This is a list of young Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) who are making a difference in politics and public service in this great country. Indeed, these stars shine brightly, and their potentials are boundless. Quite likely, some of them will be the kingmaker or the queenmaker in the future, helping elect the president of the United States. In fact, many occupy top-tier campaign positions in this year’s presidential elections on November 8.
Someday, one of them–or someone that this list, alas!, somehow missed, or someone still to come–would probably go all the way and become the nation’s president, and why not? As someone once said, “Sky’s the limit!” Or as poet Robert Browning put it more elegantly, “Ah, a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a heaven for?”
That would be awesome, wouldn’t it? Meantime, many are heeding Norman Y. Mineta’s perennial call for the young to go into politics–“whether in elected or appointive positions, and not just at the national level but at state, city or local levels as well.” Mineta, of course, is the first American of Asian ancestry who served in the cabinet of two presidents: President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and President George W. Bush, a Republican. How cool is that?
From an original total of 25 achievers, this list grew to 30 and finally 50. It includes Asian Pacific Americans with inspiring stories. In 2015, Boston Mayor’s Chief of Staff Danny Koh publicly disclosed his struggle growing up with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The story ran in the Boston Globe, which had praised him as a wunderkind in another article. The list likewise has many achievers who are making history in winning elections.
Originally, the list included top Asian Americans working in the federal government, which proved too numerous, requiring a separate list. Subsequently, several names were dropped. (Fact-checking showed they were past age 40.) This article included research, as well as input from community leaders of both political parties, who graciously took the time to suggest names and helped review the list.
Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed was among the 10 advocates and artists across the country recognized on May 4, 2016 as “White House Champions of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling.” The recognition is made by the White House and White House Initiative on AAPIs during Asian American Heritage Month in May. Taz, as she is more popularly called, is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles. An electoral organizer by trade, she has mobilized thousands of AAPIs to the polls in over 17 different languages in the past 15 years at various nonprofit organizations, starting with founding South Asian American Voting Youth in 2004. She is Campaign Strategist at 18MillionRising, an Asian American new media organizing group. She has written for Truthout, The Aerogram, The Nation and Left Turn Magazine. Her third poetry chapbook Emdash and Ellipses will be published this year.
Matthew Alonsozana is the Republican National Committee (RNC) Senior Research Analyst for Special Projects, involving the development of strategic communications strategies, investigative projects, and rapid response operations. He also assists with the RNC’s outreach to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Previously, Alonsozana held similar responsibilities by serving as Senior Research Analyst for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign and worked on diverse projects for various political, corporate, and trade association clients through Delve LLC, a Washington, DC-based strategic intelligence start-up. His political involvement also includes several local and national elections in Maryland and Massachusetts, research and press work for the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, and campus outreach on behalf of the American Enterprise Institute.
Marcus Alzona was re-elected to the Montgomery County Maryland Central Committee, Legislative District 16 in 2014 for another four-year term. Previously, he worked as software engineer, Systems architect and Mobile Developer in Noblis’ Transportation mission area and Noblis’ Center for National Security and Intelligence. He was a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University.
Niraj Antani is serving his first term in the Ohio House of Representatives. He represents the 42nd District, which covers most of southern Montgomery County. He was elected to the House when he was 23 years old. At 25, he is currently the youngest serving member of the House. State Representative Antani is the second Indian American elected official in Ohio history, and the first Indian American Republican. He was named to Forbes Magazine’s list of the top
“30 Under 30” people in the United States for Law & Politics in 2015. This year, the conservative media organization Newsmax named him the second most influential Republican in the nation under age 30. In 2013 he was named to the “Top 30 Conservatives Under Age 30 in the United States” list by Red Alert Politics and the Montgomery County Republican Party named him the “Republican Man of the Year.” He earned a Bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University. Born and raised in Miami Township, Antani attended Miamisburg City Schools and is a graduate of Miamisburg High School.
