Tackey Chan Newest Member of Massachusetts State House

Having been born and raised in Western Massachusetts, I like to follow what goes on in my home state. I also still do have an aunt, uncle and two cousins that live in the Greater Boston region, so I was delighted to read in The Boston Globe about recently elected state representative Tackey Chan:

As a new face in the House of Representatives, Chan is a source of pride for his city’s Asian community — he’s one of the first two Asian-Americans ever to be elected in the House’s long history, sharing the honor with Republican Donald Wong of Saugus, also chosen last November. But the lifelong Quincy resident puts his identification with his city’s interests before allegiance to an ethnic group. … Before running for state office, Chan, who also speaks Cantonese, his family’s Chinese dialect, worked in ratepayer advocacy as an assistant attorney general for three years. Before that, he worked as counsel and legislative director for state Senator Michael Morrissey of Quincy for over a dozen years.

I’m surprised I didn’t hear about Chan or Donald Wong before, but I was following a lot of other races in November in California and was concerned about the Democrats losing the Senate and House in Congress. Asian Americans make up about 5% of the population in Massachusetts, so it’s not a huge surprise that Chan and Wong are the first Asian Americans ever elected to the state House. (I wonder if any have ever been elected to the state Senate?)

As 37-year-old Chan goes on to explain, he was born and raised in Quincy and is a “Quincy kid.” I was thinking – damn, I’m older than this guy. Maybe this could have been me had I sought a similar path and career! Chan grew up in Quincy, went to Brandeis University and New England School of Law for law school – all in the Greater Boston area.

Wong also has an interesting background:

He’s the chairman of the Saugus Board of Selectmen, the co-owner of a well-known business [ Kowloon Restaurant on Route 1] , and a veteran community volunteer. … The 58-year-old Republican will be sworn in at the State House Wednesday as the new representative for the Ninth Essex district. … A third-generation Chinese-American, Wong prefers not to dwell on his trail-blazing status, observing, “I didn’t run as an Asian-American, I ran as a human being trying to do what is best for Massachusetts.’ But Wong, who has served on two Asian-American commissions on Beacon Hill, said, “It’s nice to see that our government is diversified now. This country is made up of a mixture of all races and creeds.’’

What is most impressive is that Wong defeated a five-term Democratic incumbent! I guess you could kind of call Wong the Asian American Scott Brown. What is interesting to me is that Wong is a *third* generation Chinese-American. In all my 20+ years of living in Massachusetts, I had never met an Asian American beyond 1st or 2nd. Only when I moved to California, I did meet an Asian American with turn-of-the-19th-century roots, let alone 3rd generation.

With both Chan and Wong, I can certainly appreciate their desire not to be the “Asian American” candidate or represent their ethnicity. First of all, I mean that is kind of a losing strategy with only 5% of the state (and possibly less or more given different regions within Massachusetts – more near Boston, less everywhere else). Secondly and more importantly, all representatives, once elected represent all of their constituents no matter their race, political leanings, etc. Still, it is exciting to see Massachusetts making history!

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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