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On your mark, get set, run!…Hardly a month has passed since the 2012 election and already candidacies are shaping 2014 into the political year of California Asian Pacific Americans. From 1.6 million APA California voters among 18 million total, a deep talented pool has developed of APA Democratic candidates – Kamala Harris armed with a $18 billion mortgage settlement from the big five banks is seeking re-election to State Attorney General (unless President Barack Obama beckons her to White House cabinet duty after she co-chaired his national re-election). Board of Equalization member Betty Yee is angling for Controller, which John Chiang is vacating to run for Treasurer and CPA/outgoing Assembly pro Tem Speaker Fiona Ma is vying for Yee’s Board of Equalization seat. Betty won’t be the only Yee with State Senator Leland Yee tossing his hat into the ring for California Secretary of State… If Harris is re-elected and Chiang becomes Treasurer in 2014, start talking about them in 2018 for Governor. That’s assuming budget balancing Prop 30 and resilient nonagenarian parental genes keep Jerry Brown, 74, around for a second run in ’14. If so, Brown would be a young 80 by the end of the second term in 2018…Couple Filipina Americans have already beat APAs to the punch by occupying two offices leading to Guv – Lt. Governor in Mona Pasquil and State Supreme Court Chief Justice in Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye


California Attorney General Kamala Harris contacting voters for President Barack Obama reelection in Detroit. Photo courtesy of Kamala Harris.


CYBER MONDAY CANDIDATE: Cyber Monday led with Mr. Online Voting declaring his candidacy for California Secretary of State. Leland Yee enters a crowded 2014 Secretary of State Democratic primary field of already at least two senators and three assembly members. On his political portfolio: online voting, government sunshine (e.g. helping expose a hefty CSU Stanislaus Foundation $75,000 speaker fee to former 2008 GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin) and overpaid university executives (e.g. $486,000 for this week’s hire of University of California Chancellor Nicholas Dirks) whose systems just got bailed out by Prop 30… A few in the State Legislature Democratic supermajorities owe their election to Yee, author of SB 397 permitting online voter registration of more than one million for the recent Nov. 6 election…


Controller John Chiang. Photo courtesy of John Chiang


SAY IT OFFLINE:  “If you want to really effective, Leland, you ought to add a couple of swear words,” said Yee, sharing advice from Grand Poobah John Burton at the California Democratic Party executive committee luncheon ten days before Yee’s bid for Secretary of State…“He had told me to stick to your guns. Stand up to what you believe in. And don’t worry about who you offend,” Yee said about Burton, political mentor to former aide Fiona Ma …If elected, Yee would become Golden State’s second APA Secretary of State since March Fong Eu who served from 1974 to 1996…POTTY MOUTH: Eu notably banned “sexist” pay toilets statewide by smashing a porcelain potty in 1969 on the State Capitol steps as an Assemblywoman from Oakland and Castro Valley. March’s relief is American Restroom Association’s gain, an advocate of free public restrooms. “Even when the cost is minimal — $0.25 – it presents a problem for those caught without the necessary coinage,” said ARA…IN THE FAMILY: The Browns aren’t the only California family holding elective statewide office (Pat and Jerry as Governor, Kathleen as Treasurer). Eu’s late son Matt Fong was State Treasurer and Board of Equalization member…

Leland Yee speaking out on US Supreme Court video game case. Photo courtesy of Leland Yee.


LATE 20th CENTURY REGISTRATION: Leland Yee’s online registration law revolutionized a grassroots system dependent on handwritten postal cards. San Francisco’s Chinese American Voters Education Committee in 1984 once lugged 25 boxes totaling 25,000 cards to a second floor Chinatown Grant Avenue SRO donated by the late Joe Yuey to fold and direct mail to multigenerational Chinese American households. The outcome: 1,500 registrations…


FACE THE BOSS WHEN YOU DON’T TOSS ROSS: Since District 5 (Haight Ashbury/Japantown) Supervisor Christina Olague didn’t toss Ross Mirkarimi, she got tossed for keeping him while trying to show progressives independence from her appointer – Mayor Ed Lee and his establishment backing like former Mayor Willie BrownChinese Chamber of Commerce Rose Pak and tech financier Ron Conway….


Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, California Democratic Party Chair John Burton and Assembly Pro Tempore Speaker Fiona Ma. Photo courtesy of Fiona Ma.


NO CATCH-22 FOR MAR: Considering what happened to Olague, District 1 (Richmond, 30% APA voters) Supervisor Eric Mar during the fall campaign had a Catch-22 decision: alienate women if he retained Mirkarimi as a Sheriff convicted over a domestic violence misdemeanor, or betray progressives over unseating a lefty ally in a perceived power grab by the Mayor and his coalition. Mar voted to unseat the Sheriff on Oct. 9.  For his vote and pledging to work on domestic violence programs, he got a robo call endorsement from Commission President on the Status of Women President Julie Sooto 12,000 women voters in District 1….GENDER GAP: Did the robo call make a difference? Mar easily won re-election in a district that has substantially more women voters (49%) than men (44%) according to Political Data Inc. unlike citywide voters (21% APA) where men (47%) edge out women (46%)…


CIGAR PUFF PIECE: Read the fine print of San Francisco Magazine’s latest cigar puff piece about Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s Rose Pak and list of town powerbrokers like Chinese Progressive Association led by Alex Tom representing the left out, China Development BankSF Association of Realtors led by the unmentioned outgoing President Jeffrey WooChinatown Community Development Center’s director Norman Fong, deputy Malcolm Yeung and organizer David Ho…However, none of the SFM sources and writers giving ink to this illustrious bunch are Asian Pacific American in a town that’s one-third APA. Ironic given that Rose got her start as an intrepid SF Chronicle reporter….As SFM pained to define a pan-Asian Pacific American “political class,” the Modern Luxury magazine slips in the caveat that APAs are primarily Chinese American, while not acknowledging rising political star Jane Kim (a former CCDC staffer) is Korean American…The cover with cigar puffing cover girl Rose Pak makes a great Xmas card, doesn’t it?


NOT A BIG DEAL: School Board President Norman Yee is the fifth APA to claim a supervisor seat in District 7 (West of Twin Peaks), assuming his slim 132 vote lead holds up in a recount against labor leader FX Crowley. No big deal if 5 out of 11 legislators are APA unless Yee, Kim, Carmen ChuDavid Chiu, Eric Mar really acted as a critical cohesive voting bloc on, for example, retaining or tossing Mirkarimi for Sheriff. On the face of it, Norman’s a progressive pick before he starts voting as he replaces termed out moderate Sean Elsbernd


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About the Author

Veteran columnist has appeared in up to 450,000 households weekly in the SF Independent, Examiner (2000-04) and AsianWeek since 1996. As Editor-in-Chief (2003-07), AsianWeek and Samson received wide recognition from the California Legislature, New American Media, League of Women Voters, GLAAD, Organization of Chinese Americans, SPUR and APA civic groups. Thru the SF Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, SF Elections Task Force and Chinese American Voters Education Committee, Wong helped boost APA influence from 25,000 in the 1980s to over 50,000 voters by the early 1990s.