David Chiu’s in a race to become San Francisco’s first Asian American mayor.
ISSUE: Fall 2011
STORY: Shirley Lau
He’s living the American dream most immigrant parents have for their children — he attended an Ivy League college, attained a master’s and law degree, and is on his way to changing the world … one political campaign at a time.
“I want to continue leadership that brings people together to get things done,” says David Chiu via telephone one busy morning. The Chinese American politician, who is one of the frontrunners in a 16-person race (at press time) for mayor of San Francisco, spends his days campaigning and sharing his vision for a revitalized city. If he wins, he will become the first Asian American mayor of the 13th largest city in the U.S.
The political world is nothing new to Chiu, who currently serves as president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (he was the first Chinese American elected to the position and he’s done so twice). The 41-year-old has been a civil rights attorney and criminal prosecutor, Democratic Counsel to the U.S. Senate Constitution Subcommittee, and founder and chief operating officer of Grassroots Enterprise, a public affairs technology company. He says this gave him the skills he’ll need to execute one of his goals as mayor — to create a 21st century economy for a city he’s called home for the last 15 years.
So to whom does Chiu owe his success thus far? “I give my parents a tremendous amount of credit for their sacrifices,” he says. Even though Chiu didn’t become a doctor like his parents wanted — he even took all the required pre-med courses while at Harvard — he says they eventually came around and have “become my biggest champions.”
Growing up in Boston, Mass., Chiu’s parents made a conscious decision not to raise their three children to be bilingual. But the language barrier doesn’t stop him from trying to ad- dress the needs of the Asian American community. “Chinatown is one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Francisco — by income, by job opportunities,” says Chiu. “We’re a city with a huge, huge population of immigrants and diverse communities. … [San Francisco] hasn’t been represented by an Asian American in the 160-year history of the neighborhood and the city.”
If the campaign continues its uphill climb, Chiu will be breaking that record come November 8.
— Shirley Lau
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