Koustubh “K.J.” Bagchi is the Director of AAPI and Small Business Engagement of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). On May 5, his opinion, “The DNC’s Efforts to Engage AAPI Voters Are Succeeding,” was published in the NBC-TV website, in connection with the Asian American Heritage Month. Bagchi’s experience includes being Commissioner, D.C. Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs; Board Member, Asian American Action Fund; Legal Counsel, Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL); Legislative Counsel, Council of the District of Columbia; Acting Legislative Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives; Legislative Fellow, U.S. House of Representatives. Bagchi is a graduate at the Seattle University School of Law, where he also earned his J.D. He’s a member of the Maryland State Bar Association and the South Asian Bar Association of the District of Columbia.
Carrie Kagawa is Chair of the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL). CAPAL aims to promote APA interests and success in public service careers, to provide information and education on policy issues affecting the APA community, and to serve the APA community at large. Carrie is currently Senior Advisor and White House Liaison at the Department of Veterans Affairs and has served at the VA since 2013. Prior to this, Carrie spent four years at the Department of Defense, where she started in 2009 at the Office of Detainee Policy working on issues of detention in Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan. From 2011 to 2013, Carrie served as an Advance Officer to the Secretary of Defense, coordinating and leading logistical negotiations for 23 international and 10 domestic official visits. She holds a degree in Psychology and Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Chris Cate is City Councilman of San Diego City Council. He is the first Asian American elected to the San Diego City Council in over 50 years. Previously, Chris served as Vice President of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. His government experience includes being Policy Director for then San Diego City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer for the Second District. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of San Diego. As a student, he and a high school friend started a successful small business that specialized in auto glass replacement and windshield repair.
Beth Fukumoto Chang is Hawaii House Republican Leader of the Hawaii House of Representatives. She is one of the youngest legislators ever to serve as the House Minority Floor Leader, an elected leadership position in the House of Representatives. Currently, she serves as the House Minority Leader, and is the youngest woman to serve as a state caucus leader in the country. Prior to her election, Beth was the youngest woman to serve the state Legislature as Director of Research for the House Minority. She graduated with honors from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a B.A. in American Studies and an M.A. in English from Georgetown University. She was awarded a James Madison Fellowship by the Millennial Action Project for her demonstrated success in transcending partisan lines. In September 2013, The Daily Beast, a popular political blog, listed Beth as one of “Nine Women Remaking the Right.” Most recently, Beth was named as one of the Washington Post’s “The Fix’s 40 under 40” rising political stars.
Ling Ling Chang is a member of the California State Assembly. Currently,she is a candidate for the State Senate (29th District). U.S. Congressman Ed Royce supports her candidacy. In the State Assembly, Ling Ling has focused her efforts on eliminating job-killing regulations and improving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational opportunities. On the Diamond Bar City Council, she balanced every budget, increased funding for law enforcement and cut her own pay to stretch tax dollars. As President and CEO of the Youth Science Center, Ling helped strengthen STEM curriculum in the region. On the Executive Board of the Cal Poly Pomona – Partners in Education, she worked to improve teacher training. As a project manager for a health information systems firm, she helped train physicians, system administrators and medical staff at various hospitals across Southern California. Ling Ling’s parents moved from Taiwan to California when she was 3 years old
Stephanie Chang is serving her first term as State Representative in Michigan’s 6th House District. Previously, she worked as a community organizer in Detroit for about a decade. She is a co-founder and past president of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote-Michigan and served as a mentor with the Detroit Asian Youth Project. Stephanie was raised in Canton and is the daughter of parents who emigrated from Taiwan to pursue greater opportunities. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in public policy and a master’s degree in social work.
Stephen Chang serves as a Legislative Assistant to State Senator Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) at the Minnesota Senate, where he works in areas of administrative support, constituent concern, and legislative policy. Stephen got his start in politics in college when he interned for State Senate Leader David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) and Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03). He has worked on a number of state and federal campaigns, including Congressman Paulsen’s reelection campaign as District Field Coordinator. Most recently, he has worked as Campaign Manager and Finance Director for former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman’s (R-MN) son in his campaign for State Senate. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he currently serves as an alumni advisor to the Bethel College Republicans and Student Government, of which he was a part during his undergraduate years. Stephen is passionate about getting Asian Americans involved in political process. Born and raised in Minnesota’s East Metro, he is the son of Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants.
