Young Asian Americans in San Francisco are less enthused by today's politics

In an election year, losing Asian American candidates captures a tumultuous moment in local politics in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A half-decade after becoming the youngest person elected to the Berkeley City Council, Rigel Robinson announced a bid last fall to become the first Korean and Asian American to serve as the city’s mayor. But his history-making turn in government has been dogged by relentless harassment, threats and stalking for his support for progressive policies, including a controversial project to build housing for students and homeless people.

In January, at the age of 27, Robinson resigned and suspended his mayoral run to protect himself and his family from the vitriol.

In an election year, the resignation of a rising Asian American star captures yet another tumultuous moment in local politics in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) elected representation has declined sharply in the past decade. The trend has alarmed experts and longtime community leaders, who say the escalating toxicity in local government has made it difficult to build a bench of young talent.

At the same time, Robinson said he thinks it’s more important than ever for young people to bring diverse perspectives to city government. “Democracy depends on people who will bring both conviction and common sense to elected office,” he said. “But it’s a sacrifice — I won’t and shouldn’t sugarcoat it.”

The battle for control of one of San Francisco’s most reliable “Chinese seats,” in particular, reflects seismic demographic and attitude shifts in a city that’s long served as a beacon of Asian American political power. After a dozen years representing the 19th Assembly District, which includes the city’s west side and is more than 40% Asian American, Democrat Phil Ting will be termed out in November. Since 2002, the district has elected three consecutive Chinese American representatives.

Post ID: 330c8ea9-1b55-4b45-96bc-e259d6ed0d52
Rating: 5
Updated: 2 months ago
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