I recently had a chance to meet Dr. Mai Khanh Tran while she was visiting in downtown San Jose. She’s one of many running for an open seat in the 39th Congressional District of California, after Republican incumbent Ed Royce announced, like many Congressional Republicans in “purple” districts, that he was retiring from Congress. But Republican Young Kim is the anointed successor by Royce (having worked for him previously), a Korean American business woman who previously had served a term in the California State Assembly.
I had made a small donation to Tran’s campaign because I was looking to support and flip a Republican Congressional District so that the Democrats can win the House in November 2018 and she was an Asian American woman doctor! This was prior to Taiwanese American Jay Chen entering the race, who had previously ran against Ed Royce back in 2012 – who I supported and also had a chance to interview at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. After Royce had announced he was retiring, Chen announced he was running for the seat. I had heard that he promised not to enter the race, but Royce’s retirement of course changes the dynamics of the whole race and makes the race a jungle primary in June 2018.
I’m glad I don’t live in California’s 39th Congressional District, because I’m not sure who would vote for – Tran or Chen. Tran made a good case for her vote: she’s the only immigrant refugee female Asian American doctor running for office in that district. She also employees 90 people in her medical practice so has practical small business experience.
But I guess I wouldn’t have to make a choice, because in a surprise move, Chen decided for the “greater good” to withdraw from the Congressional race, since it was already a crowded Democratic field:
“Potential candidate Jay Chen said that he won’t file to run in CA-39, the seat held by retiring Republican Ed Royce and one of Democrats’ best pickup opportunities if they can avoid splitting the vote in the top-two primary in June.
“As of now 9 Democratic candidates and 7 Republican candidates have filed for a primary in which Republican turnout may remain higher than Democratic turnout,” Chen said in a statement. “The probability of two Republicans advancing in November, and Democrats squandering a historic opportunity, is real.”
“The greatest contribution I can make right now is to help consolidate the field, by stepping away from it. We cannot afford to let this seat slip away, and we must all put the greater good over personal ambition,” he added.
The DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] praised the move in a statement. “
I was kind of shocked when I heard the news, since Chen had gotten a lot of endorsements, but in a recent polling I came across:
didn’t look great for him. Maybe since Chen was the last to enter the race, that many didn’t know he was running yet?
Ed Royce and the Republican Party specifically chose to get behind Young Kim because she’s an Asian American female Republican – someone that the district could get behind. Demographically, the district is:
- 55.1% White
- 28.3% Asian
- 2.4% Black
- 34.6% Hispanic
There are also two self-funders (including one lottery winner!). So there could be a lot of split votes with a lot of Democrats running and Republicans running – though I think there will be consolidation behind Young Kim as the race gets closer.
So even though Royce won re-election in November 2016, the district voted for Hillary Clinton Clinton beat Donald Trump 51% to 43%. This is one of the key Congressional Districts that the Democrats have targeted to win.
Tran has quite the compelling life story:
“When I was 9-years old, a U.S. Marine carried me from the tarmac in San Francisco. He was the first American I ever met.
It was 1975, and I couldn’t thank him because I didn’t speak a word of English. Several months earlier, my dad had dropped my three siblings and me off at an orphanage in Saigon just before the city fell. None of us knew if we’d ever see each other again. I didn’t know it then, but my father’s selfless act of love gave his children a shot at freedom and a better life.
Balancing work and school was difficult, but with the support of my family and community I was able to get the grades to be admitted to Harvard. There I cleaned bathrooms as a janitor, working my way through school with the help of Pell Grants and scholarships. Next came the Dartmouth-Brown joint Medical School program, financed again with the help of scholarships, student loans, and federal grants. I finished my residency in Pediatrics at UCLA, and settled in Orange County, where I have been caring for the children of working families for the past twenty five years.
I’m also a two-time breast cancer survivor, and was blessed to become a mother in my forties. Thankfully, I had reliable health insurance that I could afford, or neither would have been possible.”
After reading and meeting Tran, I feel like I could be doing more with my life! Tran has been living the American dream and contributing to our great country.
Back in January, she made it as part of the cover of Time:
If you didn’t know already, there are already a record number of women running for office.
If elected in November 2018, Tran would be the first female doctor ever elected to Congress (I’m told there was one who represented the U.S. Virgin Islands – but that Representative doesn’t have a vote for the U.S. territory).
Best of luck to Tran in the primary, and in the general election if she makes it through the primary!