It’s a two-woman race so far to be the next Kent mayor as Dana Ralph announced her reelection plans and Dawn Bennett declared she’s challenging Ralph.
Ralph and Bennett each announced their intentions on Monday, March 15 in emails. Ralph will seek her second four-year term. Bennett is a newcomer to running for elected office.
“During these last four years we have faced some of the largest crises of our lifetime,” Ralph said. “But despite that, as usual, we have come together as a community to move Kent forward. Serving as your mayor has been the honor of my lifetime and something I will always cherish.
“But our work isn’t over yet – we need to do more to make Kent an even better place to be. We must continue investing in beautification efforts to remove litter and graffiti. We must continue to invest in human services and help our nonprofits increase capacity to coordinate care for our most vulnerable. We need to drive down crime so everyone feels safe. Additionally, we must recommit ourselves to ensuring the city of Kent serves every resident equitably and gives people the respect and compassion they deserve.”
Voters elected Ralph over Jim Berrios in November 2017 with 53.6% percent of the vote. Ralph served on the Kent City Council from 2012 to 2017.
Bennett, a Kent resident for 23 years, works as executive director of the Multicultural Education Rights Alliance, which she also co-founded. The nonprofit works to ensure all kids, regardless of their race or background, have supports in place to succeed in school. It works with teachers, develop mentors, provide trainings to create equitable, humane and culturally responsive classrooms and school environments.
Bennett said she is running on a platform focused on equity and transformational change for the city of Kent.
“I’ve been doing the work in communities all around the state to make changes that we need, but as much change as I’ve helped make, I’ve decided that the best way I can have a lasting impact is by focusing my work right here in my city,” Bennett said. “My focus is on ensuring everyone gets the services they deserve from their government. We pay the taxes, so it is time we get our money’s worth and give them the best choice for mayor they can have.”
Kent has more than 130,000 residents and more than 700 city employees.
“Residents of Kent are struggling,” Ralph said. “Many have lost their jobs, had their hours cut, some have even lost the lives of friends and family members. They are doing their best to try and find light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. They need a government who is going to work just as hard as they do to try and bring solutions forward to help them and their families. I am committed to continuing our fight, advocating for our community and being your voice at Kent City Hall.”
Bennett, a 1982 graduate of Mercer Island High School, said she has a long track record in community advocacy for education and social justice. She has worked in city governments (city of Seattle parks) and nonprofits.
“I’ve lived in Kent for 23 years and love this city enough to dedicate the next four to eight years of my life working directly for the people who make it so special,” Bennett said. “This doesn’t have much to do with the incumbent. There is a job opening for this position and I am applying because I think I am the best person for the job. I look forward to giving Kent voters the chance to decide for themselves who and what they want in a city leader. I have faith that when the voters get to see their options, they’ll choose me.”
Ralph said she has received several early endorsements including the support of the Kent Firefighters Local 1747.
The majority of the seven-member Kent City Council has endorsed Ralph, including Council President Toni Troutner and members Bill Boyce, Marli Larimer, Zandria Michaud and Les Thomas.
“Our community is at a crossroads between navigating a global pandemic and seizing the opportunities in front of us to make Kent an even better place to live,” Boyce said in Ralph’s email announcement. “We need an experienced leader who has demonstrated she has what it takes to do the job. Now isn’t the time to gamble on somebody new who hasn’t been involved in Kent. Dana Ralph is the clear and only choice to lead our city for the next four years.”
Bennett said she has already gained the endorsements of three state representatives, Debra Entenman, D- Kent; Jamila Taylor, D-Federal Way; and Claire Wilson, D-Auburn.