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City Hall News : 7 Asian Americans on April Ballot Stress Mainstream Issues


In her bid to become the first Asian American elected to the Rosemead City Council, businesswoman Dolly Leong has spent much of the last few months registering more than 1,000 Asian American residents to vote.

She is one of seven candidates from San Gabriel Valley's growing Asian American community seeking election April 12 in what could be a political coming of age.

"The Asian community is a third of this city, and it's about time we had a voice," said Leong, 57.

At the time of the 1990 U.S. Census, almost 17% of the entire valley was of Asian descent, and that population is believed to have grown substantially since then.

Chinese community leaders say they hope to build on successes in last November's school board races, when five Chinese Americans were elected across the region.

In San Marino, Dr. Allan K. Yung and Alex Tse are bidding to be the first minority City Council members. In neighboring Arcadia, Dr. Sheng Chang is attempting to become the first minority and Asian American council member.

Monterey Park could get California's first Asian American council majority, with Judy Chu already on the council, and incumbent Sam Kiang and two other Chinese Americans among the six running for two open seats.

Asian candidates are emphasizing mainstream concerns. "The majority of voters are ready to elect a good candidate with a strong stand on the issues who just happens to be Asian," said Yung, who lost a council bid in 1992.

These are the elections at stake:

SAN MARINO: Yung, 53, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, faces Tse, incumbent Paul Crowley and contractor Vince Filutze for two seats in a city where one in three residents is of Asian descent.

Yung, 53, is a 19-year resident of the city and a former Navy commander. He said he has become better acquainted with City Hall after attending hundreds of meetings and initiating a Neighborhood Watch program. "I've paid dues," he said.

Yung says his highest priority is to find ways to boost the city budget to insure money for public safety.

As of the end of January, Yung had raised the smallest campaign chest--$2,834, compared with Tse's $7,809, Filutze's $3,770 and Crowley's $8,238.

Fighting crime also is the top priority for Tse, 63, a businessman who owns an import-export firm. Tse said he would create a citizens crime prevention committee to advise the council. In addition, he said, earthquake preparedness and traffic problems need to be addressed.

ARCADIA: Dr. Sheng Chang, 51, faces a steep challenge as one of 11 candidates--including two incumbents--competing for three seats.

Chang, a family doctor who plans to raise $26,000 for the campaign, wants to save tax money by contracting out more city services and giving his council salary to the Police Department. Chang at the last filing date in February was the top fund-raiser with $12,687. Ruth Gilb raised $11,763; Celia Kalm, $8,970, and incumbent Joseph C. Ciraulo, $5,689.

Although the city is 23% Asian American, retiring Councilman Bob Harbicht said that most are newcomers not eligible to vote and that Chang must get support across the community to succeed.

Other candidates are incumbent George Fasching, Mary B. Young, Barbara Kuhn, Chuck Chivetta, Johanna Hofer, David L. Sheridan and Karen E. Towner.

MONTEREY PARK: Three of the six candidates--incumbent Sam Kiang, 44, a lawyer and unofficial leader in the Chinese American community; accountant Peter Chan, 45, and banker Mitchell Ing, 30--are Chinese American. Competition in this race for three seats is strong, including incumbents Marie T. Purvis and Fred Balderrama and Library Board Trustee Francisco Alonso.

The three Chinese American candidates say issues are more important than race. "Where you stand on redevelopment or the assessment district is (the) more important factor," Chan said.

The large amounts of money in some candidates' campaign chests has become an issue. "It's destroying grass-roots politics. It will be interesting to see if an election can be bought this time," said Purvis, who plans to spend about $10,000. Chan expects to spend more than $30,000; Kang more than $50,000, and Ing about $15,000.

Balderrama, a Latino, has stayed competitive, netting $36,675 in contributions by the start of this month.

ROSEMEAD--Leong said she's the candidate for change in a field of five running for two council seats. Other candidates include 20-year incumbent Gary Taylor and ex-Councilman Jay Imperial.

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