Lanhee Chen is a Republican Policy Advisor and Strategist. He was the policy director for the Romney-Ryan 2012 presidential campaign. In 2012, he was named one of POLITICO’s “50 Politicos to Watch.” He was the Senior Advisor on Policy to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) during the 2014 election cycle. He frequently provides policy and political commentary on television networks including Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC. Chen was appointed by President Barack Obama, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, to serve as a member of the Social Security Advisory Board, an independent, bipartisan panel that advises the president, Congress, and the Commissioner of Social Security on matters related to the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs. In the Bush administration, he was a senior official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Chen earned his PhD and AM in political science from Harvard University, his JD cum laude from Harvard Law School, and his AB magna cum laude in government from Harvard College. He is a member of the State Bar of California.
Jason Chung is the National Director for AAPI Initiatives, Republican National Committee (RNC), where he serves as primary field and communications strategist. Previously, he served as a consultant to The Livingston Group, LLC a Washington, D.C.- based government relations and public affairs firm, while concurrently serving as Managing Partner of GWC LLC, a Virginia based consulting company. He served as a Congressional Liaison in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a bureau in the US Department of Homeland Security. He worked for then Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich as the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office on Asian American and Pacific Islander Affairs. He also served on the staff of then-Congressmen Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia and Christopher Shays of Connecticut. Jason was appointed to serve on the Virginia Asian Advisory Board by Governor Bob McDonnell, and serves on the Board of Celebrate Fairfax (County Fair), Inc. and as a Commissioner on the Fairfax County Consumer Protection Commission. Jason has assisted many candidates seeking elective office on the local, state and federal levels.
Emily Crerand is the Director of Candidate Services at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). In summer 2007, she attended Semester in Washington Politics (SIWP) at the George Washington University. In 2012, after a stint as the internship coordinator for SIWP, she worked in North Dakota for underdog Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp, starting as a call time manager. Emily later became Deputy Finance Director/Intern Coordinator/Office Manager. With Heitkamp victorious, Emily was offered the post of Assistant to the Chief of Staff in the Senator’s D.C. office. Subsequently, she served as Finance Director for Natalie Tennant’s Senate campaign in West Virginia.
Ninio Fetalvo serves as a spokesman and the Press Secretary for Asian Pacific American (APA) Engagement at the Republican National Committee (RNC), where he coordinates engagement with Asian, Pacific Islander, and California press, builds the APA surrogate program, and identifies content for digital and social media platforms. He has appeared on and been quoted in international, national, regional, and local print and TV media. During the 2014 midterm election cycle, he helped develop and implement strategic communications for the RNC that contributed to Republicans’ winning 50 percent of the APA vote nationally. Ninio got his start at the RNC as an intern in both the press office and war room. In just three years, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Communication from The George Washington University’s School of Media & Public Affairs, where he was a recipient of the Presidential Academic Scholarship.
Jason Fong was among the 10 advocates and artists across the country recognized on May 4 as “White House Champions of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling.” Born in Los Angeles, California, he is a junior at Redondo Union High School and a third-generation Chinese-Korean American. He has written extensively on issues such as police brutality, affirmative action, and immigration. He is the founder of the popular hashtag #MyAsianAmericanStory, which has earned millions of impressions on Twitter. His blog, JasonFongWrites, has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, NBC and CNN. Jason has participated on panels about social media, civil rights and Asian American identity at colleges, including the University of California, Riverside and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Melissa Fwu is the Deputy State Director of the Republican Party of Virginia. She is a graduate of Rice University with degrees in Political Science and Policy Studies. She previously served as the Director of Asian American Engagement with the Republican Party of Texas, coordinating the statewide efforts of the party within the Asian and Pacific Islander American community. Melissa has also worked in the Texas House of Representatives, for the European-Atlantic Group, a political non-profit in London, and was selected as a United States student ambassador for the World Exposition in Shanghai.
