By Tiffany Ran
Northwest Asian Weekly
At a somewhat hectic point in her life, Yoshie Wong decided to run for a Senate seat to represent the 28th district. Soon after, she took on a massive juggling act, balancing her life between her full-time job as a marriage and family therapist and managing a large campaign. Wong has been a marriage and family therapist for more than 20 years and believes that her ability to listen for a living can be applied to resolving problems in Olympia. She hopes to hear from her constituents, so she can ensure that all voices are heard.
NWAW: You’ve been vocal about running to challenge Mike Carrell and his policies. Can you tell us about whether there was a moment when you decided that you would run for office?
Wong: Yes, there was a defining moment. There was a perfect confluence between my personal life and my public life. In the public realm, several candidates shifted their races, so that the run for Senate became open. In my personal life, my husband, who had been sick for the previous couple years, he passed very suddenly. I had just made this decision [to run] and a week later, he passed. So it was, you know, like wow. But I think it worked out perfectly because had he lived, I think he would’ve required my care and I wouldn’t have been able to run. It was kind of a perfect confluence of events.
NWAW: There are many that are unsatisfied with a political leader’s performance, but few choose to run for public office. Were you concerned or hesitant about your decision?
Wong: I absolutely was. I was freaked out. I had made the decision to run on a Friday and my husband was still in the hospital and I just thought, “Oh my god, what have I just done?” I consulted with my minister and she said, “You’ve always wanted to do this, so just go ahead, answer your call, and you’ll be fine. We were done with that conversation and I felt like I would be fine with this position. It does feel like a calling to me.
NWAW: What are some challenging aspects of running a successful campaign for those who haven’t run for public office before or even for those who aren’t career politicians?
Wong: I have run a successful campaign before. I was elected to the Steilacoom School Board last year in November 2011, and running the Senate races is like running 10 of the school board races. It’s quite a big undertaking. What the biggest challenge is staying balanced. It’s at least a full-time job, if not a job and a half. Then there’s my regular job and keeping that all balanced, and of course raising money is a big challenge as well.
NWAW: For fundraising, have you been able to get significant endorsements?
Wong: I have gotten some meaningful endorsements from labor organizations. One that is closest to my heart is, I just got a [Washington Education Association] WEA teacher’s endorsement. I feel like I’m a marriage and family therapist in real life. The reason why teachers are so close to my heart is that I do feel like I’m educating children, just in a different way, teaching children about life skills. That endorsement has a very personal connection for me.
NWAW: What do you suggest API voters focus on as issues for the upcoming elections that most affect our community?
Wong: It’s not any different from the rest of the population in that we need to get people back to work and we need to make sure that our people are properly educated. Public education is a wonderful option and we need to make sure that public education is properly funded. In talking to the API community, each subset of that community needs to speak up for their interest. [The community is] unified in identity, but are the Samoans, the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Koreans? We can all work really well together, but when taken as a whole — you know, say the Japanese tend to do well academically and other groups don’t do as well, so [those groups] need to speak up for their community, so that they’re heard, especially in family wage jobs and education.
NWAW: What do you say to voters in ethnic communities who might be jaded by politics to encourage them to take part in the process?
Wong: I would absolutely encourage them to inform themselves and at least vote because elections, especially in Washington state, have been won in very small margins. People would want to know who’s running, where they stand on the important issues, and vote and tell their friends to vote. Otherwise, somebody might be elected who doesn’t represent your interests.
Again, there was a house race that was lost by 31 votes. We know that with the governor, with Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi, her margin of win was actually so slim. So for people to say, “Let someone else vote. My vote doesn’t count.” There’s a lot of examples for how that is simply not true. So it’s important to get out there and vote. (end)
Tiffany Ran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.