By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Recently, two nationally recognized politicians made a surprise trip to Seattle. What do Jeb Bush, a Republican, (yes, infamous Florida governor, now possibly a potential contender for Presidency) and Ed Lee, a Democrat, (and currently mayor of San Francisco) have in common?
Not really except some quirky, interesting connections—both were in Seattle in April—at the same downtown restaurant. And both share strong bonds with their mothers.
Lee and Bush pose opposing views on every issue, including the $15 minimum wage, which is as different as rice and pizza.
By invitation, Bush met with 20-plus Asian businesses discussing a wide range of issues, on April 21. Lee’s fundraising reception for his mayoral re-election, on April 9 brought over 100 Asian Americans plus a few non-Asian guests such as Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
I was the only one who attended both events at the O’Asian Restaurant. Republicans, Democrats and Independents were equally divided at Bush’s meeting.
Did Bush’s meeting with Asian Americans win him supporters for his presidential campaign? For Lee, he had a much easier time with his audience. He didn’t need to cultivate support. Those who came, were there for him. It was more for reacquainting with his old friends at Franklin High School and the Washington state Asian community, who have not seen him for years and were proud of what he has achieved.
First Bush. He looks trimmer compared to what I recollect seeing him on in television and print (a round face and slightly chubby figure). According to the New York Times, Bush has successfully lost weight since last December.
Although he has not announced his presidential candidacy, by all means, he is gearing up for the challenge.
Otherwise, of all places in the nation, why would he come to Seattle, located in a blue state? The night before the meeting, he had held two fundraising events, including a dinner with him at $25,000 per person in Medina. His campaign wouldn’t disclose the amount of money Bush raised. But a Washington Post article said Bush’s goal for the first part of 2015 is to raise $100 million.
Mother not approved initially
Bush actually found out Barbara, his mother’s disapproval on his run for president on television in 2013. “There are a lot of great families,” said Barbara. “It’s not just four families, or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified. We’ve had enough Bushes.” There was no warning what she was going to say in front of millions of viewers. There was no warning from reporters what they were going to ask either.
“You know my mother speaks her mind,” said Bush. How did he convince his mother to give him the blessing?
Rather than confronting his mother, Bush said, “I went to my dad. We cried and hugged each other” during the conversation. Then his mother came in to the room, and she told his son that she “was sick and tired of her remaining friends (many of them have died) telling her” not to stop his son from running for president. Bush explained his 89-year-old mother didn’t want to see what the campaign “would put the family through. It wasn’t so much about the Clinton and Bush thing.”
Bush’s China policy
“Bush said a lot of things, about liberty and his visits to China…but didn’t really answer my question (on his China policy),” said Ben Zhang, CEO of Greater China Industries.
Zhang said that he was disappointed with his father President George H. Bush and brother George W. Bush’s trade policy, focusing on tariffs’ imposition and China’s human rights record, while President Bill Clinton was pro-trade.
Even though Bush’s response was not specific, Zhang said he had a more favorable impression of Bush after he met the man. However, Zhang said he wouldn’t commit to his campaign as he wants to know who his opponent will be in the 2016 election.
Learning from Singapore
What Bush learned from Singapore, a small nation, which has developed a strong financial system and technology expertise, was that, ”Don’t try to do everything. Just do a few things, but do them well. America tries to do too much and can’t do them well.”
Bush told the audience about his private-public partnership when he was Florida governor, to create mentor relationship. As a result, he had 200,000 mentors in the state, opening up ideas, where state workers getting pay for one hour of mentorship a week for schools.
Buwon Brown, a retired educator who brought up the topic of mentorship in Singapore and the late President Lee Kuan Yew, said she liked Bush’s answer, but felt it’s too early to commit herself to a candidate.
Seattle’s new minimum wage
Mike Park, owner of the Comfort Inn, asked Bush about his views on the $15 minimum wage which Seattle has begun on April 1 this year.
Bush said government has good intentions, but intervention will result in jobs’ cut. He cited an example of the invention of a coke machine, which can make customized drinks with the exact amount of ingredients including sugar just with a fingertip. The machine cuts a lot of jobs. He said it was unfortunate innovations came as a result of government intervention. He noticed there were a lot more homeless people in Seattle than Miami.
Lori Wada, commissioner of Washington State Asia American Pacific Affairs, asked Bush about affordable health care. What does Bush think about Obamacare? He said he would repeal it and in favor of catastrophic insurance.
Wada said “For being a supporter for the current Democrat President Barrack Obama, it was odd sitting in the room with one of leaders in the Republican party. It was a gratifying experience to learn and appreciate Mr. Bush’s responds and views on some of tough questions and concerns the business owners raised.
“He was approachable, like someone from your neighborhood, mild-manner with open mind, in my view.”
Andy Yip, president of Washington Export Group said, “ (Bush) he has a down to earth side to him that people are not intimated to ask questions, which is different from other high level politicians that I have met.
“It is too soon to tell if I will be supporting him, because I vote on issues and platforms, and I do not identify myself as either a democrat or Republican”
Brown said she appreciated Bush reaches out to the Asian community. “We have voted for Sen. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, but they have never come to any Korean community event.”
Jinyoung Englund, organizer of the event, said Bush approached Congress woman Cathy McMorris Rodgers whom he should meet in Washington state. A list of ideas was presented to him, including a roundtable with Asian businesses. “He (Bush) not only picked it and said that was the best idea on the list.
Mayor Ed Lee
Mayor Ed Murray was joking that he was glad that Mayor Ed Lee, a former Seattleite, is mayor of San Francisco instead of running to be mayor of Seattle. The two mayors had a lot to laugh about especially when the Seahawks were playing 49iners last year competing for the Superbowl Championship, they were betting with each other to fund-raise for charities.
Lee jabbed Seattle, that his home town still has its own basketball team Golden Warriors, knowing well that Seattle had lost its team the Seattle Sonics to Oklahoma in 2008.
Lee is proud of what he has done for San Francisco. He said S F had just raised its minimum wage to $12.25 on May 1, and will be $15 by July 1 2018. He boosted about low unemployment rate in his city, numerous high tech companies in S. F., and that he has saved Twitter from leaving the city.
SF and Seattle have the same problem—many people cannot afford to live in the city. So Lee’s priority will be in housing.
Lee came to town not only to fundraise, but to be home with his mother for her 90th birthday.
Lee is running unopposed for his reelection mayoral bid so far. His poll is in the 51 to 59 percent beating any potential rivals. No rivals have filed for the mayoral position. The final date to file for election will be June 9.
“Our community has always shown pride for Asian-Pacific Americans that have achieved significant accomplishments,” said Edmon, Lee’s younger brother. “As the first Asian-American mayor of San Francisco, he leads a city with many residents who share similar stories of our upbringing as an immigrant family. The fact that he was born and raised in Seattle makes it extra special not only for our family but long-time friends and supporters eager to support his continued success.”
So far, Lee’s campaign has raised over $1 million from his several fundraising events in San Francisco, including one in Chinatown with over 400 people, raising over $200,000. His Seattle party brought in over $18,000 for his campaign, according to his campaign manager Bill Barnes. (end)
Assunta Ng can be reached at email@example.com.