What was it like for Velma Veloria, running in her first political race? “In one word—hard” she said yesterday afternoon. With victory almost in the bag, she percolated a contagious mix of confidence, excitement and nervousness over the phone. Having won as state representative for Washington’s 11th District hours later, she declared, “This is not only my victory. This is the victory of the community.

Referring to her new position aside returning state legislators Art Wang, of the 27th District, and Gary Locke, of the 37th District, Veloria said, “It’s going to be different…I used to be their assistant, and now I’m going to be their colleague!”

High on Veloria’s priorities are health care reform and education, and she has big plans to work hard. “We shouldn’t rest on our laurels. We need to continue to organize.”

Veloria is the first Asian American woman to win a seat in the Washington State legislature, and the first Filipina to run for such a seat.

“I extend my deepest, deepest gratitude to all the folks in the Asian/Pacific Islander community … especially to the Asian/Pacific Students Union, Filipino Students Association and Filipino Law Students Association,” Veloria said. “The students corps has been really good, and I hope that they have learned from me as much as I have learned from them.”
As a historic pioneer, Veloria has had a fitting backdrop in this landmark year for Asian American candidates.

Other Asian Americans running for local office include Republican candidate for state legislature Terry Roberts, 32nd District, and Tim Gojio, 34th District; Democratic candidates for state legislature Gary Locke, 37th District, Art Wang, 27th District, and Paull Shin, 21st District; and Linda Lau for Seattle District Court Judge.

“It’s really been amazing, the number of Asian Americans running for office this year. And that’s true on a national basis,” said Wang, who won in the 27th District. “One of the great things has been the diversity of candidates,” he said, citing Veloria, Filipina, and Shin, Korean. “And it’s about time that we had an Asian woman in the legislature,” he said.

Gojio, who ran in the 34th District, also hailed the number of Asian American candidates. “I’ve always see been a large involvement by the Asian community in politics,” he said. “But I’m pleased that Asian Americans are becoming the actual candidates, instead of just staff people who work with the candidates.”

Locke, returning as state representative for the 37th District, said, “Washington is leading the country in terms of Asian Americans in elected office from public schools all the way to the state legislature.” Wang, also said that Washington was especially notable with four Asian American legislators., “given that there were only half a dozen Asian legislators outside of Hawaii [prior to the elections].”

But as with all candidates, the real test for Asian Americans does not end with the elections. Rather, it begins at taking office. “With Velma, Art and Paull…we’ve got a big challenge in front of us with the huge deficit. But with that challenge comes the opportunity to re-establish priorities and develop good public policies,” said Locke.

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