Taipei Times: As New York's first Asian-American Assemblyman, can you talk a little about the difficulties and future prospects of Asian-American involvement in politics in the US?
Jimmy Meng (孟廣瑞): I was the democratic candidate running in the Flushing State Assembly District, which is an area with a fast growing Asian community in the US. I won the democratic primary and then the general election on Nov. 2 to become the first Asian-American to be elected to the legislature in New York state.
It is difficult though. Even though the Asian population increases year by year, you are compared to people in the district. Almost 25 percent of the population is Asian. So you have to get tremendous support from different ethnic groups -- whites, blacks, Latinos, even the Korean community. Without their support, you'll never make it. It is also very important that you get support from your own community, then you can start with a very strong foundation and get support from the rest of the community.
TT: What should be done to further promote Asian-American political participation?
Meng: It's kind of a tough job. In New York, there are almost one million Asian-Americans. We do have one city councilman, John Liu (劉醇逸), who was elected three years ago. You need to have shared political resources ... I mean, [we have a] long way to go, but fortunately this year we made it to the state assembly. So we do have right now a representative from our community in City Hall and also in the state assembly. So we can work together closely to fight for funding and resources for our community, for the entire Asian community.
TT: Speaking of Asian-Americans sharing political resources, when you ran for the same assembly seat in 2002, it was rumored that Taiwanese-born John Liu asked constituents not to vote for you because of your Chinese background. Did this impact the vote?
Meng: I'm a Taiwanese, I'm a Chinese! I don't blame him too much because the [Democratic] Party had its own nominee, who was endorsed by the Party. And [Liu] is an elected official supported by the county democratic club. So he had no choice at all ... If I were him, I would probably do the same thing!
TT: Are there ethnic tensions amongst Asians in Flushing's political campaigns?
Meng: Honestly, I've been there for over 25 years, and I'm strongly involved in the community. I have a lot of relationships with Taiwanese groups, that's why I do get support from the Taiwanese community. But there is no such racial bias amongst Chinese-Americans, not really.
TT: What about allegations that your constituents illegally registered to vote using commercial addresses in your district? Are you concerned about that at all?
Meng: Regarding the allegation of fraud, let me tell you that the Board of Elections [BOE] has officially certified Jimmy Meng to be the Democratic [assem-blyman] and that clarifies everything. No one from my campaign office conducted that kind of activity. We found that some of the voters were registered in commercial areas, but you have to understand that it's a mixed area. So people, they do live in the business community.
They can vote also. That's why the BOE certified me. It's over. My opponent challenged me and complained with that kind of allegation, but the BOE got involved. We were never involved with that. Actually, a few [of the contested voters] never ever voted, and their registration stretches way back to 1997, starting even before John Liu became city councilman. So, we have nothing to do with that.