Two Asian American legislators are now taking office in the Rhode Island Senate, the first in the state’s history.
State senators Victoria Gu and Linda Ujifusa were the first Asian Americans elected to the senate back in November 2022, The Boston Globe reported.
Gu and Ujifusa told WPRI that a diverse legislature contributes to better policy decisions for Rhode Islanders.
“[We] want to make sure that we have representation in a way that speaks to the immigrant experience,” Gu told WPRI. “In the general assembly, we make laws for everyone.”
Ujifusa is a third-generation Japanese American who served on the Portsmouth Town Council since 2016 and worked as a private sector attorney.
Ujifusa’s mother was placed in an incarceration camp despite being a U.S. citizen, according to The Boston Globe.
“If you had told my mother and her family in the camp that their daughter would be going to Harvard and running for office in Rhode Island and winning, I don’t think they would have believed it,” Ujifusa said. “But now that I think about it, they had tremendous faith in this country.”
Ujifusa told The Boston Globe that she hopes her election inspires not only Asian Americans, but anyone with a hard-to-pronounce name.
“I hope it encourages people to think that anything is possible,” Ujifusa said.
Gu is the child of Chinese immigrants and a Harvard graduate, previously chairing the Charlestown Climate Resiliency Commission.
“I think it’s a moment where we are starting to see more diverse perspectives in the state legislature,” Gu said. “That will add to our ability to make good decisions and make sure everyone is included in the decision-making process.”
Gu referenced anti-Asian racism and fears about the pandemic in 2020 in contributing to increased representation, The Boston Globe reported.
“The community realized it was important to have Asian voices at the table and Asian American people in leadership positions,” Gu said.
Gu and Ujifusa aim to encourage Asian Americans and other diverse candidates to run for office and make change locally.
“Because of the gridlock in D.C., so much of what has to happen has to happen at the state level,” Ujifusa told WPRI.
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