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Former refugee runs for political office in US

Jose Rodriguez T. Senase / Khmer Times Share:
If Vanna Howard wins, she will be the third Cambodian-American woman elected to public office. Facebook

Another prominent person of Cambodian descent is running for political office in the United States.

The Lowell Sun reported Vanna Howard, a former aide to Representative Niki Tsongas, is one of four candidates running for a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives representing the 17th Middlesex District.

A former refugee, Howard is running as a Democrat. The election for the Massachusetts House of Representatives will be held on November 3.

Ms Howard said in a press release announcing her run: “Through these experiences, I have not only become familiar with every neighbourhood in this district but I have learned the importance of hard work by really listening to peoples’ concerns, tackling problems head on, and working collaboratively to craft real-world solutions to those problems.”

The House of Representatives is the Lower House of the State Legislature. Members serve two-year terms without term limits.

The seat is currently occupied by long-time State Representative David Nangle, who is seeking re-election. The other two candidates for the seat are Democrat Lisa Arnold and Republican Martin Burke.

Though Nangle, a Democrat, has held the seat for more than 20 years and faced only token opposition in the past, he is considered vulnerable this time after being indicted for fraud and violation of campaign finance laws.

If Ms Howard is successful in her bid for political office, she will be the second Cambodian-American woman in Massachusetts and the third in the US to be elected to public office.

Ms Howard will also join State Representative Rady Mom as the second American of Cambodian descent in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Ms Howard currently serves as the chief of external and government relations at the Lowell Community Health centre. She worked for Tsongas as the Greater Lowell Regional Director.

Ms Howard accompanied the congresswoman during her visit to Cambodia in 2012. That visit was the first time she returned to her homeland after fleeing as a child to escape the Khmer Rouge.

After arriving in the US, she lived in different places before settling in Lowell, a city in Massachusetts with a heavy concentration of Cambodians.

Bopha Malone, another former refugee from Cambodia who is now a member of the Bedford Select Board, said she was happy more Cambodians are running for office in the US.

“Lowell is a gateway city and a home to the second biggest population of Cambodians. Good government reflects who we are at every level, and I’m glad to see more people of colour running for political office, especially Cambodian women. Congratulations and good luck to her,” she said.

In addition to her stint working for the government, Ms Howard is also active in her community. She sits on the board of various civic organisations, including the Massachusetts Asian-American Commission, Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association, Lowell Housing Authority and Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell, among others.

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