CERRITOS — Daniel K. Wong, the globe-trotting city councilman who once described himself as the Chinese Kissinger, may be packing his bags again. But if he leaves this time, it may be for good.
Wong, a two-term councilman who has built a power base among Cerritos' sizable Asian population, said this week he has bought a home in Monterey Park and is opening a part-time medical practice in that area. When asked if he plans to move there and run for the City Council, Wong, a Chinese-American, said, "Not at this time, but I can't rule that out in the future . . . I'm open to the idea."
But several Monterey Park officials said that Wong is doing more than contemplating elective office in their city.
"Danny told me a couple of months ago that he was going to run for council in this town," said G. Monty Manibog, the senior council member in Monterey Park, which has the highest concentration of Asian residents of any city in the country. "(Wong) feels he would be an asset to this community."
Patricia Reichenberger, another Monterey Park council member, said "it is common knowledge" around town, particularly in the Asian community, that the 45-year-old Wong wants to run for council. She said a Chinese-language newspaper first reported Wong's interest in the office several months ago. And, she said, Wong "has been very, very visible" in the city, showing up at store grand openings and at council meetings, where he has spoken out on issues several times.
"He looks like a man trying to build some name recognition," Reichenberger said.
Prohibited From Third Term
Lack of notoriety has not been Wong's problem in Cerritos. In fact, as the city's mayor pro tem, he fully expected to run for a third council term next April. That is until residents voted overwhelmingly to amend the City Charter last November to prohibit council members from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms. Under the new law, both Wong and Mayor Don Knabe, chief deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Deane Dana, will be forced to the city's political sidelines next spring.
After two years, the two men can again run for the council. But Wong, who said he arrived in this country in 1961 with $200 in his pocket, is apparently exploring other political options, including Monterey Park.
(Knabe, a Republican, is interested in higher office, having been an early challenger for the vacant 33rd state Senate District seat now being battled for by Assemblyman Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk) and Norwalk Councilman Cecil Green, a Democrat. If Grisham wins, Knabe is considered the top GOP candidate for Grisham's 63rd Assembly seat.)
While possibly positioning himself for a try at the council in Monterey Park, Wong said he might run for a state office or even Congress. But friends say Wong's next political venture outside of Cerritos probably will be Monterey Park, where 40% of the city's 60,500 residents are Asian.
At least one Cerritos councilman expressed concern over reports that Wong may run for council in Monterey Park.
"I would be most disappointed to see a colleague preparing to run for office in another city," Councilman Barry A. Rabbitt said. "If someone is on our council that is where 100% of their energies should be."
Rabbitt said Wong assured him several weeks ago that he was not going to seek office in Monterey Park. But the rumors have persisted, and Rabbitt said Wong owes the council a public explanation and soon, because Wong is next in line to become mayor when the five-member council holds its annual reorganization meeting April 21.
"If he plans on running there, he should announce it," Rabbitt said. "If he doesn't, let's get that on the record. But he does both cities a great disservice by dragging this out."
A physician by profession, Wong in recent years has become a minor celebrity among Asians--particularly Chinese--as an entertainer. He is primarily a singer, and he has appeared on local Southern California cable television shows as well as in restaurants and nightclubs, including several in Monterey Park. Wong, who said he learned to sing four years ago while in the shower, even performed on national television in the People's Republic of China as part of a government-run New Year's Eve telecast.
The performance in 1985 upset some officials on Taiwan, the anti-Communist island nation off mainland China's coast. Through private channels, Wong said the Taiwan government tried to persuade him to cancel his China trip. But rather than backing out, he believed he could improve relations between the two adversaries. At the time of that trip, he said, "I see myself as the Chinese Kissinger," referring to former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
He Spoke Out on Two Issues
Wong also has tried his hand at shaping public policy in Monterey Park.