It was a crowded and diverse field, but on Tuesday August 2, 2016, Cyrus Habib (2007 Fellow) emerged the winner of the open primary for lieutenant governor of Washington. He will face Republican Marty McClendonin, a conservative talk show host, in the general election in November. Brad Owen, the current lieutenant governor, is stepping down after four terms in office.
"It's a huge honor to have won an 11-way primary against so many accomplished opponents, including two of my colleagues in the State Senate. I'm grateful to my extended PD Soros family for being so supportive of me as I've pursued this public service opportunity,” Cyrus wrote following the primary.
“We who come from New American families have a powerful and unique love of this country and belief in its future potential, and I would encourage any other PD Soros Fellows interested in running for public office to do so. It's an extremely rewarding experience," Cyrus explained.
In 2012, when he was first elected as a Washington state representative, Cyrus became the first Iranian American elected to a statewide office in the United States. A high ranking Washington Democrat, Cyrus is currently a Washington State Senator and the Democratic Whip in the Washington State Senate.
From creating a framework for Uber and other ridesharing companies, to helping Washingtonians testify in cases remotely, to making crowdfunding a potential source of funding for the state’s entrepreneurs, Cyrus has been a pioneer in Washington on issues regarding technology and innovation. He has also worked to champion legislation that supports education, voting rights and cancer research. The Washington Post named the Rhodes, Truman and Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow one of the “40 Under 40 Political Rising Stars”. He is only 34.
Cyrus is also a three-time cancer survivor. He lost his eyesight to the disease when he was eight.
But Cyrus was by no means the only candidate in the race with a different perspective. He faced Phillip Yin, a Republican, journalist, and the child of Chinese immigrants; Jim Moeller, an openly gay state representative; Karen Fraser, who would have been the first woman to hold the office; and Javier Figueroa, a Republican who is a naturalized citizen from Mexico.
Reflecting on the field ahead of the August 2nd primary, Cyrus told NBC News, “It’s definitely more diversity than we’ve seen historically in the statewide races, but I think that what we’re really seeing is our policy beginning to reflect society a little bit better. We have a long way to go.”
Cyrus also stood out in the election for his comments on the role of the lieutenant governor in Washington. Traditionally, the job of lieutenant governor has been to oversee the senate and to serve as governor when the governor is not available or out of the state. It has not been a political role. However, one piece of the lieutenant governor’s role is that they must sign all legislation before the governor does. Cyrus said that if a bill’s constitutionality was called into question, and he found merit to the argument against the bill, he would withhold his signature.
Cyrus graduated from Columbia University in 2003, where he double-majored in Middle East Studies and English and Comparative Literature. He then attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, obtaining an MLitt in Postcolonial English Literature. In 2009, Cyrus graduated from Yale Law School with the support of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. Following law school, Cyrus worked for Perkins Coie, where he specialized on startups and technology companies. ∎