Elliott Yoshio Hulse currently serves as the National Field Coordinator for the Republican National Committee (RNC), where he manages the national field reporting system for its revamped ground game operation, #LeadRight2016. Previously, he served as the Regional Political Coordinator for Strategic Initiatives, where he coordinated the RNC minority engagement efforts, with a focus on Asian American and Pacific Islander affairs. Prior to his employment with the RNC, he served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione’s 2012 Congressional Campaign and as a Field Representative for California State Assemblyman Mike Morrell. Born in Shimoda City, JP and raised in Diamond Bar, California, Hulse earned his Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs degree at UC Riverside, where he also served as the Communications Director for the California College Republicans.
Josh Hsu is the Chief Counsel on Nominations at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. He worked as an Associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Brennan Fellow/Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union; Law Clerk for Denny Chin of the U.S. District Court, SDNY and as Associate at O’Melveny & Myers LLP. He graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center.
Kelly Ilagan is Public Affairs Liaison for Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. Previously, she worked as Executive Assistant at U.S. House of Representatives and as a Campaign Intern at Kelley Cawthorne’s candidacy, among things. She is a graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Interdisciplinary Studies.
Michael Inacay is the Communications Director of U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). He once served as an intern for a California member of the U.S. Congress. He is from Los Angeles and graduated from California State University, Northridge, in 2009.
Krystal Kaai is the Executive Director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). She is the first person of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander descent to fill this leadership position. CAPAC is composed of Members of the U.S. Congress who are of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage, as well as Congress Members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Krystal rose to her position in 2013 from her previous policy advisory and Assistant Coordinator roles with CAPAC, and also her work with now-retired Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii. Previously, she was a Legislative Intern in the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; Legislative and Research Fellow in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Program Associate of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation.
Jane Kim is a current San Francisco Supervisor and candidate for State Senate, District 11. She is the first Korean American elected official in San Francisco, California, representing District 6 on the Board of Supervisors. Previously, she served as a Community Organizer at Chinatown Community Development Center for six years, a Civil Rights Attorney at Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and a Policy Fellow at the Greenlining Institute. She was also elected to the San Francisco Board of Education and served as President while attending Boalt Law School. In the 2006 Board of Education election, she won the highest number of votes out of 15 candidates city-wide. Jane attended Stanford University, where she majored in Political Science and Asian American Studies. She earned her law degree from UC Berkeley School of Law. She was born and raised in New York City. Her parents immigrated to New York from Seoul, South Korea in the early 1970s.
Maria Kim currently serves as a Communications Director in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her interest in communications began while working as a staffer in a legislative committee’s communications shop. Before working on Capitol Hill, she was involved in helping local political campaigns mobilize Northern Virginia’s diverse Asian American communities. She hopes to one day work in lifestyle public relations to help companies and organizations thrive and reach their goals. Born in Texas and raised in Virginia, she received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Virginia Tech.
Joy Lee is an Attorney at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Committee on Arrangements. Previously, she worked at the Federal Labor Relations Authority, District of Columbia Public Employee Relations Board, and Charlottesville Public Defender Office. She is a graduate of Washington and Lee University School of Law.
Daniel Arrigg Koh is the Chief of staff to Mayor of Boston. He advises Mayor Martin J. Walsh on key issues and helps him execute his vision for the city and its 18,000 employees. Previously, Danny, as he’s more popularly known, served as General Manager of HuffPost Live and The Huffington Post Media Group’s streaming network. Before HuffPost Live, he served as Chief of Staff to Chair, President, and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington, aiding in the oversight of the 700-person international organization. Before this, he was the Advisor to former Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston. He also worked in nonprofit consulting for Booz Allen Hamilton, executive search for Spencer Stuart, Strategy and Business Development for the New England Patriots and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. His father is Dr. Howard Koh, former assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Public Health. His mother, Dr. Claudia Arrigg, is an opthalmologist.
