A room packed with a very diverse mix of local Republicans greeted Steven Fong Friday night at Kim Son restaurant. Joining him in addressing the crowd were Steve Munisteri, Republican Party of Texas chairman and David Zapata, RPT Hispanic Outreach Director.
Candidates for elected office at all levels of government were present as well as those currently holding office. All were given a brief time to speak to the crowd. It was noted that Judge Theresa Chang and HCRP Chairman candidate Paul Simpson received especially strong support from the crowd as shown by loud applause. Current HCRP Chairman Woodfill was not present.
The meeting began with President Nghi Ho welcoming everyone followed by Dr. Martha Wong leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Texas pledge, and the National Anthem. It seemed appropriate that Martha Wong helped to open the meeting as she has been a true trailblazer in bringing the Asian American community to the Republican party, including her own service as an elected official.
Tina Gibson read the press release announcing that the Texas Asian Republican Alliance (TARA) has been formed and will be led by Martha Wong and will be a statewide organization formed due to the leadership of Dr Wong and RPT Chairman Steve Munisteri.
TARA will offer crucial work in holding Texas as a Republican state. The money from the state party will be used for mailings, staffing resources, a full time staffer from the Asian American community in the Austin office, phone follow-ups, and in candidate recruiting efforts.
Chairman Munisteri spoke about the process of building on Asian American support from the state party level. He noted that he once ran for office against Martha Wong and he lost to her, which brought laughter from all. Their friendship endures and it was central in the development of the new statewide caucus.
That is at the core of politics - developing friendships in a wide range of communities and building on shared philosophy with common values.
David Zapata spoke briefly about the outreach to the Hispanic community and the common thread of hard work and strong families that runs within immigrant communities.
Steven Fong was introduced and spoke of his new job as RNC National Field Director, Asian Initiative. He has only been on the job for two months so his speaking style and message still has a bit of work needed. He was, however, received well and has the enthusiasm for the position. He spoke of hitting the ground running with reaching out to all fifty states and developing networks to bring various state efforts together across the country. He said he has begun developing strong coalitions in California and New York state where Republican seats must be won.
Fong spoke about trying to win back Congressional seats in California that were previously held by Republicans. He announced that $10 million has been set aside for Asian American outreach by the RNC but was not able to yet say how much of that will be spent in Texas.
In the question and answer portion of Fong's presentation, a very timely matter was brought to the surface. All day Friday, thanks to my friend David Jennings' piece, the talk online and in local Republican circles was about TARC President Ho and his Precinct Chair candidacy. He recently appeared before the HCRP Vacancy Committee and his application was set aside. Again the subject of gatekeeping is at the forefront as it pertains to a small group of people in a position of power. So, when former candidate for Texas State Rep for Dist 149 Jack Lee stood up and asked Mr. Fong about the incident, the crowd went electric. Fong was asked how can Asian Americans feel welcomed and wanted in party leadership when the very President of this group was treated poorly? FULL DISCLOSURE: I very proudly tell you now that Jack Lee is a former client and a person I call Friend. Mr. Fong was put on the spot, to be sure, and fumbled around for a tactful answer. Not wanting to step on the toes of local leadership from a national position, he said that he would prefer to let local parties make those decisions. He said, however, he hoped local leaders understood the need to grow the party through diversity and common sense decisions. Jack Lee received a standing ovation for his timely question and letting both the state leader and the federal level representative know of local challenges.
Irony. We dwell in it here. Mr. Ho has been nothing but gracious about his handling at the hands of the Vacancy Committee. He is a man of real character, not to mention probably over-qualified to be a precinct chair, given his level of activism and service to the community in past years to the present time.
A woman stood to ask a question at the end of the evening. She came here ten years ago from Hong Kong and this evening was her first time at a TARC meeting. She asked, "why should I be a Republican?" Martha Wong stood and answered her question. She said there are three simple reasons why an Asian American should be a Republican: 1. Asians believe in a strong family unit, 2. Asians believe in the value of education, and 3. Asians are strong small business owners. No one could have answered this woman better.
As Mr. Ho pointed out, via a printed hand-out, Republican Party Ideals are Asian Americans' Values: Free Enterprise, Business Friendly; Less Government; Fiscal Conservative; Strong National Defense; Strong Family Values; Great Education System. He reminded everyone that there is no need to go on a long-winded explanation of party philosophy when these points are what tell the story.
Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority in Texas, did you know that? You wouldn't think so to read printed media or hear news stories but it is a fact. The Asian American vote is crucial to winning future elections and can make all the difference in elections in Texas. Their vote will determine if Texas maintains a stronghold for Republicans on a national level and in presidential elections.
If you have not attended a meeting with TARC, I highly recommend you do so in the near future. You will be warmly welcomed. You will be in the company of friends and the food is terrific.