Jackie Bong Wright

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Ethnic Coalition of Virginia’s (ECVA) 2001 Candidates Forum

By Jackie Bong-Wright

For the third year in a row, the Ethnic Coalition of Virginia (ECVA), a non-profit, non-partisan organization made up of people of diverse origins – Hispanics, Middle-Easterners, Asians and others – came together to organize a Candidates’ Forum. The event was held at Mason District Government Center in Annandale, Virginia, on October 25.
The ECVA’s mission is to integrate the professional, cultural, and educational endeavors of the ethnic population into America’s democratic processes and institutions. The goal is to provide information and encourage ethnic communities to register and vote, and to actively support candidates who advocate their interests. To this end, ECVA organizes Candidates’ Forums, giving ethnic communities an opportunity to understand the candidates’ platforms and make an educated choice.
The ethnic organizations that sponsored this year’s event were the International Development Foundation, International Associates Consultants, the Iranian American Community, the Korean American Coalition, the Korean American Sharing Movement, the Korean American Democrats of Virginia, the League of Korean Americans, USA, the National Hispanic Republican Assembly, S & J Profile, the Vietnamese American Voters’ Association, and Worldview Communication.
ECVA reports that 33 Virginia candidates came to talk to them in 1999, and 11 out of 13 candidates showed up in the year 2000, the two previous Candidates’ Forums. In 2001, the Virginia Board of Elections listed 44 candidates for the position of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and members of the House of Delegates, and almost half showed up for the Forum.
Mohamed Ali, originally from Turkey, an Executive Producer of Worldview TV in Fairfax and an ECVA Board member, served as Moderator and asked the candidates questions. The candidates made their opening statements to a packed audience of ethnic groups. Questions ranged from candidates’ backgrounds in public service and private business to education and transportation, but focused on minority, security, and cultural issues. Would candidates actively recruit staff of diverse origins? Deportation of immigrants, racial profiling and hate crimes were also raised as concerns.
The event closed with small pockets of individuals encircling the candidates to chat, bringing up questions that they did not have the chance to broach inside the conference room.