By Jeffrey Osborn
Northwest Asian Weekly
On Nov. 4, the residents of Pacific, a small town just outside of Auburn, voted in a new mayor, Cy Sun, an Asian American. While it’s not unusual to vote a new mayor into office, the circumstances surrounding his election are rare.
Not only that, months into his term, in late February, Sun faced controversy.
Sun, 81, campaigned on the concept of cleaning up corruption in the small town and managing tax dollars better than the incumbent mayor. While these are fairly common campaign goals, how Sun was elected is anything but common. Sun ran as a write-in candidate and managed to accrue a total of 470 votes for his campaign, giving him a commanding lead over incumbent mayor Richard Hildreth, who won 385 votes, and City Council President John C. Jones, who won 302 votes.
“Going in as a write-in candidate — it was a hard, uphill struggle,” Sun told the Auburn Reporter after his victory.
The write-in process involves voters writing a candidate’s name on a special section of the election ballot. Write-in candidates do not have check-boxes, thus preventing the common voting that is done based on political affiliation rather than on the candidate’ stances.
Sherril Huff, King County Elections Director, commented on the rarity of write-in victories in the same Auburn Reporter story.
“There are a few instances in which it has happened, but it’s very rare.”
Sun served many years in the U.S. Army and was awarded numerous ribbons and medals, including the Purple Heart and the Croix de Guerre. After Sun left the military, he moved to Oregon and became a farmer. It wasn’t until he retired from that life that Sun moved to Pacific.
Pacific is a small city of only 2.6 square miles. It’s population is 6,606, according to the 2010 Census. The city is approximately 85.38 percent white. Asians and Pacific Islanders make up almost 5 percent.
Sun’s body shows scars of shrapnel wounds he suffered fighting in the Korean War. However, recent ongoing distrust from Sun’s political opponents has risen regarding his status as a war hero, claiming he falsified some of the information regarding his awards and service in order to become elected.
One of those questioning Sun’s credibility is City Councilmember Gary Hulsey. “[The claims] seemed outlandish. And somebody with the awards that he has claimed would be fairly well recognized in this state and in the veteran’s community. Nobody knows him,” Hulsey told KIRO TV.
In response to the ongoing conspiracy regarding Sun’s military service, a gathering was scheduled late February to allow Sun to prove his service. Bringing his actual medals, ribbons, and paperwork, Sun discussed his service in great detail, but he avoided ever claiming greatness for his actions.
“The medals don’t belong to me,” He said in the public meeting. “They belong to those guys who fought in combat beside me — those guys who took bullets and made the supreme sacrifice. Without them, the medals would not have gotten in my hands. The medals are the symbols of our comradeship in battle. The medals belong to all of us.”
The Auburn Reporter confirmed through military records that Sun did indeed earn the medals.
Hulsey retracted his complaints regarding the validity of Sun’s awards and stated publicly, “We are moving on.”
Even with the controversy over Sun’s military service in the past, sharp tongues are still a norm in Pacific politics. Ex-mayor Hildreth is no exception. When speaking of the city of Pacific under Mayor Sun’s leadership, Hildreth told KING 5 News, “I’m really fearful for our city.”
“I don’t think the citizens are going to be happy with what they see changed,” Hildreth continued.
During his campaign, Sun made it clear that change is coming. However, the verbal dirt slinging and character assassination regarding his military career have given him a quick lesson regarding tough and dirty politics. Sun, however, has stayed on political target, discussing his military service only when pressure reached a boiling point.
He has completed his first town hall meetings and is heading toward his fourth month in office. (end)
Jeffrey Osborn can be reached at email@example.com.