Former Sidwell Teacher Wins Nomination for Local Office

On Aug. 9, former Sidwell Friends 6th-grade teacher Kristin Mink won the Democratic nomination for the District 5 seat on the Montgomery County Council in Maryland. A self-proclaimed organizer and policy advocate, Mink raised over $120,000 through grassroots donations and secured 42% of the votes in an eight-candidate race, according to Bethesda Magazine and the Washington Post. Mink’s possible new job as councilwoman includes overseeing a $2 billion budget and one million people, governing one of the country’s most populated and wealthiest counties.

When asked about her success, Mink credits her student volunteers.

“This would not have been possible without Students For Mink,” Mink said. “Never underestimate young people!”

Students For Mink, the youth wing of the Mink campaign, consists of over 50 middle and high school student volunteers participating in weekly canvassings, campaign events and donation drives.

One member of Students for Mink, freshman Stella Stone, expressed her appreciation for the organization.

“The group was very welcoming and passionate about their candidate, and I felt that she had real grassroots support from her community,” Stone said. “Working on her campaign was a great first step to getting more involved in the politics of the DMV and beyond,” she added. Mink went viral in 2018 after a video gained traction of her urging Scott Pruitt to resign.

“He was known to be corrupt, misusing taxpayer dollars and actively rolling back key environmental protections so his fossil fuel buddies could make more money. And he was never seen in public and didn’t take meetings,” Mink stated. “So, I went up to him with my 2-year-old on my hip and calmly told him why I thought he should resign.”

Since then, Mink has worked with the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), an advocacy organization she joined in 2020 after leaving Sidwell. Soon after she began working as a senior legislative organizer at CPD, however, members of the organization realized the County Council was redrawing its district lines, creating a rare opportunity for community-oriented advocates to run for the empty seats.

“It’s going to be a whole lot easier to get electeds to do the right thing if we are the electeds,” Mink said.

Before her career in local governance, Mink spent three years teaching at Sidwell, as well as working in Montgomery County public schools. She believes that her experience as an educator has made her a better politician.

“Teachers take new concepts and information and find ways to make it accessible to students,” Mink said. “As a teacher, I think politicians should be doing the same thing: working to make politics accessible to their constituents, and to the general public,” she added.

Because Democrats have dominated the Council since 2006, Mink’s win in the primary effectively wins her the seat, a significant and influential victory. Along with Mink, five other women won their respective races, meaning the council could have a female majority for the first time since the ’80s. Such a victory contrasts with the current council, where all but one council member are male. With the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, which impacted women across the country, Mink sees this victory as highly significant and heartening.

“Shifting from a council that had only one woman to one that will likely be majority women is a huge deal,” she said. “On a legislative level, there’s a lot of work to be done to address issues that disproportionately impact women, including protecting abortion rights, and the understanding of and sense of urgency around those issues is going to be a lot stronger now.”

A possible female majority is not the only historic event taking place in Montgomery County, however.

Mink’s mother immigrated from Malaysia as a teenager, making her a first-generation Asian American. With Mink’s win, she will become the first person of Asian descent on the County Council, which serves a county with over 160,000 Asian residents, according to the Montgomery County Council.

“It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to make history in Montgomery County as potentially the first Asian to ever sit on the council,” she said. “I hope more Asians will see themselves as someone who could and should be in political leadership, and that more voters will look for that representation of our diverse community as well,” she continued.

Despite her victory, Mink’s run was not without obstacles and opposition.

In June 2021, Mink received a death threat. In an interview with NBC4, she explained that while she hoped the threat would not happen, she expected it.

“We don’t solve these things by hiding them, we expose them to the light,” Mink explained.

Mink believes the most essential part of her job is representation. She hopes she can use her time to enact progressive and fulfilling policies that will help her historically impoverished and underdeveloped district.

“Representation matters,” Mink said. “When Asian hate crimes were first spiking during COVID, I remember councilmembers making appearances in the Asian community and saying, ‘I’m so sorry this is happening to you.’ None of them were able to say, ‘I’m so sorry this is happening to us.’”