Council Election Big News in Cambodia

This year’s Lowell City Council race is attracting substantial interest in Cambodia. The Phnom Penh Post recently ran a big story about the race with special emphasis on the two Cambodian-American candidates, Van Pech and Vesna Nuon both running for the city council. The article features an interview with Pech and also a lengthy interview with (and nice picture of) Rithy Uong who was elected to the City Council back in 1999 which made him the first Cambodian-American to hold elective office in the United States. Besides the astute political insights offered by Pech and Uong, the story is worth reading as an example of how the city of Lowell is viewed from Cambodia.

6 Responses to Council Election Big News in Cambodia

  1. Arthur says:

    I think it necessary to point out for the record that former Councillor Uong is not the first Cambodian-American to hold elective office in the US as the Sun often claims. . Daniel Lam was elected to the Board of Selectmen in Stoughton as I recall before Rithy Uong won his seat in Lowell.

  2. DickH says:

    Thanks for catching my error about Vesna. I did know he was running for city council but for some reason, maybe because he ran for school committee in the past, I originally wrote in this post that he was again seeking that office when he is in fact a candidate for the city council

  3. George DeLuca says:

    The article provides insight into Van Pech’s campaign strategy, which is to provide support for the underserved populations of the Lower Highlands, the Acre and Lower Centralville. Specifically, he wants to educate people who don’t vote about the importance of registering and voting.

    One can even bullet vote, for example in a City Council election, when a voter votes for one or two candidates that they know or trust, because he/she doesn’t know the others. A lot of times people stay away from the poles because they can’t vote for 9. At any rate, we need to get more qualified voters registered and to the polls so that all the neighborhoods are represented.

    This isn’t a recommendation to vote for Van Pech for City Council, but I do like his approach of educating the voters about the process towards getting more citizens represented in the political process. I hope the other candidates take a lesson … one taken from the Patrick Murphy playbook (Patrick is a Van Pech mentor).

  4. Kim Scott says:

    George, after printing the entire voter lists it becomes apparent as to why candidates work the Belvidere, Highlands, and Pawtucketville sections of the city. I hope that all candidates take it upon themselves to include canvassing other neighborhoods in the city and encouraging voting. I would love to see a breakdown by residency in the city for our leaders

  5. George DeLuca says:

    Thanks Kim. Yes, Belvidere, Upper Highlands, Pawtucketville and Christian Hill sections are generally considered the “promise land” by most campaigners. A Town Manager once said to me “Why should we make Town Hall handicapped accessible? No one who’s handicapped ever comes in here?”

    I think we’re dealing with the same stigma of our up and coming neighborhoods like the Lower Highlands, the Acre, Lower Centralville, Back Central. The wonderful richness of the diversity is characteristic of Lowell’s history. Some in Lowell who have been here for generations still think that most stay in Lowell and never leave.

    If you read Bob Forrant and Chris Strobel’s book “The Big Move; Immigrant Voices from a Mill City” you’ll find that upwards of 70,000 residents of Lowell are either immigrants or 2nd generation. That’s stirs quite a misperception, when you consider it leaves 35,000 who are either new to the area or who have roots that span more than 2 generations. But it makes one realize the mindset that’s out there. People actually do leave Lowell and its a problem that can be solved through clear thinking visionary economic development and consensus building beyond what the “blue ribbon panels” can provide.

    I highly recommend “The Big Move” to all the candidates. It will affect your perspective and your campaign strategy. A major point of the book is that the City government and its workforce doesn’t reflect the demographics, i.e., the richness of the diversity of the City. And it should … it must if we’re to truly call ourselves a community.

    The politics of Lowell is on the verge of change. I like the forward thinking candidates rather than those who seem intent on looking back, not forward. is not at this time recommending any candidates. But, as politics go in Lowell, I congratulate Patrick Murphy and his protoge Van Pech for charting a new course into relatively unknown territory.

    It’s clear that progress is being made, especially as the neighborhood groups get stronger. I hope the 2012 voting statistics reflect a shift. The key will be to stay the course either way, as the 2nd generation immigrants have been brought up to value community, education and family. They should be encouraged into Lowell’s political garden, as the ground is fertile for Lowell’s growth.