is your opinion on a state income tax?

A state income tax could provide a more equitable revenue system but must be carefully structured to protect middle- and lower-income families.

School districts are facing drastic budget cuts, which many say is due to the state Legislature’s failure to fully fund basic education. Is this a fair criticism? If so, how would you propose addressing it? 

The Legislature has not fully funded primary education, which is a fair criticism. I propose reallocating budget priorities and increasing state funding to ensure every school district has the necessary resources.

What role should the state play in supporting underrepresented groups? 

 The state should implement policies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion in all sectors, ensuring that underrepresented groups have access to opportunities and resources.

The Legislature failed to pass several police accountability bills during the last session. Would these be a priority for you in 2025? 

 I prioritize police accountability and will advocate for comprehensive reforms to ensure transparency and justice in law enforcement.

How can we increase civic engagement among younger age groups?

We can increase civic engagement by incorporating civics education in school curriculums, creating youth advisory councils, and utilizing social media platforms to engage young people in political discourse.

I am passionate about these issues and will work tirelessly to address them if elected as your state representative. Your support and engagement are crucial as we strive to build a better future for our community.

You can learn more about Wabenga on his website, which also links to his social media profiles on Instagram, X, Facebook and LinkedIn. He can be reached at 

P.O BOX 9684

Seattle, WA 98109

elect@duniawabenga.com

509-240-9218

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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