BLOG: The race is on

By Assunta Ng

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_49/blog_candidates.jpgYou might say that Seattle’s 2013 election will be boring after the dramatic presidential and governor races that happened this year, but that’s not true.

On the contrary, thanks to Mayor Mike McGinn’s vulnerability, eight contenders have thought about replacing him, according to a Nov. 25 Seattle Times article.

The prospective candidates are State Sen. Ed Murray, Seattle City Councilmembers Tim Burgess (who officially announced his intent to run on Nov. 26) and Bruce Harrell, former councilmember Peter Steinbrueck, former King County Executive and federal official Ron Sims, businessman Charlie Staadecker, engineer and businessman Albert Shen, Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant, and former Mayor of Bellevue and Bremerton Cary Bozeman. What a fascinating mix of talent eyeing to be the No. 1 guy in Seattle!

It’s times like these when I wish I were a comedian who could craft jokes about McGinn and his challengers bullfighting at the Key Arena, firing missiles at each other from Mt. Rainer and the Space Needle, or maybe even roundhouse kicking each other during a martial arts tournament in Chinatown’s Hing Hay Park. But I’m not and I can’t.

Eight might not even be the final number of McGinn’s opponents. What about those who are waiting for the right time to announce their intent to run? The fun has just begun.

What’s possible!

“What are their chances?” were some of the reactions we heard when two Asian Americans — Harrell, who is of Japanese and African American descent, and Shen, whose parents are Taiwan immigrants — are aiming for the mayor’s office. But that might not be the relevant question.

It doesn’t matter what their chances are. If they don’t try, they’ll never find out! If they lose, that’s no big deal either! A life without dreams, living with regret, is not what we want to teach our kids.

Four years ago, McGinn was an unknown. Seattle elites quickly wrote him off and endorsed the incumbent mayor and another candidate, a high-powered executive. Then what happened? McGinn won by wooing the little guys and the environmentalists.

The critical Asian vote

Of the 600,000 Seattleites, Asians make up the largest minority with 14 percent of the population, followed by Blacks at 8 percent, and Latinos at 6.6 percent.

President Obama won with an overwhelming support from people of color, and they are more likely than ever to determine the mayoral race next year.

We have to do our best to encourage our community to get out to vote. When Asian candidates are running, more Asians will be interested in voting. When Gary Locke, who ran for governor in 1996, became U.S. Ambassador to China, he inspired many Asian Americans to register to vote for the first time in their lives. History will repeat itself. Just use President Obama’s organization strategy — registering new voters rather than hoping the same old voters show up. When he first ran in 2008, no one believed he could win, but the Obama team fought without fear. Many Republicans believed that he would lose in 2012, too, but who has the last laugh now!

Strategies for Asian American voters

Mayor McGinn has already sent his surrogates to test the waters. He’s pushing for early commitment from the Asian community. But what McGinn does for the Asian community is marginal. He has not worked out the parking or safety issues that affect the livelihood of businesses in the International District. His leadership in the troubled Seattle Police Department is questionable. His record in hiring and retaining Asian Americans in top jobs for his administration is weak. His combative personality, fighting against the Department of Justice to reform the police department and voters-approved tunnel project, hurts not only the City’s resources, but also their morale. To understand why other people don’t want to work with him, you might notice that he’s quick to take credit, rather than sharing it. I can go on and on.

Between December and next November, anything can happen. If you commit too early, you’ll leave yourself with limited options. Make a candidate prove to you that he deserves your support. We need to see a stronger performance.

Never rule out your options. Interview candidates you like to support, including Asian and non-Asians. Understand their positions and issues before you commit. If you are happy with the candidate, you can join his campaign to make a difference.

Asian mayor’s dream

The last time Asian Americans ran for mayor was in 1997 with candidates Cheryl Chow and Charlie Chong. Both lost because they appealed to a narrow group of voters. The candidate that the Asian and mainstream communities thought would have a chance was Martha Choe. She even had the mayoral campaign set up. Everything was ready to go, but something happened last minute and she backed out.

Then, there was the late city councilmember Wing Luke who was of Chinese decent. I never met him, but old timers really believed he would be a great mayor if he were still alive. His life was cut short when he died in a plane crash in 1965.

A few years ago, San Francisco and Oakland folks would have never dared to even dream of having an Asian mayor. But by a twist of fate, the magic wand pointed to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. Life is full of serendipities. (end)

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