Chiu, Ting and Yee: 3 Asian Americans in Running for San Francisco Mayor

March 1, 2011

With David Chiu joining the fray, San Francisco has three Asian Americans running for mayor, perhaps the most APA mayoral candidates for any American city outside of Hawaii.

"It's never happened, as far as we know," said Andrew Hong, communications associate for the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that tracks and promotes Asian Pacific American participation in politics.

From left: David Chiu, Phil Ting and Leland Yee.

Chiu, currently the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, joins city Assessor Phil Ting and state Senator Leland Yee as the three Asian Americans vying to succeed Ed Lee , who was appointed in November as the city's first Asian American mayor but has said he will not run for a full term.

Yee appears to have the early lead over all the candidates in name recognition and among political pundits after having served as a supervisor and in the state Assembly. The time seems right for an Asian American to lead San Francisco, and it's a positive sign that multiple candidates have a good shot at winning.   

With Asian American elected officials throughout the region, the San Francisco Bay Area is becoming a hotbed for Asian American politicians. In Oakland, Jean Quan became the second Asian American mayor of a big mainland city (Norman Mineta was elected mayor of San Jose in 1971). She was elected about a week before Lee was appointed to fill out the remainder of Gavin Newsom's term after he became lieutenant governor. 

"I'm surprised this hasn’t happened earlier with the heavy APA population out there," Hong said. "Definitely great to see it all unfolding now."

Hong said APAICS is seeing a growth in areas outside of places like San Francisco, which has a population that is about a third Asian American.

"You have it not just in Hawaii or California, but in states where the APA population isn’t as dense." Hong said. "Places where APAs are still making a rise into higher offices."

While having an Asian American mayor in San Francisco is groundbreaking, Hong said having Allan Fung as mayor in Cranston, RI, APA population about 2 percent, is equally important.

"If that sort of thing can happen where the APA population hasn’t flourished, it can happen anywhere and it is beginning to happen," Hong said.

In addition, what is most significant is the growing idea that APA's can represent Americans, Hong added in an e-mail after our phone conversation. "Not just Asian Americans, but all Americans."

Full disclosure: My wife Ramie Dare is a volunteer on Chiu's campaign.


Post was corrected to note that Quan was second Asian American mayor of big mainland city. Thanks EJ.



Harry Mok

Editor in chief

Editor in Chief Harry Mok wrote about growing up on a Chinese vegetable farm for the second issue of Hyphen and has been a volunteer editor since 2004. As a board member of the San Francisco and New York chapters of the Asian American Journalists Association, Harry has recruited and organized events for student members. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also a graduate student instructor in the Asian American Studies Department.