The campaign to elect Tony Ding to the San Gabriel City Council is grassroots in nature, made up of community members, students, and activists. New candidates often get discouraged because vendors and contractors are always eager to bankroll and financially support entrenched incumbents who’ve had a grip on power for decades due to a lack of term limits.
By V. Romero and Rob Urt
Despite the overwhelming odds, Tony’s campaign volunteers have spent the past seven weeks knocking on hundreds of doors, placing hundreds of lawn signs and large banners on supporters’ homes or commercial businesses only to find they had been stolen. This wave of lawn sign and banner thefts from local businesses, houses, and streets is a significant loss, the cost to replace stolen signs and banners puts a sizeable burden on the already tight budget.
The campaign has made several police incident reports about the theft and is deeply disappointed in the actions of these wrong-doers. Tony believes he is being racially targeted because he is the only Chinese candidate running for San Gabriel City Council. Many of his volunteers were shocked and outraged by comments from online trolls especially when they were met with racially charged comments and hateful speech on phone calls, at front doors and on social media.
Residents hurled personal attacks. “There are too many Asians in San Gabriel!” “Tony will only open more Asian businesses!” “We don’t like all the Chinese language signage on businesses in the city!” Some people slammed their doors in volunteers’ faces when they saw photos of Tony on campaign literature …saying they’re not voting for an Asian!
Otherwise routine events turned into confrontations among citizens and even led to calls to the Police. Racial bias can escalate into confrontation suggesting there’s a lot of prejudice or at least the enabling of it in San Gabriel.
With approximately one week to go before election day, these recent incidents in San Gabriel have highlighted how racial tensions or bias can escalate during election season. Concerns of prejudice have taken on new urgency amid emboldened displays of racial intolerance this election season. This intolerance indicates that “race matters.”
The lawn sign thievery is a symptom of the gradual but striking change occurring in the City. Many of the city’s Caucasian residents feel threatened by the Asian and Latino minorities moving into the neighborhood at unprecedented rates. This integration has inevitably changed the cultural landscape of the community. Similarly, Latinos oftentimes feel excluded by the Asian or White communities.
Nevertheless, Tony is a coalition builder who wants to bridge cultural divides in San Gabriel so that people of different races can live and thrive together in a diverse community. His vision is resolute towards advancing the City of San Gabriel as a whole, regardless of one’s race and/or socioeconomic status.
One thing is certain, we will find out what kind of leader San Gabriel residents want on Election Day, March 3rd. In the meantime, the Tony Ding campaign will not let the hate-fueled attacks become a distraction.
Honorable V. Romero is a Former Mayor, County Commissioner and founding Principal at DHM, R. Urt is a Senior Consultant for Public Outreach Campaigns.
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