On Nov 14, Mai Vang made history as the first Asian-American woman and first Hmong person elected to the Sacramento City Council, mobilizing marginalized communities with her grassroots campaign.
After Larry Carr retired from his seat as representative of District 8, School Board Member Mai Vang and Pastor Les Simmons both announced their candidacy.
When asked why she chose to run, Vang explained that “oftentimes decisions are made for us, never by us. It’s important to have elected officials that understand the lived struggles of communities of color on the ground. That’s why I ran. I love this community and I want someone who is bold and courageous at City Hall fighting for you and our families.”
Political campaigns typically target the “fours and fives,” those who have voted in the past four or five elections and who are more likely to vote again. Vang, however, took a different approach.
As the daughter of Hmong refugees and the first in her family to go to college, she understood how certain factors, such as language barriers, leave entire communities of color unrepresented.
She sent letters and conducted her social media in multiple languages. Vang recounted, “It was important for me to make sure that we were reaching every segment of the population. As a community organizer, I know oftentimes it’s these communities — my communities — that are left behind even during the outreach of a campaign.”
No matter what the outcome of the race was, Vang’s impact would have rippled for years as she was able to reach previously inactive groups of voters. The race was excruciatingly close and only ended when Simmons conceded to Vang over the phone. The celebration that followed was one for many. “It wasn’t just me running. It was an entire community running with me.”
As a newly-elected Council member, Vang will uphold her values as she fights for the voices of the many. She explained, “During my swearing in ceremony, I spoke in English but I also spoke in Hmong. What I shared with the Hmong community was that I am forever your Hmong daughter and that I love this community deeply.”
The idea that we are only now celebrating our first Asian-American woman on the Council is shocking. Young Asian girls across Sacramento will be looking up to Vang.
She declares, “I would say to all the Hmong daughters, all the Vietnamese daughters, all the South East Asian daughters, all the young daughters — I want you to know there is a community that is hungry for your leadership. You are not alone. Your dreams are never too big. I am right here. Mai Vang is right here to support you.”