The stage is set for a notable moment in Minnesota history. In the Ramsey County Commissioner District 6, the two candidates are both women of Hmong descent. The contest is fraught with charges of racism, calls for one side to abandon the race, because the other was a later entrant and could “divide” the community. The infighting is set to ratchet up as the election draws nearer. Mai Chong Xiong (DFL-Endorsed) has repeatedly called retiring Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough (DFL-06) a racist at a public meeting and on Hmong radio.
The looming question is the impact of the late General Vang Pao, the Hmong leader who, orchestrated the migration of the refugee community and whether or not the Vang Pao name still has weight and influence after his death. All Hmong honor and invoke his name and in this race, it is no exception principally because and the fact his daughter Ying Vang-Pao, is one of the candidates.
In District 6, there is an opportunity for a measurement of the political divides present for this segment of the Hmong Community due to endorsements from institutions like the DFL Party, and the different members of organized labor, of which both sides carry endorsements and the role of other elected officials. For instance, why Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, of whom we are unclear of his political affiliation, but he was a previous Republican candidate, and has endorsed one candidate Ying Vang-Pao (DFL-MN) as has Sen Foung Hawj (DFL-67, St Paul) and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi (DFL-Ramsey County) is in the other camp supporting Chong Xiong. In fact, we know first-hand how one labor endorsement was given because a Chong Xiong union supporter misrepresented the endorsement of McDonough’s for Chong Xiong resulting in an endorsement by that union, but when the falsity was uncovered the same union corrected the slight with a donation to the Vang-Pao campaign.
Now, the questions over credentials, capability and capacity are all present because what Chong Xiong claims as “Community Organizing and Policy Wins” are far from hers alone or at all. This race shows the existence political growing pains, due to of false claims of political successes and the inflation from political resume’ padding and taking credit for accomplishments due to others, and the fact of just being present at the time, does not mean actually delivering for constituents
Checks & Balances Assessment
Mai Chong Xiong Claims Items as Personal Community Organizing and Policy Wins
|Secured median to create pedestrian safety at county road on Johnson Parkway and Ames Ave E.
|Untrue, this was a county action and no role for a city council staff-person.|
|Secured City-funds for Hmong Village’s Parking Lot
|Blatant falsity, this money was from a Star Grant for neighborhood revitalization and is decided upon by a neighborhood board and approved by the St Paul City Council not a city council staff-person, because staff have no vote.|
|Secured MN state recognition of Hmong American Day as May 14, 2013
|Far overreach, the is a legislative action and supportive testimony may have occurred but the decision was not made by a city council staff-person, it occurred in the state legislature.|
|Removed police officers from Saint Paul’s Police Civilian Review Board
|Over embellishment, this was an action taken by the St Paul City Council not a city council staff-person, because staff have no vote.|
|Secured affordable housing in Saint Paul
|Supportive likely, delivered not at all, this was an action taken by the St Paul City Council not a city council staff-person, because a staff-person doesn’t have a vote, on anything.|
|Passed Earned Sick & Safe Time in Saint Paul, testified and advocated for Statewide Earned Sick & Safe Time and Paid Family Leave
|Hyperbole at best, advocated maybe, passed no, again, this was an action taken by the St Paul City Council not a city council staff-person, because staff have no vote.|
|Passed $15 Minimum Wage in Saint Paul, testified and advocated for Statewide $15 Minimum Wage
|Another overreach, because this passed by a city-wide referendum, the St Paul City Council approved the ballot language, but there was no role, or vote from a city council staff-person.|
|Fought and won MN state minimum wage increase in 2014
|This is a stretch, sure, Mai Chong Xiong, might have supported Take Action’s agenda point when she was 25 years old and everyone involved can claim a win, but not solely.|
|Passed Tenant Rights Ordinance in Saint Paul
|Again, might be an organizational victory, but no one person can claim a that they passed a community-wide referendum.|
|Funded Community First Public Safety Initiatives in Saint Paul that shifted away from traditional policing and invested in domestic violence prevention, gun violence prevention, and youth empowerment
|Funded implies a direct action, passed by the St Paul City Council, and there was at no time a vote of a staff-person was cast or even called for.|
|Defeated Voter ID and Marriage Amendment in Minnesota
Helped defeat, fine, but defeated, no. It was a statewide ballot question in 2012, placed there by the Minnesota legislature. Again, no-one person did it alone.
*These are taken directly from the Mai Chong Xiong website https://www.maichongxiong.org/about-me
This race is not garnering much media attention and someone who would normally cover such a contest, Fred Melo, with the Pioneer Press is conflicted out, because his wife is a Ramsey County manager.
The significance of this Ramsey County election is the office. Because, the county is the principle local governmental entity all new residents are first involved with upon settlement. The diaspora of the Hmong community all have stories about their first living arrangements and housing experiences and though diverse, they are common touch points.
In spite of the commonality and importance of the county government, many voters don’t even know what a County Commissioner does. This elusive aspect, which should not exist, clearly does and it manifests itself in this election in Ramsey County.
The issues present in this political contest principally involve a generational split, between those younger Hmong, who are far more “Americanized”, are losing their cultural connections like language and established traditions and those with actual experiences in the refugee encampments.
At a forum at Harding High School on September 28th, 7:00 pm, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, will highlight there is not a monolithic Hmong woman and should highlight their differences. Each comes to the table with their own experiences, which is the beauty of the American Tale for these New Americans.