Can OC’s Three Asian-American Congressional Candidates Finally Register Asian Voters?


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I don’t recall seeing it remarked upon before, but three of the seven Democratic Congressional candidates running in Orange County this year are Asian-American.  (Exclude Linda Sanchez, who’s territory is limited to little La Palma, from the count and that’s literally half of the delegation!)  If Taiwanese-American Jay Chen of CA-39, Korean-American Sukhee Kang of CA-45, and Iranian-American Ron Varasteh all win their races, literally over half of Orange County will be represented by Democrats who were either born in Asia, or in Chen’s case a child of then-recent Asian immigrants.  You’d be able to drive from Seal Beach to Laguna Niguel, double back to Balboa Island and head north to Yorba Linda, head west to La Habra and down to southernmost Buena Park, and never leave territory represented by an Asian American in Congress!

Pardon me for getting all multi-cultural on you — Ed Royce, cover your eyes — but I think that that’s pretty great!  70 years ago, it would have been unimaginable, as George Takei (Mr. Sulu from the original Star Trek) reminds us:

Of course, as Takei reminds us, one big reason why that might not happen is that Asian-Americans have a relatively low record of registration and voting. Whether that can change, over the next 15 days ending Oct. 22, may play a significant role in determining the outcome of one or more of those races.

If there’s any extra need for motivation in this next half-month, maybe this can provide some:

Well, now – THAT’S depressing!  The story that supposedly is used to justify putting up this poster is that Jay Chen promoted classes in the Hacienda-La Puente school system, where he has served as School Board President, to aid in the learning of the primary Chinese dialect of Mandarin.  Chances are that you may have one of two general reactions to that.

First, in a century of increasing Chinese international political and economic influence, you may think that it is in fact quite wise and far-sighted for a school district with a largely Taiwanese student population to promote opportunities to learn a language that will allow residents to Southern California, the closest part of the contiguous U.S. area to China, to communicate more easily with persons from this emerging world power.

Second, and especially if you’re a follower of anti-multiculturalist Ed Royce, you may call Jay Chen a community — notwithstanding that anti-Communist Taiwan faces a greater threat from attack by a communist government than just about anywhere in the world aside from South Korea.  (As we’re bound to defend Taiwan in the event of such an attack, this carries with it the possibility of global nuclear war and other unpleasantness.)  So, in sum, if you think that Reserve Naval Officer Jay Chen is anything close to a communist, you are an idiot.

(Idiots, in fact, raised this very charge against Chen in one of his School Board races — in which he received the most votes.)

That is, of course, not the point of this sign.  The point of the sign is simpler and does not — fortunately, I suppose — speak to rational thought at all.  It’s simply up there to mark Jay Chen to North Orange County residents as “the Other.”  ”Not like us” — and therefore bad.

This is of a piece with the wackier and more extreme anti-immigration sentiment that is native to our lovely area.  It may take root here again in the race, although all people of good will everywhere should be sickened at this kind of aspersion.  (If anyone is going to make the “but the sign doesn’t actually say that…” argument, I invite you to change the question of the sign in your mind to “Is Mr. Ed Royce a Child Molester?” and ask yourself if the Chen campaign should feel comfortable with its display.  (“But the sign doesn’t actually say ….”)

If you don’t already have enormous respect for the small army of Jay Chen volunteers, largely but not exclusively young and proud Asian-American students, you really should — because this is the territory that they’re stepping into.  If you want to help register voters in predominantly Asian-American areas — and they will be registered by the campaign regardless of race or of what party they choose, as Chen has a lot of non-Asian and Republican support — you can contact the Chen campaign at this page — and you can even indicate your preference for this non-partisan activity.  (If Ed Royce has people out there registering Asian-American voters, I’ll happily put up his information for volunteers to do so as well — but I’m guessing that he doesn’t!)

Mayor Sukhee Kang of Irvine has the advantages that South Koreans are pretty much immune from suspicion of communist affiliation and Irvine is among the most cosmopolitan polyethnic communities in Orange County.  If the entire domain CA-45 were limited to Irvine, Kang would win the district going away — I don’t think it would be more than barely possible for someone to compare the brilliant, courtly, serious industrious Kang with his lazy, loutish, and often loony opponent Rep. John Campbell and not prefer to hire the former.  It’s a tough district for a Democrat, but Kang truly is about the best that Democrats have to offer for a moderate district — and the same is not so for Campbell and Republicans.  Mayor Kang’s page for volunteers is right here — and what do you know!  One of the boxes that you can check as your specific interest is “voter registration.”

As for Ron Varasteh — I have meant to make this it’s own story, but I keep not getting around to it so let’s do it now.  As I mentioned above, Varasteh is Persian (which is another term for Iranians, especially popular among Iranians who live here and want no affiliation with the likes of Ahmedinejad.)  Now, in all of American history, do you know how many Persians have ever been nominated by one of the two major parties to run for federal office — President, Vice-President, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House?

Varasteh has been appearing a lot on Persian-language radio this year — they’re hella proud of him — and according to him, interested people have done the research and the answer to the question is: 1.

The first Persian-American ever nominated to federal office was named Ron Varasteh.  It happened in the year 2012, in the 48th Congressional district in coastal Orange County California.

(That’s in past tesnse because I’m quoting from some future history book, of course.)  History is being made under our nose and most of Orange County doesn’t even know it.  But if you want to be part of it, you can contact Ron at his volunteer page.  (He doesn’t specify voter registration as an activity, but I’ll bet if you asked him nicely, he’d let you do it.)

Meanwhile, incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has celebrated the choice of a Persian-American to run against him by promoting a new war with Iran — something probably not accounted for in Mitt Romney’s massively increased proposed defense budget.  Rohrabacher and Varasteh will be jointly appearing (I’ve heard it called a debate, but it’s not called that on Varasteh’s website) on Oct. 19 in the Laguna Beach City Council Chambers.  Depending on Crazy Dana’s moot, it may be another chance to view ugliness towards Asian-Americans in the flesh.  We’ll hope for his sake that he doesn’t, because Varasteh — an old pal of mine from Occupy — does not come to a battle of wits unarmed.


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney and General Counsel of CATER. His anti-corruption work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, leading them to work with the Democratic Party of Orange County Chair and other co-conspirators (who had long detested the internal oversight his presence provided) to remove him from the position of DPOC North Vice Chair of in violation of party rules and any semblance of due process. He also runs for office sometimes. Unless otherwise specifically stated, none of his writings prior to that lawless putsch ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Beautiful Bountiful Brea, but while he may brag about it he generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for candidates including Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and (except where noted) without compensation.