Riaz Khan finally won office in 2019 on his fifth try. Now he’s running for state Legislature. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Riaz Khan finally won office in 2019 on his fifth try. Now he’s running for state Legislature. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Ex-Democratic leader from Mukilteo switches parties for state House run

Riaz Khan resigned from the 21st Legislative District Democrats and registered to run as a Republican, challenging Rep. Strom Peterson.

MUKILTEO — Riaz Khan, the former vice chair of the 21st Legislative District Democrats, threw his hat into the ring for a state House seat this week — as a Republican.

Khan, a former Mukilteo City Council member, is running against nine-year incumbent state Rep. Strom Peterson, a Democrat from Edmonds who also serves on the Snohomish County Council.

Just days before filing for election, Khan still held a seat with local Democratic party leadership.

Khan resigned this week, before filing for the race Tuesday evening.

In an interview Wednesday, he said his values no longer align with the Democratic Party.

Khan said he wanted to run to bring new leadership to the 21st Legislative District, encompassing Mukilteo, Edmonds and Lynnwood.

“The incumbent never visits Mukilteo, so he never pushes the agenda for Mukilteo,” he said. “So I thought if I get elected, I could do a better job than him.”

In an interview Thursday morning, Peterson disagreed with Khan’s evaluation.

“My record speaks for itself,” he said. “I was the sponsor of several community projects that we’ve been able to do in Mukilteo.”

Peterson noted his efforts on the cleanup of Japanese Gulch, poverty reduction, more affordable housing, and oil and coal train safety.

Peterson called Khan’s choice to switch parties “curious.”

In the coming months, Khan will run his campaign and ask Republicans to vote for him, despite being a longtime Democrat.

He said the local Republican Party leadership has welcomed him.

“They know how I work,” he said. “I care for the community, people see my leadership skills.”

His priorities focus on housing, public safety and inflation.

Khan said he prefers single-family housing in Mukilteo and said his former constituents in Mukilteo agree with him.

He believes drug use is rising in Mukilteo and police need to be better prepared to address it.

Prices continue to rise everywhere, he said, especially groceries. He criticized the state’s 2021 law banning single-use plastics, which charges shoppers 8 cents for a paper bag.

“Each bag we have to spend 8 cents, regardless of the plastic or paper bag,” Khan said. “Why should we pay for paper bags?”

“We need to focus to save some money here,” he added.

Khan was first elected to the City Council in 2019 and was the first Muslim to hold office on the council.

He lost his re-election bid last year to first-term council member Mike Dixon.

Before serving on the council, he unsuccessfully ran for office four times: twice for the Mukilteo City Council, once for the state House and once for the state Senate.

Starting around 2014, he spearheaded a project to bring an Islamic center to Mukilteo. Construction for a mosque broke ground in 2021, despite a campaign from local aerospace entrepreneur Peter Zieve encouraging residents to oppose the project.

Along with Khan and Peterson, Mukilteo City Council member Jason Moon filed as a Democrat to run for the House seat.

Incumbent Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, currently has no challengers for the other 21st district seat.

Candidates can file to appear on the ballot for this year’s primary and general election until 5 p.m. Friday.

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623; jenelle.baumbach@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

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