Chinese Americans back exec’s reelection
DC area county leader has been strong supporter of minority groups
Ike Leggett, county executive of Montgomery County, Maryland, did not expect to see so many Chinese Americans show up on a wet and cold day over New Year’s weekend to offer their support for his reelection.
More than 80 individuals from the greater Washington DC Chinese community attended and together contributed more than $13,000 to his campaign.
The guests included community leaders such as the president of Coordination Councils of Chinese American Associations, the head of Chinese Biopharmaceutical Association, and the founder of Hope Chinese School. Some even traveled from Virginia to support an official outside their home state.
“Look around the room,” said the event organizer Lily Qi, director of special projects at the Offices of County Executive. “This is basically a Who’s Who of the Chinese community here.”
Qi, a Shanghai native, said she had her doubts while planning the event because traditionally Chinese Americans tend to stay away from political campaigns.
“Most of us came from China where the government plays a rather decisive role, so we usually do not have the consciousness of political participation. And Chinese culture also does not emphasize outreach and advocacy,” Qi explained to China Daily.
“But we do not have to wait for our next generation to grow
we do not have to wait for our next generation to grow up and participate. We are far more educated and capable of great assimilation. We need to get more involved in county affairs and have our own voices in mainstream political decision-making.” LILY QI DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL PROJECTS AT THE OFFICES OF COUNTY EXECUTIVE
up and participate. We are far more educated and capable of great assimilation. We need to get more involved in county affairs and have our own voices in mainstream political decision-making,” said Qi, who was director of public affairs for the Washington DC government’s Department of Insurance, Securities & Banking before joining the county government.
The fund-raiser, Leggett told China Daily, was the largest from the Chinese-American community he had ever seen.
Many came to show their appreciation of Leggett’s support of Chinese Americans during his eight years in office. Leggett was recently elected president of County Executives of America.
“As a partner, Leggett is one of the best county executives in the country. This county has been very aggressive and advantageous to most of us minorities,” said Edward Chow, Maryland’s secretary of veteran affairs, who is second-generation Chinese in an immigrant family.
Stan Tsai, chairman of the Chinese Culture and Community Service Center, who was born and raised in Taiwan, also attended the event. “We have many community events and Mr Leggett is often there to listen to us and understand us. He is concerned about our issues,” Tsai said.
About 15 percent of Montgomery County’s one million residents are Asian Americans, of which a third are Chinese, the largest group. The greater Washington area is ranked 7th in the nation in size of Chinese population.
“We have arrived as a community in many ways,” Qi said. “It is hard to overstate the importance of the Chinese community in this area.”
Hans Riemer, a county councilman who attended the event, told China Daily, “The Chinese community is a huge aspect of what Montgomery County is all about. Our county is a knowledge-, science-based economic engine. A lot of the workforce is people from China.”
According to the US Census, Montgomery County is one of the most affluent counties in the nation with a top-notch public school system and the highest percentage of residents who hold post-graduate degrees.
Many of the Chinese leaders attending the Sunday event work for national research organizations such as the National Institutes of Health and the US Food and Drug Administration.
Riemer said the Chinese American community should do more to have their contribution fully recognized.
“It is not as well seen or understood just how large the contribution of Chinese Americans is, so it is important for the community to be active and involved,” said Riemer. “It’s good to see the community become more organized and able to focus on electing certain candidates and achieve its political clout.”
Riemer took part in a 10-day, four-city, 86-person delegation visit to China, led by Leggett in September of last year. The visit brought a $1.4 million investment to Montgomery County to facilitate effective commercialization of biomedical research, something the county is known for.
The trip also established the county’s “sister” relationship with Xi’an, a provincial capital and economic hub in western China. Most of the arrangements and events in China were orchestrated by the Chinese community leaders in Leggett’s county.
That was the fourth time Leggett visited China. His first visit was in 1980 when he was a White House fellow and a professor of Law at Howard University Law School, a post he held until becoming county executive in 2006.
“One third of our residents were not born in the US. We have people from all over the world and we get along with each other here. We treat people with dignity and respect, so we can be a model for the entire world. That is my objective. I want you to be part of that. We must accomplish this together,” Leggett said, sharing his vision at the end of the event.
And he has even higher hopes for Chinese Americans.
“Chinese Americans as a community have indeed arrived in many ways, but my view is it has not fully arrived until you see not Leggett but Chinese Americans standing in leadership positions in front you,” he said.
Ike Leggett, county executive of Montgomery County, Maryland, delivers a speech at a fund-raising event organized by the Chinese American Community in the greater Washington area for his reelection, with Lily Qi, director of special projects with the county government, and Edward Chow (sitting right), state’s secretary of veteran affairs, and other Chinese American community leaders looking on.