Democrat and California State Treasurer John Chiang has raised a substantial amount of funds since the launch of his 2018 gubernatorial campaign in May earlier this year, reports the LA Times. Much of his support so far has come from Asian American business leaders and entrepreneurs hoping to see California’s first Asian American governor.
Having raised nearly $2.2 million in the first month and a half since the launch of his campaign, Chiang shows the potential influence that Asian Americans may have in California politics, especially as Asians comprise an estimated 14% of the California population. Democratic political consultant Bill Wong said, “John Chiang’s campaign is kind of a watershed moment,” marking the significance that this election will hold for the political visibility and representation of Asian Americans. Wong claimed that the strength of ethnic bonds tends to supersede that of party alliances, resulting in the rise of Asian Americans among California political positions that has been seen over the years; for example, there are currently 15 lawmakers in the Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus of California, versus the 1980s number of API state lawmakers of zero.
Chiang’s political track record is quite impressive: the current state treasurer has worked for former California state controller Gray Davis, served as an aide to Senator Barbara Boxer, served on California’s Board of Equalization, and has served as state controller himself.
However, he needs a lot of support from the Asian American community if he is to face off with two other political bigwigs: Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, not including the possibility of other renowned candidates joining the race between now and the 2018 election as well. Newsom alone has raised $6.4 million between his joining the race in 2015 and June of this year.
Chiang’s political consultant, Parke Skelton, believes 2018 gubernatorial candidates will need to raise at least $20 million just to have a decent shot in the race, and he expects Chiang to receive continued support from organized labor unions and Asian American donors once the election draws closer.
UC Riverside political scientist Karthick Ramakrishnan said, “The parties still do a pretty bad job, and this includes Democrats, reaching out to Asian American voters and Asian American donors.” Chiang has the opportunity to take advantage of this situation to maximize his support from the Asian American community and give himself an edge over his competitors. Ramakrishnan also shares similar views as Wong: people new to politics tend to donate more to same-ethnicity politicians despite political party ties. Chiang has already received support from several Republican Asian Americans, including C.C. Yin, who has often backed Asian American candidates, whether Democrat or Republican; Yin claimed, “We’re Americans. We’re all different. Different is good. But we all have common ground, too.”
Former Monterey Park Mayor Lily Lee Chen speaks volumes with her $1,000 donation to Chiang’s campaign and her earnest words: “He would serve as a model for all the Chinese American young people who have political aspirations and want to be good public servants.”
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