Kathy Tran is running for Virginia's House of Delegate in the 42nd District.
Ms. Tran graduated from Duke University and earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan. She serves on her local PTA.
Why did you want to run for political office?
I was due with my baby daughter – the youngest of four - on Inauguration Day this past year. After the election, my husband Matt and I decided to name her Elise Minh Khanh. "Elise" is inspired by Ellis Island, a beacon of hope for generations that Matt's family passed through seeking opportunity in their new home. And "Minh Khanh" is Vietnamese for "bright bell," inspired by the Liberty Bell. To us, her name means "to ring the bells of liberty and champion opportunity for all."
As I held her in my arms in the weeks after she was born, I realized I couldn’t give such an aspirational name to this tiny little baby and just hope that she would be able to create a world that safeguards her future and the values that inspired her name. I decided that I needed to step up to fight for my childrens’ future now.
I have devoted my career to ensuring that all Americans have the skills and credentials they need to succeed. I shaped national workforce development policies and programs during my 12 years at the U.S. Department of Labor, and I have also advocated for immigrants in the workforce at the National Immigration Forum. If elected, I will use this expertise to advocate for all Virginians and fight against a national agenda that seeks to divide us.
What role did being a Vietnamese American woman play in your decision to be more politically active?
Like many other Vietnamese American families, my parents and I fled Vietnam as refugees. We left by boat when I was almost seven months old. Although many other countries offered us asylum, we waited 13 months for the United States to process our application. For my parents, America represented hope, opportunity, and freedom, and they were willing to risk it all to make sure they could come here. I’m running for the Virginia House of Delegates because I couldn’t just stand by while Donald Trump and Virginia Republicans dismantle the American ideals that brought my family here.
I would be the first Vietnamese American to win popularly elected office at any level in Virginia, and the first Asian American woman elected to Virginia state government. I firmly believe that we all benefit from having diverse perspectives and voices in government. For example, many of the issues facing immigrant and refugee families today are issues that I faced growing up in the Vietnamese diaspora. That experience has informed my entire career. I have worked with immigrant communities across the country, from teaching ESL classes to detained asylum seekers in Newark, to encouraging entrepreneurship in Detroit’s Latino community, to running after-school programs for immigrant children in San Jose. In my most recent role at the National Immigration Forum, I advocated for policies that would help immigrants in the workforce reach their full career potential.
I am a strong advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship and values family-based immigration while meeting our nation’s economic needs. If elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, I will fight for policies that fully integrate immigrants and refugees: I will work to expand citizenship preparation classes, push for additional funding for adult education, including ESL classes, and make sure small businesses and entrepreneurs have access to the resources they need to thrive. I will also advocate for disaggregation of AAPI ethnic data in order to truly understand community needs, and I will work to expand culturally competent services that are accessible to Virginians with language barriers and other obstacles.
What advice can you give to Vietnamese Americans about making a difference?
It can often be discouraging or intimidating to get involved when you don’t see people from your community represented in the political process. When that’s the case, as it is in most of the country for Vietnamese Americans, stepping up to fight for what you believe in and to make a difference is all the more important in helping to pave the way for others and encouraging them to get involved with you.
I had never thought of myself as a politician - and I still don’t - but I have always tried to make a difference. I am proud of the work I’ve done for American workers and jobseekers as a civil servant at the U.S. Department of Labor, my efforts to fight for immigrants and refugees at the National Immigration Forum, and the kids, families, and teachers I’ve advocated for as an officer on my local PTA. During this campaign, as I have met with my neighbors from all different backgrounds, I have learned more about their concerns over what is happening in our country today and their hopes for the future.
Fight for what matters to you and your community. Get involved in a cause you believe in or run for office yourself. Join our campaign at kathyfordelegate.com as we push to engage and organize here in Virginia, and fight for our common values of hope, opportunity, and freedom for all who seek it.