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City council candidate alleges racism & bullying by opposition

By Ti-Hua Chang, AsAmNews Staff Writer

When small businessman Henry Huang filed to run for city council in Santa Rosa, California, he says one of the town’s former mayors told him he had no chance because “No one cares about the Chinese.”

She and another candidate told Huang’s main backer, the Redwood Empire Chinese Association, he should drop out. Then the Police Union backed Huang’s main opponent and, Huang alleges,  some of his opponent’s backers told him police would investigate him if he did not drop out of the race.

Huang is one of four candidates running in Santa Rosa’s District 4 city council race. He is in a spirited campaign against incumbent Victoria Fleming, retired Oakland firefighter Terry Sanders and Scheherazade Shamsavar.

HUANG OPPONENT ASKS HIM TO DROP OUT

In this last week of the campaign, Sanders asked Huang to drop out of the race. In an email,  Sanders acknowledged to AsAmNews, “Have I asked Henry to withdraw? The answer is yes, as I believe the incumbent may continue to benefit from multiple candidates in the race splitting votes among the challengers. Have I offered Henry anything in return when I win? The answer is no.”

But Huang alleges Sanders had his campaign consultant offer him a backroom deal of a commissioner job to pay off his campaign debts should Sanders win office.  Huang says the topic was broached with the question, “ ‘What position would you be interested in?’”

HUANG OPPONENT HAS SANTA ROSA ESTABLISHMENT BACKING

Sanders has received endorsements from several established institutions like the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber. Huang, an attorney and accountant, says this violates the chamber’s non-profit 501C status noting the calls to drop out and pressure from the Santa Rosa establishment is , “… dirty politics… This is ‘bullying’ tinged with racist disregard for Asians. It’s frightened some of my supporters. Now some of (my) backers will not publicly support me, though they continue to do so in private.”

Santa Rosa is in the heart of Wine country one hour North of San Francisco.  With a median income of $80,000, the city has some 180,000 residents. 54% white, 34% Latinx (including white Hispanic), 6.9% mixed race, 6% Asian and 2.5% Black according to the US Census.

Candidate Huang, a real estate investor, is disturbed by what he believes is intimidation.

PROFESSOR SAYS THIS IS NORMAL POLITICS

Baruch College Political Science Professor Thomas Halper disagrees saying that as a political novice Huang may be “naïve.“ “ This is not too different from how politics is normally played. It’s a  tough business.  People attack each other and, unfortunately, try to get away with what they can… That’s what it’s like when you have contested elections, then you do stuff. Doesn’t strike me as particularly outrageous.”

PRESIDENT OF CHINESE ASSOCIATION UPSET BY PRESSURE AGAINST HUANG

But Nancy Wang, the President of the Redwood Empire Chinese Association and Huang supporter, told AsAmNews she was upset that a second former Santa Rosa Mayor told her it would be better if Huang dropped out so as not to split the votes between candidates of Color. Sanders is African American.

Professor Halper, whose daughter lives in Sonoma County, scoffed at splitting votes between Sanders, Huang and incumbent Fleming, a White woman. “If anything Huang is competing for votes with the White woman.”  

Key issues in this race have been revitalizing downtown Santa Rosa and reducing homelessness.  Huang’s campaign has centered on free parking downtown to bring customers back.

HUANG BEGAN CAMPAIGN BECAUSE OF RACIST HISTORY OF HIS HOME’S FORMER OWNERS

What seems to irk Huang nearly as much as Sanders’ campaign is how he is ridiculed for bringing up the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  Huang decided to run for office when he discovered the graceful, columned house he purchased and lives in was once owned by two of the most anti-Chinese politicians in California history. Mark McDonald had the Santa Rosa Chinatown torn down and Tommy Thompson was a key proponent of the Chinese Exclusion Act. It denied all  Chinese legal entry into the United States from 1882 until, in significant numbers, 1968.  Most of the vineyards in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County were built by Chinese laborers in the late 1800’s

As of November 1, 2022, the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association had not responded to AsAmNews emailed request for comment on Huang’s allegations from one month earlier.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Really disappointed in Santa Rosa. Especially with threats of investigation if someone chooses to run for office. That’s low-class.

  2. It would be more historically correct to say that most of the original vineyards in Sonoma County were planted by Chinese labor however those vineyards were ripped up during prohibition and replaced with apples and plums. Later after World War 11, new vineyards were planted with different varietals.

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