Cyrus Habib

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Cyrus Habib
Cyrus Habib 2014.jpg
16th Lieutenant Governor of Washington
Assumed office
January 11, 2017
Governor Jay Inslee
Preceded by Brad Owen
Member of the Washington Senate
from the 48th district
In office
January 12, 2015 – January 4, 2017
Preceded by Rodney Tom
Succeeded by Patty Kuderer
Member of the Washington House of Representatives
from the 48th district
In office
January 14, 2013 – January 12, 2015
Preceded by Deborah Eddy
Succeeded by Joan McBride
Personal details
Born (1981-08-22) August 22, 1981 (age 35)
Baltimore County, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Education Columbia University (BA)
St John's College, Oxford (MLitt)
Yale University (JD)
Website Official website

Cyrus Habib (born August 22, 1981) is an American politician, lawyer, and professor who is the 16th and current Lieutenant Governor of Washington. As such, he also serves as President of the Washington State Senate. He has been fully blind since he lost his eyesight to cancer at age eight.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Habib was born in Baltimore County, Maryland, to parents who had previously immigrated to the U.S. from Iran.[2] A three-time cancer survivor, he lost his eyesight and became fully blind at age eight.[3] Shortly afterwards, his family moved to Bellevue, Washington, where Habib graduated from the Bellevue International School in 1999.[4]

Habib is a Rhodes Scholar, a Truman Scholar, and a Soros Fellow. He received his B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He studied with leading cultural theorists Jacques Derrida, Edward Said, and Gayatri Spivak.[5] While an undergraduate, Habib worked in the New York City office of then Senator Hillary Clinton.[6]

Habib obtained a Master of Letters in English Literature from St John's College at the University of Oxford, where he was an active member of the Oxford Union,[7] and wrote his masters thesis on Ralph Ellison and Salman Rushdie.[8]

Habib then received a law degree from Yale Law School, where he served as an Editor of the school's flagship law review, the Yale Law Journal, and was mentored and influenced by Judge Guido Calabresi and Professors Akhil Amar and Harold Koh.[9] While at Yale, Habib was a member of the university's exclusive Grand Strategy program, led by John Lewis Gaddis, Charles Hill, and Paul Kennedy.

Career[edit]

State legislature[edit]

In 2012, Habib won a seat in the Washington House of Representatives, defeating two-term Redmond City Councilman Hank Myers and gaining 61% of the vote. He was elected to represent Washington's 48th Legislative District, which includes Bellevue, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point, Kirkland, Medina, Redmond, and Yarrow Point.[10] Habib set a record for the most money ever raised (over $340,000) in a State House race in Washington.[11] In the House of Representatives, Habib was selected by his peers to serve as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Technology and Economic Development.[12]

In 2014, Habib was elected to the Washington State Senate with 65% of the vote to succeed controversial Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom as State Senator from the 48th Legislative District.[13] Immediately after his election to the State Senate, Habib was elected Senate Democratic Whip by his fellow Democrats, placing him in one of the top leadership positions in the State Senate.[14]

Lieutenant Governor[edit]

Shortly before the 2016 legislative session, Habib announced his campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Washington, challenging embattled twenty-year incumbent Brad Owen. Several months later, Owen, who had previously filed campaign paperwork, announced that he would in fact not seek reelection. Habib went on to win the primary election against ten other candidates, including long-time State Senators Karen Fraser and Steve Hobbs. Another senior legislator, Speaker pro tem of the Washington House of Representatives Jim Moeller was also a candidate but ultimately discontinued his campaign. Habib defeated Republican Marty McClendon by a nine-point margin in the November, 2016 general election. He raised over $1.1 million, and was supported in his campaign by President Barack Obama, who endorsed and recorded robocalls encouraging voters to cast their ballots for him.[citation needed]

Legislative focus[edit]

Economic development[edit]

Habib is the author of a number of laws related to technology and the innovation economy. He authored the Washington Jobs Act of 2014, which allows investor crowdfunding for the first time in Washington, so that entrepreneurs and small businesses can more easily obtain access to capital.[15]

He is also the author of legislation that created a statewide framework for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in Washington State, and for drivers, passengers, and the public to be covered by appropriate and comprehensive insurance.[16]

In the face of diminishing federal funding for cancer research, and the success of immunotherapy treatments in curing difficult cancer subtypes, Habib introduced legislation to create a dedicated cancer research fund in Washington State.[17]

Open government[edit]

Habib introduced Senate Bill 5267, which would allow citizens to provide pre-recorded video testimony filmed on their smart phones – the first such bill in the nation.[18] Habib’s bill gained national pop culture recognition as one of the “Five Times the Daily Show Actually Influenced Policy”.[19] Habib has stated that he was inspired by John Oliver’s success in engaging the public on the topic of net neutrality, and the subsequent use of remote testimony submitted online to the Federal Communications Commission by his viewers.[19]

Habib was also the first Democratic State Legislator to seek the impeachment of State Auditor Troy Kelley, who is facing over a dozen federal criminal charges for tax evasion and fraud.[20]

Social justice[edit]

Habib is the prime sponsor of legislation in the State Senate to guarantee paid sick leave for nearly all Washington workers.[21]

