Last Monday, 580 people waited for Lt. Gov. Brad Owen at the New Hong Kong Restaurant for more than an hour. They were celebrating Soo Yuen Benevolent Association’s 100th anniversary. One of the dignitaries was Chinese Consul General Gao Zhan Sheng of San Francisco.
As Owen rushed into the restaurant, organizers quickly lit firecrackers to start the program. Many assumed Owen was late due to traffic, as he works in Olympia. That’s what the host had been saying all night long, as grumbling guests became more impatient.
He was actually at the Consul General of Japan’s residence on Queen Anne, attending another celebration — the decoration of The Ventures, a world-renowned band. Band members each received a medal from the Emperor of Japan. The reception started at 6 p.m., about the same time as the Association’s dinner. It was hard for Owen to leave The Ventures’ event because one of the members is Owen’s childhood friend. They grew up in the same neighborhood in Tacoma, and they had not seen each other for decades.
And Owen couldn’t decline the Association’s invitation, either. A few years ago, Soo Yuen leaders invited Owen to China to visit their ancestral village. They also fundraised vigorously for his re-election campaign.
The day before, Owen was at the Washington State India Trade Relations Action Committee’s luncheon at the Space Needle. He has agreed to lead a trade delegation to Orissa, India, this November.
In two days, Owen circled among the Indian, Japanese, and Chinese communities’ events after his work hours. His energy is remarkable. I had also attended those three events, and I was exhausted.
Why is Owen so popular in the Asian community? First, Owen is more accessible than the governor. If the governor is not available, the Asian community is more than happy to settle for the number two guy. Asian immigrants assume that Owen has the ears of the governor, though I doubt Gov. Chris Gregoire and Owen meet regularly.
FYI, what the immigrant community does not understand is that the governor and lieutenant governor are independently elected. Number two does not report to number one. ♦