For the upcoming Los Angeles municipal elections on Tuesday, March 3, Asian Americans are making a push for city council representation through candidates David Ryu of District 4 and Grace Yoo from District 10.
No Asian has held a seat on the council since Mike Woo, first elected in 1985, left in 1993 to run unsuccessfully for mayor. However, this dry spell may end with the election of one or both of the two candidates.
In an interview with JSR, Steve Kang, a representative of the Yoo campaign, stated, “It will be a historic precedent. She will be the first Korean-American and the first female Asian-American.”
The candidates do face challenges, however.
Kang told JSR, “District 10 is quite large… reaching everyone is a difficult aspect.”
It can also be difficult to get the Asian community to vote. Since District 4 is home to the second largest eligible Korean population eligible to vote in Los Angeles, its support would elevate political positions of Korean Americans. According to Ryu in a press conference announcing a voting registration campaign, however, “there are about 13,000 Korean Americans who are U.S. citizens in District 4, but only about 6,000 are registered voters.”
Councilman Woo told the LA Times that “the dilemma for Asian American candidates is how to take advantage of the support from your Asian ethnic base.”
Ryu emphasized in an interview with JSR that “the biggest challenge is apathy. We have had very low voter turnout in recent elections; for example, in last November’s county-wide election, only about 25% of the registered voters turned out.”
To overcome this issue, he has spent thousands of hours doing one-to-one outreach. A key point emphasized by both candidates is that Asian American leaders can voice Asian American concerns.
Ryu stated during his press conference that, “L.A. will be stronger if our City Council looks more like the residents it represents.”
He told JSR, “I’ve lived nearly my entire life here, and know the geographically and demographically diverse 4th District to the point that I believe I can be of service as a council member.”
Compelled to run due to controversial map boundaries drawn after the 2010 Census and covered previously by J Student Reporter Joyce Kang, Yoo has suggested that Asian American leaders would be ideal for the area because they would be more mindful of cultural differences.
According to the candidate, David Ryu’s top priorities are to ensure that concerns are heard, improve communications between residents and ombudsman service, and strengthen the economy by raising the minimum wage. Meanwhile, Grace Yoo says that she plans to apportion funds for improvement of basic infrastructure, encourage a business friendly environment, and improve the quality of life for residents.