He is the Senate prime sponsor of the Washington Voting Rights Act, which aims to prevent cities and counties from using racially polarized voting systems.[citation needed]

Habib's 2015 bill to provide standard-issue ID cards to help exiting prison inmates with reentry into society has gained widespread support.[22]

Civil legal aid is a priority Habib has fought to keep funded in the state budget. He has argued that cuts in such funding will most severely impact families facing foreclosure, domestic violence, predatory lending, and those needing help accessing veteran and disability benefits.[23]

Habib also sponsored the Truth in Evictions Reporting Act, to ensure that wrongfully evicted tenants will be able to have their rental history corrected.[24]

Environment and transportation[edit]

Habib angered some Republicans when he proposed the introduction of legislative language acknowledging that climate change is real and that human activity is a significant factor in its acceleration.[25]

As a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, Habib played a critical role in the passage of a landmark transportation investment package that completes the SR 520 bridge replacement and the North Spokane Corridor, funds extensions of SR 167 and 509, adds new lanes to I-405, and authorizes the next generation of light rail and bus rapid transit in the central Puget Sound region. This was the first investment in transportation infrastructure in a decade.

Habib has also authored legislation protecting bridge toll payers from wrongful and excessive toll fees.[26]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Habib is the first and only Iranian-American elected to a state office in the United States, and to date the highest ranking Iranian-American in public office.[1]

In 2014, Habib was named one of the "40 Under 40 Political Rising Stars" by the Washington Post.[27] he was also named one of "12 State Legislators to Watch" by Governing Magazine.[28] Seattle Magazine has named him one of the "most influential" people in the greater Seattle area.[29]

Habib was chosen by the leadership of the Democratic National Committee to serve as one of 25 appointed members of the party's 2016 Platform Committee.

Other affiliations[edit]

After graduating from Yale, Habib returned to Washington, and began practicing law at the region's largest law firm, Perkins Coie, where from 2009 to 2017 he advised technology startups, and led the firm's civic and community initiatives.[30]

Since 2013, Habib has been Professor and Distinguished Lawmaker in Residence at the Seattle University School of Law, where he teaches upper-level courses and conducts research on issues at the convergence of technology and public policy.[31]

Habib is a Roman Catholic, and attends Mass at Seattle's St. James Cathedral. He serves on the boards of a number of nonprofit organizations, including the 5th Avenue Theatre.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Candidate makes history, becoming first Iranian American elected to a state legislature". Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans. November 6, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Cyrus Habib - Virtual Embassy of the United States Tehran, Iran". Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
  3. ^ "The Man Who Wants to Be Lieutenant Governor". Northwest Asian Weekly. Retrieved January 27, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Diverse newcomers seek 48th District House seat". Kirkland Reporter. Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Five current and two incoming YLS students named 2007 Soros Fellows". Yale Law School. March 1, 2007. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Habib draws on life experience to serve 48th district - Bellevue Reporter". Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Cyrus Habib, Blind Lawmaker, Reflects Biography In Policy". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Our Iranian American Senator". Huffington Post. Retrieved July 11, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Cyrus Habib - Show Us The Money". Washington Post. Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
  10. ^ Celina Kareiva (November 20, 2012). "Habib draws on life experience to serve 48th district". Bellevue Reporter. Sound Publishing, Inc. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  11. ^ "From Braille to Yale - This just in". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
  12. ^ "House committees, chairs approved". December 10, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  13. ^ "2014 election results for Washington state". The Seattle Times. November 5, 2014. Retrieved November 5, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Senator-elect Cyrus Habib named Senate Democratic Whip - Kirkland Reporter". Kirkland Reporter. Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Rep. Habib’s bill to aid entrepreneurs, create jobs wins Senate approval". Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  16. ^ "SB 5550 - 2015-16". app.leg.wa.gov. Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Cancer research funding legislation introduced by Habib, Hunter - Kirkland Reporter". Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Sen. Cyrus Habib – Washington State Senate Democrats – ’Legislative YouTube’ testimony bill introduced by Habib". sdc.wastateleg.org. Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  19. ^ a b "5 times 'The Daily Show' actually influenced policy". Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  20. ^ "State AG opens new probe into Auditor Troy Kelley". Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Minimum wage, paid sick and safe leave bills introduced in Legislature". Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Free state ID cards proposed for newly released prisoners". Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Justice for all, not only for those who can afford it". Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  24. ^ "The Week in Housing Advocacy - Week 1 | Washington Low Income Housing Alliance". www.wliha.org. Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  25. ^ "State Senators Squabble Over Climate Change | Seattle Politics". www.seattlemet.com. Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Common-sense House bill seeks fairness for 520 bridge drivers". Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  27. ^ Aaron Blake (May 19, 2014). "40 under 40". Washington Post. 
  28. ^ Louis Jacobson (January 2014). "12 state legislators to watch in 2014". Governing. Governing Institute. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  29. ^ "The Full List: Most Influential People of 2013". Seattle Magazine. Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
  30. ^ "Perkins Coie - Professionals - Cyrus Habib". Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  31. ^ "Cyrus Habib: Distinguished Lawmaker in Residence". Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  32. ^ "About the 5th Avenue Theatre". Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Brad Owen
Lieutenant Governor of Washington
2017–present
Incumbent