As someone interested in following Asian American candidates running for public office as well as elected officials, I think I had heard of Connecticut State Representative William Tong, but didn’t know much about him. Recently, his campaign reached out to us and I learned more about his run for U.S. Senate. Having been born-and-raised in Western Massachusetts in the Greater Springfield, Massachusetts area and worked in Connecticut for four years after college, I definitely know that area fairly well. It’s definitely nothing like California.
Tong’s parents are originally from China and he was born-and-raised in the Greater Hartford area from meager beginnings, helping to work in the family’s Chinese restaurant. Impressively, he went to Phillips Academy Andover for high school, and then went on to Brown University and later the University of Chicago Law School.
In Tong’s overview video (around minute 1:23), I had to laugh when Tong quoted his mother in Chinese when he was afraid when he first ran for public office, he would lose, and said “你怕什麼” (“What are you afraid of?”) – I could definitely hear those words coming from my own parents’ mouths.
Tong was the first Asian American to serve in the Connecticut General Assembly, and the first Asian American to be elected at the state level in Connecticut’s history – which is impressive considering that Connecticut is 3.8% Asian American (in a small state of 3.5 million people). That is what I love about America – from one generation of immigrants to the next, elected public servant. As I may have blogged once before, an older colleague of mine during my first week on the job had asked me, “Where are you from? No, where are you really from?” after I stated where I was born-and-raised (that colleague actually turned out to be a really nice guy, but I think you get my point, you’d rarely get that question in California).
Tong definitely has an uphill battle. On the Democratic side, his opponents include Connecticut U.S. Representative Chris Murphy and former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, and thus have out raised him funding wise. As the 2012 election gets closer, I’ll hopefully hear more about Tong and his inroads with the Connecticut electorate.