Running for office as an Asian American candidate has its own set of unique challenges. Even though Asian Americans are the country’s fastest-growing demographic, they are the least represented in all levels of government. This is why Run for Something is committed to supporting candidates from underrepresented communities running for state and local office — below are five Asian American Run for Something alumni candidates who ran for office and won — while breaking down barriers in the process.
Marvin Lim, Georgia House, District 99, Georgia
“One of my favorite memories running for office was helping to bring people together. My community is diverse, but not well-bonded. So I got community members to create a resource on how to introduce yourself to your neighbor, in several languages. When I got into office, we used it as a springboard to create a cultural competence curriculum for law enforcement. If you listen and pay attention to people’s needs, you can make a difference –- locally and on a larger scale!”
Marvin is a current Georgia State Representative for House District 99, where he has lived since 2001. An immigrant who was formerly on public assistance (then later wrongly flagged as a non-citizen voter — all in Georgia, where his family came in 1991), he channeled those experiences into a public interest career: becoming a civil rights +and gun violence prevention attorney after graduating from Yale Law School, previously working with the ACLU and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Representative Lim is the first Filipino-American legislator in the state of Georgia!
Fun fact about Marvin: He was asked to sing the national anthem at a baseball game.
Suhas Subramanyam — Virginia Senate, District 32, Virginia
“I was proud to be the first South Asian elected to the House of Delegates, and now I’m running for the State Senate in the largest AAPI district in Virginia. I can’t wait to continue the work I started in the House for AAPI communities in the State Senate.”
Suhas is a lawyer and businessperson who serves as a representative for Loudoun County in the Virginia General Assembly. In 2019, he became the first person of South Asian or Indian heritage ever elected in Virginia at the state or federal level. Previously, he worked as a White House technology policy advisor for President Obama. As a Ddelegate, he has achieved numerous successes, including being named a Conservation Hero by the League of Conservation Voters, passing legislation to lower healthcare costs and fully fund public education, and addressing high tolls in Northern Virginia.
He is a co-founder and co-Chair of the Commonwealth Caucus, a Member of the Virginia Small Business Commission, co-Founder of the Virginia Minority Business Commission, co-Founder of the Virginia AAPI Caucus, and a Member of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science. Representative Subramanyam is the first Indian American and Hindu American elected to the Virginia legislature and co-founded Virginia’s House AAPI Caucus!
Fun fact about Suhas: His second daughter was born on his mother’s birthday.
Dr. Priya Bhat-Patel — Carlsbad City Council, District 3, California
“I’m currently in my second term and have had the opportunity to run for office twice now. I’m the first Indian American Council Member to be elected to City Council in the County of San Diego. For both my elections, Run for Something was an extended family where I could run my ideas by the team and they would pitch ideas to me as well. Learning how to run a campaign with amazingly dedicated volunteers and interns all came from tapping into the resources that Run for Something provides. Being able to represent the community I grew up in is an experience I’m lucky to have.”
Dr. Priya Bhat-Patel is a Council Member in the City of Carlsbad where she grew up. A daughter of Indian immigrants, Priya is the youngest person ever to be elected to the Council in the City of Carlsbad. She serves on many committees, including the League of California Cities, North County Transit District, City/Schools Committee, and Economic Development Committee, and more.
Along with Council, Priya works for a non-profit as a Policy Analyst and Manager for the California Family Justice Center Network. Family Justice Centers help provide wraparound services to victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and elder and child abuse. Councilmember Bhat-Patel is the first Indian American to be elected to City Council in the County of San Diego!
Fun fact about Priya: sShe has a motorcycle license.
Ben Ming, New Hampshire House, Hillsborough 40, New Hampshire
“For the young AAPIs considering a run for public office, but are unsure what they bring with them as a candidate, just remember this: you’ve lived an impeded life from the day you were born. You already know the challenges facing AAPI communities because it is your very existence, and no one can tell you otherwise. If you’re even remotely considering running and are worried about how your stage in life will affect your campaign, know that you’re never too young and you’re not too late. I was 39 when I decided to run the first time, and I had never worked or volunteered on a single campaign in my life. So I hope that with each seat that we fill, you will reach back and show that the way is not as impenetrable as it may seem, and that we belong everywhere.”
Ben ran for the New Hampshire House to make New Hampshire a more affordable place to live for all Granite Staters. He heard the concerns of his community as a member of the Hollis Planning Board and he is devoted to making a significant difference as a legislator by using his experience as a real estate and estate planning lawyer. Ben’s inspiration to run and put in the hard work that’s necessary to make a positive impact in his community can be summed up in one word: family.
Being married to a frontline medical worker, he’s acutely aware of the sacrifices that healthcare workers and their families have made during the global pandemic. He wants to be a part of the solution that will give true support to those workers. Representative Ming is the first Chinese-American to be elected to the New Hampshire State House!
Fun fact about Ben: When he needed a mental break from campaigning, he would work on Lego sets.
Samantha Sencer-Mura, Minnesota House, District 63A, Minnesota
“I was inspired to run for office once I became a mom. I wanted to put policies in place to make our state better for my family and all families. I believe in creating systems of care.”
Samantha is an educator, a working mom, a local community leader, a fourth-generation Japanese- American, and the State Representative for District 63A in South Minneapolis, Minnesota. She attended Minneapolis public schools, including South High School in the district, which neighbors know is distinctive for having no windows.
In 2020, South Minneapolis became the epicenter of a fight for racial justice. She joined the protests and worked with neighbors to keep each other safe. She saw the possibilities in reimagining public safety at the neighborhood and city levels, and learned that unless we are vigilant about unearthing racial biases we can easily replicate the systems we are trying to dismantle.
Fun fact about Samantha: The Mississippi River runs through her district.
Asian Americans deserve to be equally represented in ALL LEVELS of government — Run for Something is here for it. We provide coaching for our endorsed candidates and provide resources and training, while connecting candidates with partners who can help win their campaigns. Run for Something has endorsed over 2,500 candidates and won over 1,000 elections. Over 50% of our endorsed candidates identify as women or nonbinary, over 50% identify as BIPOC, and over 20% identify as LGBTQIA+.
Sign up to run at runforwhat.net.