Cover Story

Up for grabs

"Up for grabs" Continued...

Issue: "Inside Election 2012," Oct. 20, 2012

The ease of crossing party lines was apparent in Virginia with the Asian-American support for Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell just one year after Asian-Americans overwhelmingly voted for Obama. McDonnell captured 60 percent of Asian-American votes by targeting the Asian-American community directly: meeting with Asian-language media, and targeting Chinese schools, Korean churches, and Vietnamese community elders. 

Steel believes Republicans should engage in more of this type of campaigning. “Numbers speak for themselves, any representative that wants to get elected must look hard at the Asian-American community,” Steel said. “The best move Republicans can make is to consciously open as many doors to Asians as possible as quickly as possible.”

California trailblazer

Matthew Lin
Matthew Lin

More than party affiliation, Asian-Americans look to elect one of their own. So Republican Matthew Lin, an orthopedic surgeon who founded and operated seven hospitals in the Democratic stronghold of San Gabriel Valley, could become the first Republican assemblyman for the area in over 40 years.

Through connections he’s made in the past 34 years in the medical field and as the first Asian-American city council member and mayor of San Marino, Lin is building a grassroots movement that has surprised even Republicans in Sacramento.

Lin’s opponent is Democrat Ed Chau, who is backed by Democrats Mike Eng, the current assemblyman of District 49, and his wife Congresswoman Judy Chu. This would typically make Chau an obvious winner, but now many are looking at a possible upset.

“I know the pulse of the community,” Lin said. “My opponents have no clue.”

Many of the first-generation Asian-Americans in District 49—the only Asian-majority district in the nation—can relate to Lin’s story. He grew up in a poor village in Taiwan, worked hard to attend medical school, then moved to the United States with $300 sewn into his pocket. After residency at Johns Hopkins, he moved to San Gabriel with his wife 34 years ago and started his own office. He went on to own and operate seven hospitals in the area. After eight years on the San Marino city council, Lin went on medical mission trips in South America, Asia, and Africa.

The grandfather of two decided to run for the Assembly after helping at a local food center and meeting an Iraq war veteran who had been laid off from his IT job and had lost his apartment. “I told my wife, ‘It’s time for me to do something to pay back to this community,’” Lin said.

Lin says he’ll bring his medical experiences to the political realm: While physicians are called to “do no harm” to their patients, he wants to make sure that any new law doesn’t harm businesses. He plans to lower the expenses in California that drive businesses out of the state—in 2011, 254 companies left the Golden State to avoid high property and business taxes.

He says most politicians in the area don’t represent the interests of Asian-Americans. Specifically, he points to the Asian churches that dot the San Gabriel Valley landscape: “[Asian-American Christians] are not represented in this area, many lawmakers all their foundational beliefs are totally against most of the people in this district, their ideas and wishes.”

Shawn Steel, Republican National Committeeman from California, believes Lin’s race is one to watch to see the future of the Republican Party: “In urban areas in California, if [Lin] is the way, he proves that Asians are the best, most important force for Republicans in California.” —A.L.

Angela Lu
Angela Lu

Angela is a reporter for WORLD Magazine who lives and works in Taiwan. She enjoys cooking, reading, and storytelling. Follow Angela on Twitter @angela818.


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