Three Chinatown organizations impressed Congressman Jay Inslee, a gubernatorial candidate, with their history, a toast, Chinese welcoming sign, and reception in his honor on Jan 8. What Inslee didn’t know was that some of the members of these associations had already given money to the campaign of his opponent, Attorney General Rob McKenna.
So why did they invite Inslee to their organizations? Did it mean they changed their minds? Or have they become really politically savvy, knowing that it is important to engage both the Republican and Democratic candidates simultaneously?
Inslee has a lot of catching up to do among these Chinatown leaders. This was his first visit. McKenna, on the other hand, attended Chinatown events frequently in 2011, sometimes as often as twice a week. Last September, both candidates came to the Chinatown/International District for fundraising events. Organized by Ron Chow, Walter Liang, and others, more than 30 Chinese immigrants joined with more than 100 mainstream supporters, raising $25,000 for the attorney general at the House of Hong Restaurant.
Inslee’s event was at the North American Post’s Nagomi Tea House, earning more than $3,000 from about 40 American-born Asians.
Tony Au, one of the organizers of the Inslee tour, said, “People have a choice between the two candidates. I want him (Inslee) to acknowledge the Chinese community. Don’t overlook the Chinese community. We have influence and we are a big community.”
“We welcome all our guests,” said Wei Feng, one of the leaders of Soo Yuen Benevolent Association, who had also donated money to McKenna’s campaign at the House of Hong event.
“He (Jay) is visiting our community, we have to extend our courtesy. We do it for the community.” He said he donated the money to McKenna because “I do it to support the community,” rather than for personal reasons.
Larry Chan, president of the Gee How Oak Tin Association, said his association opened up to Inslee so that Inslee could learn about the community’s history. “He didn’t know that Oak Tin has more than 100 years of history. I have to help Chinatown to get into the mainstream. It’s important to communicate with the mainstream. The best person will win.”
Michael Chen, president of Oak Tin Foundation, said Oak Tin donated $600 to McKenna at the House of Hong event. “We support the cause when the community is coming together. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Democrat or Republican. We (Oak Tin) should host for Inslee, too, because we wanted him to understand that we are not some low-class folks. We have lots of success stories in the family association.”
Faye Hong, who supports McKenna, but helped to organize Hop Sing Tong’s reception, said, “I am not a Democrat.” But he supported the good intentions of the organizers, including Rep. Bob Hasegawa.
Inslee’s two-hour visit to Chinatown also rewarded him with more connections. Both Chan and Feng said they would be interested in helping fundraise for Inslee if he asked them.
Benjamin Lee, a McKenna backer, who attended the Inslee reception, instantly invited Inslee to the Hong Kong Association’s annual dinner on Jan. 21.
McKenna’s supporters were miffed that the Seattle Chinese Post/Northwest Asian Weekly was part of Inslee’s visit, whose campaign sent out a press release that included our name.
Let me say this. To any officials who would like to visit our office, we welcome them, whether they are Republicans or Democrats. I suspect the reason the organizers called our office to be a part of the tour is because the Asian Weekly’s office is presentable and big. And we are always interested in bipartisan political coverage. (end)
Rob McKenna is the class and the substance of this race.