Gene Wu: Chang­ing the stereo­types BIO

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By MAY ZHOU in Hous­ton mayzhou@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Like many Asians, Gene Wu started his life on a science track, ma­jor­ing in en­vi­ron­men­tal science in col­lege. A decade and half later, how­ever, he won a seat as a Texas State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive af­ter work­ing as a pros­e­cu­tor for three years in a District At­tor­ney Of­fice.

“I tried out a lot of dif­fer­ent things un­til I found what I liked,” Wu said. “I knew I wanted to be a leader.”

Born in Guangzhou, China in 1978, Wu came to the US at the age of four when his par­ents im­mi­grated here. He grew up and still lives in south­west Hous­ton.

As an un­der­grad­u­ate at Texas A&M, he was in­volved in half a dozen stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions and served as a res­i­dent ad­vi­sor in his dorm. “I like the sense of be­ing in­volved,” he said. He also dis­cov­ered that he liked dis­cussing pub­lic pol­icy.

Wu went on to pur­sue a mas­ter’s de­gree in pub­lic pol­icy at the Univer­sity of Texas in Austin. “I got the idea of run­ning for pub­lic of­fice in grad­u­ate school. There was a class taught by for­mer State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sherri Green­berg. She talked about how laws were made and brought in pop­u­lar Texas politi­cians to talk about the leg­is­la­ture. That got the fire started,” Wu said.

Af­ter law school, Wu got a job as a pros­e­cu­tor in the Har­ris County DA’s of­fice. “I was told to go to a trial on my first day at work, and I tried my first case my sec­ond day on the job,” Wu re­called. He han­dled hun­dreds of cases and 31 jury tri­als be­fore he left to be­come a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Wu said he learned some­thing there. “We usu­ally have very high stan­dards for other peo­ple when we judge them,” he said. “But many peo­ple grew up in dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances. Peo­ple who are poor or grew up in a bro­ken home do not have the same op­por­tu­ni­ties. It def­i­nitely taught me to be more un­der­stand­ing and treat peo­ple with more kind­ness.”

go‘ I t the idea of run­ning for pub­lic of­fice in grad­u­ate school. There was a class taught by for­mer State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sherri Green­berg. She talked about how laws were made and brought in pop­u­lar Texas politi­cians to talk about the leg­is­la­ture. That got the fire started.” GENE WU TEXAS STATE REP­RE­SEN­TA­TIVE

Wu started to get ac­tively in­volved in pol­i­tics while still a pros­e­cu­tor. He worked on cam­paigns, de­bated pub­lic pol­icy and in 2011 be­came pres­i­dent of Hous­ton 8020 — a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion group for Asian Amer­i­cans.

Wu had thought of run­ning for a seat on Hous­ton City Coun­cil sev­eral times but even­tu­ally de­cided against it each time.

Then in Novem­ber of 2011 an op­por­tu­nity pre­sented it­self. Wu was get­ting ready to take a trip to Chicago to visit the fam­ily of his then sweet­heart now wife lo­cal ABC news af­fil­i­ate reporter Miya Shay, when he got an email from his State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Scott Hochberg say­ing he was quit­ting un­ex­pect­edly and the dead­line to file to run for the seat was only two weeks away.

“So all dur­ing the trip to Chicago, even when we were at the mu­seum there, I was calling peo­ple: Will you sup­port me? Will you give me money?” he said. He talked to a po­ten­tial cam­paign ad­vi­sor, worked on the num­bers, looked at the pop­u­la­tion, felt that he could win and pulled the trig­ger.

For his cam­paign, Wu took out $50,000 of his own sav­ings, his par­ents chipped in $20,000 and he raised another $250,000. From Fe­bru­ary to Novem­ber of 2012, Wu cam­paigned hard.

“I was knock­ing on doors eight-to-ten hours a day and lost 20 pounds. I worked more than the other three op­po­nents com­bined,” he said. A rel­a­tively young and un­known can­di­date, Wu even­tu­ally won the elec­tion with 66 per­cent of the vote, much to the sur­prise of many oth­ers, but not to him.

It was a very pro­duc­tive year for Wu. He got en­gaged to Miya Shay af­ter the pri­mary elec­tion, mar­ried af­ter the runoff, won the gen­eral elec­tion in Novem­ber, and his wife got preg­nant in De­cem­ber. He now has a nine-month-old son.

Since he took of­fice in Jan­uary 2013, Wu has been ac­tive in the com­mu­nity. “I av­er­age go­ing to two events a day, and I get about an hour to see my son at the end of each day. It’s very drain­ing but I en­joy it,” Wu said.

Wu is on the com­mit­tees for ed­u­ca­tion, en­ergy and crim­i­nal jus­tice at the State House be­cause to him, ed­u­ca­tion is the most im­por­tant is­sue, en­ergy is im­por­tant for Hous­ton and crim­i­nal jus­tice is his field.

“En­ergy is an im­por­tant is­sue for Hous­ton, and it’s im­por­tant for Texas and China. We try very hard to make sure to bridge the gap be­tween Texas and China and wish to do more busi­ness with each other,” he said.

Wu said that one of the big is­sues was the liqui­fied nat­u­ral gas trade re­stric­tion — LNG ex­port is lim­ited to FTA (Free Trade Agree­ment) coun­tries and China is not one of them. “But that’s be­ing fixed,” said Wu, ex­plain­ing that the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­cently passed a res­o­lu­tion to change the re­stric­tion from FTA to WTO mem­ber­ship.

“Ev­ery time I go to DC I make it my busi­ness to visit sen­a­tors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives to tell them why this bill is a good idea. If this gets passed and signed by the Pres­i­dent, it will be huge for Texas and China,” he said.

“I think it will hap­pen, it’s just a mat­ter of time. If that hap­pens, I want to talk to Chi­nese Con­sulate to en­cour­age more Chi­nese com­pa­nies to move to Hous­ton,” he said. “This is the per­fect area for Chi­nese com­pa­nies to do busi­ness.”

Wu said he wants to “change the stereo­types about Asians that we are bad lead­ers, we don’t like con­fronta­tion, we are not very good speak­ers, so that when my son grows up, he has ev­ery door open and no door closed”.

Wu is fac­ing re-elec­tion in De­cem­ber this year and he is con­fi­dent he will win. Wu is also ac­tively re­cruit­ing, en­cour­ag­ing and sup­port­ing other young Asian Amer­i­cans to run for pub­lic of­fice be­cause he strongly be­lieves that the Asian com­mu­nity needs more rep­re­sen­ta­tion in govern­ment.

MAY ZHOU / CHINA DAILY

Gene Wu, Texas State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, is con­fi­dent that he will win re-elec­tion in De­cem­ber.

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