Clarence Lam joined the Maryland House of Delegates last year. Previously, State Delegate Lam worked as Legislative aide to Delegate Dan K. Morhaim of District 11, and served in the Baltimore Governor’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, he attended Emmaus High School, Emmaus, Pennsylvania. He earned a B.A. degree from Case Western Reserve University, with political science and biology as his major. In 2008, he graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and subsequently became Board certified in preventive medicine. He has worked as Preventive Medicine Physician, Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University since 2009, and Program Director of the General Preventive Medicine Residency Program, Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University since 2014. He served as Co-Executive Director of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Leadership Council, Maryland Democratic Party in 2011-2014.
Katie Lee was born and raised in Virginia and has a Bachelor of Arts in Biology at the University of Virginia. After working two years at the US Senate for the Committee on Environment and Public Works, she moved over to campaigns and started as a finance assistant for a DCCC Red to Blue Race in VA-2. Although unsuccessful, she continued working in finance, and has worked on campaigns all around the country on the legislative, congressional, and statewide level. She currently works at the DCCC as the West Finance Director, where she oversees the day to day fundraising operation for the West region.
Evan Low was elected to the California State Assembly in November 2014 to represent District 28, and is currently serving in the leadership team as Assistant Majority Whip. As California Assemblyman at age 31, Low became the youngest Asian American legislator to have been elected to the Assembly in state history. In 2006, he made history as the first Asian American elected to Campbell’s City Council. In 2010, Assemblymember Low also made history by becoming the youngest openly LGBT mayor in the country at the age of 26.
He has been named “Legislator of the Year” by the Internet Association, TechNet, The Computing Technology Industry Association, California Faculty Association, and Faculty Association of California Community Colleges. In 2015, together with Assemblymember Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), he launched the state’s first California Legislative Technology & Innovation Caucus. The Caucus is a bi-partisan group of State Senators and Assemblymembers who view this as a statewide effort to ensure that California remains the global leader in technology and innovation.
Melissa Medina is the founder and CEO of appmyrep, a civic technology start-up that innovates the way elected officials connect with citizens on a mobile platform. She is also the Congressional Affairs Director for the Congressional App Challenge. In 2015, a bipartisan group of 116 Members of Congress from 32 states ran successful App Challenges. 1700+ students participated and 500+ apps were submitted. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a simultaneous degree in Political Science and Business Administration from the Haas School of Business undergraduate program, Melissa worked on Capitol Hill for over four years. She served as a policy staffer to Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Melissa graduated from the Women’s Campaign School at Yale.
Congresswoman Grace Meng is serving her second term in the U.S. House of Representatives. She represents the 6th Congressional District of New York. She is the first Asian American Member of Congress from New York State, and the only Congress Member of Asian descent in the entire Northeast. She is also the first female Member of Congress from Queens since former Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. Previously, she was a member of the New York State Assembly and a public-interest lawyer. During her first term in the House, Grace scored several legislative victories, a significant accomplishment for a new Member of Congress. In fact, she was one of just 12 Democrats–out of all 207–who passed three or more bills, placing her in the top six percent. Her first major legislative effort, to allow federal disaster funds to be used for rebuilding houses of worship damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, passed the House just six weeks after she was sworn in as a Member of Congress.
Born in Elmhurst, Queens, and raised in the Bayside section of the borough, Grace graduated from Stuyvesant High School and the University of Michigan. She then earned a law degree from Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.
Josina Morita is Cook County Water Reclamation District Commissioner (MWRD) in Chicago. On Nov. 8, voters will elect three commissioners to six-year terms on the nine-member board. Morita was endorsed by the Chicago Tribune last May 8, stating, “Our top choice is Josina Morita, who has the professional skills of an urban planner and a background of community outreach work.” The editorial stressed she could use her background in regional development, land use and infrastructure planning to protect clean water. She also could help the MWRD educate local governments on the need for water-permeable paving and other techniques to reduce storm runoff. The Tribune also noted she is of Chinese and Japanese ancestry, and if she wins this November, she “would be the first Asian American elected to a county-wide office.” It added she has another asset in the campaign, as she also speaks Spanish.
