San Gabriel Elections and Anti-Asian Feeling

June 26, 2020

 

Discrimination has reared its head far too often in San Gabriel politics, and I love the City too much to not speak out. Once again, the opinions are my own, but the facts are the facts.

Elections are won by extremely slim margins in San Gabriel, which speaks to the polarization of the City’s electorate. In the last five years there have been three City Council seats won by less than 15 votes. In the Costanzo/Ding race, Ding won by 14 votes.

 

Demographics matter. San Gabriel is a majority-minority city (60% Asian, 26% Hispanic, 21% white) of about 40,000 residents. About 18,000 residents (45%) are registered to vote. One third of those registered to vote (6,818) actually voted for City Councilmembers in March 2020 (this is higher turnout than usual in San Gabriel elections, which used to occur on odd numbered years). Thus, 17% of the population or less determine who runs the City of San Gabriel.

 

This is important information given the language, informational, civic, and other barriers to voting that minorities and immigrants often face (according to American Community Survey data, over half of San Gabriel’s population is foreign born, over 70% of the population speaks a language other than English at home, and over 40% of the population speaks English less than “very well”).

 

What happened to Councilman Liao in 2013 is not a one-off incident in San Gabriel. Well known past political disputes in the City have centered on race, like the bigoted statements of Juli Costanzo’s daughter this year after Tony Ding won her mother’s Council seat, or the ICE MOU/sanctuary city debate of 2017. These incidents are the by-product of the same racial animosity that was employed and fanned during the 2013 kangaroo court that targeted one of the City’s first Asian American City Council candidates. These racially based “anti” policy and political disputes serve only one purpose: minority marginalization and community division for the sake of selfish political gain.

 

One need only turn on the TV or open up a newspaper to see the negative consequences of such racially charged rhetoric: increasing hate crimes, Asian Americans being unduly targeted as perpetrators of COVID-19, and black lives being lost to racial profiling and excessive force.

Discrimination has reared its head far too often in San Gabriel politics, and I love the City too much to not speak out. Once again, the opinions are my own, but the facts are the facts.

Elections are won by extremely slim margins in San Gabriel, which speaks to the polarization of the City’s electorate. In the last five years there have been three City Council seats won by less than 15 votes. In the Costanzo/Ding race, Ding won by 14 votes. Demographics matter.

 

San Gabriel is a majority-minority city (60% Asian, 26% Hispanic, 21% white) of about 40,000 residents. About 18,000 residents (45%) are registered to vote. One third of those registered to vote (6,818) actually voted for City Councilmembers in March 2020 (this is higher turnout than usual in San Gabriel elections, which used to occur on odd numbered years). Thus, 17% of the population or less determine who runs the City of San Gabriel. This is important information given the language, informational, civic, and other barriers to voting that minorities and immigrants often face (according to American Community Survey data, over half of San Gabriel’s population is foreign born, over 70% of the population speaks a language other than English at home, and over 40% of the population speaks English less than “very well”).

 

What happened to Councilman Liao in 2013 is not a one-off incident in San Gabriel. Well known past political disputes in the City have centered on race, like the bigoted statements of Juli Costanzo’s daughter this year after Tony Ding won her mother’s Council seat, or the ICE MOU/sanctuary city debate of 2017. These incidents are the by-product of the same racial animosity that was employed and fanned during the 2013 kangaroo court that targeted one of the City’s first Asian American City Council candidates.

 

These racially based “anti” policy and political disputes serve only one purpose: minority marginalization and community division for the sake of selfish political gain. One need only turn on the TV or open up a newspaper to see the negative consequences of such racially charged rhetoric: increasing hate crimes, Asian Americans being unduly targeted as perpetrators of COVID-19, and black lives being lost to racial profiling and excessive force.

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