Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Grace Meng and Democratic National Committee AAPI Caucus Chair Bel Leong Hong released the following statement Wednesday on the victories for Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates across the country:
“Last night we saw the victorious election of Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates – many of them running for the first time – in Virginia, New Jersey, Washington, and across America. The DNC knows that AAPIs are one of the fastest-growing communities in the country and last night their vote made all the difference. Investing in AAPI communities was crucial to Nov. 7’s tide-turning victories.”
“In Virginia, 100 percent of our investments went into doubling the number of organizers, putting boots in the ground, and upping our game in data and technology. Since last summer, we’ve been committed to spending on a mail program that targets AAPI communities. AAPIs showed up in Virginia, New Jersey, Washington and elsewhere and voted for leaders who will create new jobs, grow the economy, improve our schools, and ensure health care is a right for all Americans.
“They elected leaders like Virginia Delegate-Elect Kathy Tran, New Jersey State Senator-Elect Vin Gopal, and Washington State Senator-Elect Manka Dhingra, whose victory flipped control of the Washington State Senate to Democratic control, giving Democrats control of both legislative chambers and the governorship. Far and wide, the American people rejected a Trump-Pence agenda that would have only fueled division and bigotry.
“Yesterday’s success is just the beginning. In 2018 and beyond, the AAPI community is going to be crucial to victories in swing states and key races. The new DNC believes that every zip code counts, and we will organize 365 days a year around candidates who are reflective of our diverse nation and share our values of inclusion, justice, and opportunity. That’s how we will keep winning elections from the school board to the Oval Office.”
Tran, who fled with her parents from Vietnam when she was an infant, graduated from Duke University and earned her MSW from the University of Michigan. She served in numerous leadership positions during her 12 years of service for the U.S. Department of Labor and went on to work at the National Immigration Forum, advocating for policies that prepare immigrants in the workforce to reach their full career potential.
In the race for the District 42 seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, which will be vacated by retiring Delegate Dave Albo (R), Tran defeated Republican Lolita Mancheno-Smoak, 18,725 votes (61.04 percent) to 11,952 (38.96 percent) to become the first Asian American woman elected to the lower house. Both candidates are immigrants; Mancheno-Smoak is from Ecuador. According to connectionnewspapers.com, Tran has emerged as a leading voice of the opposition to the Trump Administration, while Mancheno-Smoak is a staunch supporter of the president, calling him a “positive disruptor.” Tran accused her opponent of wanting to defend Planned Parenthood.
Gopal is a lifelong Monmouth County resident, born in Neptune Township and raised in Freehold. After earning a BA from Penn State, he built his business from the ground up and now has 14 employees in his Tinton Falls and Hazlet offices. He served on the board of the Monmouth county Chamber of Commerce and is past president of the Hazlet Township Business Owners Association. He is also founder and president of a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Monmouth County charities and individuals in need.
Gopal, who previously ran for the New Jersey General Assembly in 2011, received 28,750 votes (53.38 percent) to Republican incumbent Jennifer Beck’s 25,108 (46.62 percent) the New Jersey State Senate’s District 11 on Tuesday. According to nj.com, Beck, an 11-year legislator, was an ally of Gov. Chris Christie but has broken with him on several issues. Gopal accused her of being a “foot soldier” for Christie and a political insider who has lost touch with her constituents.
Dhingra, an Indian Sikh immigrant who holds BA degrees from UC Berkeley and a JD from University of Washington School of Law, has been a prosecutor with King County since 2000. She is a deputy prosecuting attorney, chair of the county’s Therapeutic Alternative Unit, co-founder of Chaya (which seeks to prevent domestic violence in the South Asian community), is a board member of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Eastside, and served on the Seattle Police Department’s Muslim, Arab, and Sikh Advisory Council to address hate crimes in the wake of 9/11.
In a race between two Asian American candidates for the Washington State Senate’s District 25, Dhingra received 16,156 votes (55.4 percent) to Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund’s 12,997 (44.6 percent). The seat was left vacant by the death of Sen. Andy Hill (R). According to **The Seattle Times,** Dhingra blamed the Republican Senate for stalling legislation on women’s reproductive health and gun safety regulations and pledged to take up those issues if sent to Olympia.
Englund has worked for Republicans Dino Rossi (who is holding the Senate seat in an interim capacity) and U.S. Rep. Cathy McCorris Rodgers, and also has experience in business and nonprofits. The daughter of Korean immigrants, a third-generation Washingtonian and a second generation military spouse, she recently moved back to her home state from Japan, where her husband is still stationed with the Marines.