Kham Moua is the Policy and Communications Manager for OCA. OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates is a national organization dedicated to advancing the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans. Kham manages the organization’s policy, advocacy, and campaign efforts, as well as all communications within those areas. Policy and advocacy areas currently under his supervision include immigration, Education, military justice, telecommunications and technology, and civic engagement. Moua also currently sits on the board of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. He previously worked for Hmong American Partnership and Hmong National Development. He graduated in 2011 from Winona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a minor in Chinese.
Mayor Bao Nguyen is running for U.S. Congress to represent California’s 46th District. He was elected Mayor of the City of Garden Grove in 2014. Previoulsy, he served, by appointment in 2011, then by election in 2012, as trustee of the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education, including a term as Vice President. Born in a Thailand refugee camp, he was three months old when he came to the U.S. While earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at the University of California, Irvine, he interned for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Mayor Nguyen holds a Master’s Degree in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and a certification in mediation from the Dispute Resolution Program of the Orange County Human Relations Commission. He also completed an intensive Spanish immersion program at Universidad Internacional in Cuernavaca, Morelos.
Phillip Olaya is the Legislative Counsel to U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA). Previously, he served in the Federal Election Commission, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He graduated from the Rutgers University School of Law – Newark.
is the Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Al Green (Texas). Previously, he was a Legislative Fellow with the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS). He graduated from Vassar College with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Government.
Ameya Pawar was elected Alderman of Chicago’s 47th Ward in 2011. He is the first Asian American elected to Chicago City Council. Aside from his work in the 47th Ward and Chicago, he was appointed by Governor Patrick Quinn to serve on the Illinois Innovation Council (IIC), where he has been working with IIC members and the Governor to help jump-start innovation and job creation in Illinois. He was also appointed by Governor Quinn to serve on the State of Illinois Asian American Employment Plan Council.
Adi Sathi is Vice Chair of the Michigan Republican Party. After completing graduate school, Adi was elected in February 2015 as a statewide Vice Chair of the Michigan Republican Party at the age of 24. For his work in this role, he was recognized on Newsmax’s list of 30 Most Influential Republicans 30 and Under in January 2016. As a student at the University of Michigan, he was elected to serve as the Executive Director of the Association of Big Ten Students, an organization that consists of the 14 Big Ten schools from 11 different states and represents over 540,000 students. For his work in this role, he was invited to the 2013 White House Youth Summit and recognized by Red Alert Politics on their 2014 “30 Under 30” list.
Moh Sharma is Senior Policy Advisor, House Democratic Caucus at U.S. House of Representatives. She was previously an APAICS Fellow and then a Legislative Aide for Office of Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA). She previously worked at the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis, the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, the Connecticut Technology Council and the Connecticut Judicial Branch. In 2015, as Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association president, she received the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin–Connecticut chapter’s (GOPIO) Young Achiever Award.
Jason Tengco is the AAPI Director of the Hillary Clinton Campaign. Previously, he was the Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI). He managed the first-ever White House Summit on AAPIs and launched the Initiative’s E3! Ambassadors Program for young leaders. Previously, he was an Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) Fellow in the Office of Congressman Mike Honda; served as the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) taskforce staff lead on immigration and appropriations; and worked for the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he graduated with honors from University of California, Los Angeles with a B.A. in Political Science.
Theresa Tran is the Executive Director, APIAVote Michigan. She is the daughter of Vietnamese American refugees who came to the U.S. following the Vietnam War, an important lens through which she approaches her work as part of the APIA community. She received her Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Asian/Pacific Islander American studies, also from the University of Michigan. Aside from working extensively on election efforts, Theresa led various APIAVote-MI projects, including the Racial Equity Initiative, a partnership of four state and community-based organizations to address structural barriers for vulnerable South Asian American children and youth; and the groundbreaking development and release of “Rising Voices, Revealing Truths,” the first of its kind needs-assessment report of the APIA community in Southeast Michigan.
