This is not the first time that Asian American candidates have competed for the same political seat. Dr. Bobby Virk, an orthodontist, has announced his candidacy for the 11th District state senate seat, a seat that Rep. Bob Hasegawa has also filed for. They are both Democrats. The seat is being vacated by Sen. Margarita Prentice, who is retiring.
The 11th District includes Seattle’s Beacon Hill, South Park, and portions of Renton, Kent, Tukwila, Burien, and the SeaTac area.
Virk is of Indian descent and has never been in office. Last year, he considered running for the 11th District seat, but he changed his plans when Prentice announced her retirement. So far, he has raised more than $200,000 and has received the endorsement of the senate caucus.
Currently, Hasegawa and Virk are each trying to persuade the other not to run. If they both run, it could destroy the community’s unity and hurt both their chances of getting the seat, especially if a third party joins the race.
Who should drop out?
Hasegawa has name familiarity after running for re-election three times. He has served in the legislature since 2005 and has gained the support of many Asians, especially Japanese and Chinese Americans. Virk, Prentice’s former fundraising chair, has Prentice’s and Indian Americans’ support, as well as money in the bank. He predicts that he could raise another $100,000 by the end of April.
I don’t think either Hasegawa or Virk is going to sacrifice their campaign for the other person. And they shouldn’t have to. This is a free country. Both are qualified candidates who have big dreams. This is a chance for them to prove that they can compete. Let the voters make their choice.
Let’s think positively. It’s good news that Asian Americans are so passionate about public service. Years ago, Asian Americans had a hard time finding anyone willing to run. We should celebrate the fact that the Asian community is so progressive. Community members understand that if they don’t come to the table themselves, they will have no voice.
When Asians run against Asians, there’s always a silver lining. It creates a bigger buzz. People are galvanized. Asian Americans become better campaigners, especially young people. Campaigning is the best way to nurture young people who aim for political careers.
The history of Asians running against their own began in 1984. Bob Santos ran against Cheryl Chow for King County Council. This did split the Asian vote. Ron Sims won as a result. In 1991, Martha Choe ran against Betty Patu for Seattle City Council. Choe won overwhelmingly. The Asian vote is critical in a tight race. In 1997, two Asians ran for Seattle mayor, Charlie Chong and Cheryl Chow, in a crowded race of five candidates. Chow lost in the primary and Chong lost in the general election. Many Asian Americans voted for Paul Schell to be mayor.
However, Patu learned about political campaigns after her loss. Patu later beat Wilson Chin for the Seattle School Board race in 2009. It divided the Asian community, as Chin was a strong candidate. But Patu had a following after working as an educator for decades.
In every campaign, we grow as a community. We have evolved into a sophisticated political machine in terms of fundraising, voter participation, and building relationships with the mainstream. Let’s thank our candidates who have the courage to run and serve, whether they win or lose! (end)