This past week, many of us filled out our primary ballots. Depending on which county you live in, there may have been an Asian American or Pacific Islander American (APIA) candidate on the ballot. If you live in King County, there were four, maybe five candidates. In Pierce County, there were two.
A few weeks ago, Publisher Ng wrote in her blog that APIAs no longer have to beg fellow APIA candidates to run. We’ve finally reached the point where civic-minded people who are APIA are running on their own accord.
In the last month, we watched the ascension of former Washington state Gov. Gary Locke to the post of U.S. Ambassador to China. He went from a local leader to a global one. Maybe this signifies the beginning of a boom for APIA political leaders.
Perhaps no other place in the country currently exemplifies this spirit more than San Francisco. In San Francisco, one in three people are Asian American. Its current mayor is Ed Lee, a former civil rights lawyer and city administrator, who has roots in the city’s Chinatown. Lee was appointed to his post at the beginning of this year, after former Mayor Gavin Newsom was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor. Lee is San Francisco’s first Asian American mayor.
Lee is also vying for another four years. In San Francisco’s current mayoral race, there are 17 candidates. Of those 17, about one-third — six — are Asian American. Five of the six, Ed Lee, Leland Yee, David Chiu, Phil Ting, and Jeff Adachi, are current office holders. The sixth is Wilma Pang, a former teacher, opera singer, and founder of a Chinatown community organization.
The fact that the number of Asian American candidates matches the demographics of the city is fantastic. The fact that most of the candidates have impressive credentials is even better.
San Francisco State Political Science Professor David Lee told KTVU.com that he predicts that this November, there will be a record number of Asian votes in the election. This is something that we in Seattle are striving for. Here, about one in seven people are Asian.
It may seem like Seattle has a ways to go before it can catch up to San Francisco. However, don’t forget that it wasn’t until 1991 that San Francisco saw its first Asian American candidate for mayor, Tom Hsieh. Hsieh didn’t win, but he paved the way for the next generation of politicians.
So keep your eyes and ears open, and be ready to give an encouraging word and lend support to all the young APIA up-and-comers out there. Maybe one of them will be mayor in the coming years. ♦