Danyell Tremmel is the Chief of Staff of Speaker Paul Ryan (R, Wisconsin) of the House of Representatives, U.S. Congress. Tremmel has served on Congressman Ryan’s staff since he was first sworn into Congress in 1999. For the majority of that time, she served as the District Director, overseeing day-to-day operations of Congressman Ryan’s Constituent Service Centers in Janesville, Kenosha, Racine, and the Mobile Office. Prior to joining Congressman Ryan, she served on the staff of former First District Congressman Mark Neumann. Tremmel is a native of Hartland, Wisconsin, and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (1996).
Naomi Tacuyan-Underwood is Legislative Assistant to Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU At-Large). Previously, she served as the Democratic National Committee’s Director of Asian American and Pacific Islander Outreach. As former Deputy Director for APIAVote, she managed media, partner communications, the production of educational and research materials, and conducted field and communications trainings for APIAVote partners. In the 2008 elections, APIAVote was instrumental in mobilizing over 20 coalitions and community groups in 14 states to conduct AAPI voter mobilization efforts, as well as garnering unprecedented attention on the growing importance of the AAPI vote.
Alton Wang is the Communications and Development Associate at APIAVote, where he coordinates their communications and media strategy, youth engagement, and organizational development. He studied at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where he spearheaded a push for Asian American Studies on Wesleyan’s campus, as well as teaching a for-credit course on Asian American history. Alton has experience in online organizing, community outreach, and also coalition-building.
Michelle Wu was elected to the Boston City Council in November 2013 at the age of 28. She is the first Asian American woman to serve on the Council. As a former restaurant owner, legal services attorney, and legal guardian of her younger sister, Councilor Wu understands firsthand the barriers that families and communities face. Councilor Wu got her start in City Hall working for Mayor Thomas M. Menino as a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy, where she created the Restaurant Roadmap guide. She later served as statewide Constituency Director in the U.S. Senate campaign of her former law professor, Elizabeth Warren. She graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School.
Stephanie Xu is currently a Deputy Regional Finance Director for the Republican National Committee (RNC), where she manages fundraising activities for the entire southern United States. Her work has contributed to the RNC’s historic and record-breaking fundraising numbers that will give Republican candidates the resources needed to win in November. In 2012, Stephanie served as a volunteer coordinator for the North Carolina Republican Party’s victory center in Durham, N.C., where she assisted the state’s Republican Party with grassroots mobilization. Stephanie is a 2013 graduate of Duke University, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy. Born in Pennsylvania and raised in Massachusetts, she is the daughter of Chinese immigrants.
Jeremy Yamaguchi is Mayor of Placentia, California. He is one of the youngest elected officials in California and the youngest in Orange County history. He was elected in November 2008 at age 19 to the Placentia City Council for a term of four years. The Placentia Chamber of Commerce honored him as the Citizen of the Year in 2006 for his volunteer efforts in the community, the youngest to receive the honor in history. He also received the Presidential Gold Volunteer Service Award from a nomination by the Disneyland Resort. In 2009, he was honored by the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE) with the prestigious Rising Star Award. He is a graduate of California State University Fullerton with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science.
Alvina Yeh is State Voices’ Deputy Director of State Capacity Building. She has extensive experience in civic engagement and electoral campaigns. Before joining State Voices, she worked at a consulting firm where she helped clients create and execute field and outreach plans for issue campaigns. Her previous experience includes work on several electoral campaigns and serving as Program Director at Asian Pacific Islander American Vote, where she developed and managed the voter education, registration, turnout, and protection programs. Alvina holds a B.A. degree from the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Benming “Benny” Zhang, a former Republican Leadership Initiative (RLI) fellow, was elected to the Williamsburg, Virginia City Council last May 3. He is the first Chinese American elected in Williamsburg history. Zhang is a senior studying Asian American studies at the College of William and Mary. He became involved in Williamsburg politics as a freshman, when Mayor Clyde Haulman appointed him to the Public Housing Advisory Committee. He will be sworn into office on July 1, 2016.
Ellen Zheng is the Deputy Political Director at Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Washington, D.C. She previously worked for Clay Aiken for North Carolina, Mark Takai for Congress, and in the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School.