Published April 26, 2009 @ 03:45PM PST
For today's Feminist Query, I interviewed Judy Chu PhD who is running a Congressional campaign in CA-32, the seat vacated by Hilda Solis. Dr. Chu is an EMILY’s List candidate with a strong record on women’s issues, and she would be a great addition to Congress. Dr. Chu has dedicated her life to improving the quality of life in the San Gabriel Valley as a public official. For the past 23 years, Dr. Chu has represented San Gabriel Valley neighborhoods as a local School Board member, Mayor and City Council member, State Assembly Member and as a member of the California State Board of Equalization. Dr. Chu holds a B.A. in Math (!!) from UCLA, and a PhD in Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. During her time in the California State Assembly, when she represented the Western San Gabriel Valley, Dr. Chu passed legislation to protect victims of domestic violence, to crack down on hate crimes, to promote environmental justice and to modernize aging schools. Her tax amnesty program brought in over $4.8 billion in revenues to improve schools, health care and public safety. Additionally, she served as Chair of the Assembly Appropriation Committee where she fought to protect student, seniors and the disabled from budget cuts. As a member of the nation's only elected tax authority, Dr. Chu works to close special interest tax loopholes, protect small businesses and to administer the collection of $53 billion in state taxes and fees.
Take a look at her interview and feel free to donate to her campaign and help get more women elected to Congress!
Do you consider yourself a feminist? If not, why? If yes, how so?
Yes, I consider myself a feminist. While growing up, I never even contemplated the possibility of being a leader, let alone an elected official. It seemed entirely outside the realm of possibilities for me as an Asian American woman. So I was a math major when I went to UC Santa Barbara. I actually remember the moment I realized that it was even possible for me to be a leader. During the first quarter there, I decided on a lark to take an "experimental" Asian American Studies Class. They had a guest speaker, Pat Sumi, a strong community activist committed to anti-war issues and civil rights. As I listened to her, a light went off in my head. I realized that it was possible for me to be a community activist too, and to be a leader in changing people's lives for the better. I got active in campus and community activities, transferred to UCLA, and changed my major to psychology in order to better help people. I joined the movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment for women, and then taught classes at UCLA on Asian American Women. That was the beginning of my 25 year history working on behalf of equality for women.
What made you decide to run for office?
In 1985, I had not even contemplated running for office. However, I was teaching in psychology in the Los Angeles Community College District and living in Monterey Park. A group of people asked me to run for the board of the Garvey School District. So I ran, but I was a complete unknown. I do remember a critical moment. It was when I went before the National Women's Political Caucus in Pasadena for an endorsement. They interviewed me and were so supportive of this completely unknown candidate that I felt incredibly encouraged. They endorsed me and gave me a donation. I realized from that experience that it is so important to have an infrastructure helping women run for office. Then an "English Only" movement occurred in Monterey Park where long time residents scapegoated new immigrants who were moving into the city. They wanted English only on the signs in the city and for the books in the library. The last straw was when they got a resolution passed in the city council saying that only English should be spoken in the city. I joined a coalition to defeat the resolution. We were successful, and out of that movement, I ran for city council. I made it my goal to bring the city together, and bring about an appreciation of diversity. Seven years later, I was so gratified when our city won the grand prize for Innovation in Addressing Diversity by the League of California Cities.
Have you faced any "glass ceilings" as an Asian American female running for political office?
I felt a very strong glass ceiling as an Asian American woman running for political office. Though it was difficult running for the Monterey Park City Council because of the polarization in the city, but it was still possible to win through hard work and door-to-door walking. But I found that running for state office to be a totally different story. In the state, there was an Old Boy's Network that had institutionalized its power. When the Assembly seat opened up in 2001, I decided to run. But the Old Boy's Network wanted a male, and they put all their resources into backing him and putting up roadblocks for me. Thus, the then-Speaker did not support me. It looked bleak, but then there was a turning point. It was when Congresswoman Hilda Solis decided to support me. She had gone against the Old Boy's Network herself when she did something unprecedented. She ran against an incumbent do-nothing Congressman who was part of the Old Boy's Network, and won. She wanted a new California like I did. Her support provided the critical boost that I needed to win.
How can we encourage more women to run for office?
It was very powerful to have the support and endorsement of the National Women's Political Caucus. It is important to have groups in place that will help women when they run for office. I applaud the work of NWPC, the Women's Political Committee and Emily's List. They have truly changed the landscape for women running for office. It is also important to encourage women to get involved on the local and grassroots level, so they can gain experience and a base when they run.
What is the single most important issue to you today?
The single most critical issue that we are facing today is the economic crisis. Seniors don't know if their 401K will hold any value, business people don't know if they can pay their next month's salaries and young people don't know if there will be a job waiting for them when they graduate. In addition, the foreclosure rate is overwhelming. I want to use the fiscal expertise I've gained as Chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, as a member of the California Legislature's Budget Conference Committee, as a member of the Board Equalization collecting the taxes for the state, and as the author of the Tax Amnesty bill which was supposed to bring in $300 million but actually brought in $4.3 billion for this state and was the most successful tax amnesty in the nation in history. I want to bring this out-of-the-box thinking to Washington D.C. The economic crisis has hit women particularly hard because there is a gender gap in wages for women. Women still earn only 77% of what men earn. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, at the present rate of progress, it will take 50 years to close the wage gap between men and women nationwide.
To me, this is unacceptable. I have worked hard at the Board of Equalization to close this gender gap. I've done a series of women entrepreneur workshops to close this gap, so that women can get the resources they need to be economically independent.
If you could ask feminists everywhere one question, what would it be?
What are you doing to help women attain equality in America? Women everywhere need your commitment and help.
If you would like to make a contribution to Judy Chu's campaign, you may do so at http://www.actblue.com/entity/