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Supporters of Immigrant Legislator Head for Texas Capitol

by Greg Moses Friday, Dec. 31, 2004 at 5:24 AM

Hubert Vo has been elected to represent the rising aspirations of Houston voters, but will Texas Republicans throw him out?

Texas Aggies love to say that Highway Six runs both ways. At its intersection with Houston’s Beechnut St., Highway Six runs into the rest of the world.

Of 6,000 people living in the neighborhood at the Southeast corner of Highway Six and Beechnut, 47 percent were born outside the USA. About half of them have become citizens, according to the US Census Bureau (Census 2000, Tract 4539).

“Hubert Vo does represent District 149,” says Rogene Gee Calvert, speaking by cell phone about the newly elected state representative for the district that includes Highway Six between Interstate 10 and Beechnut. “It is a district with many first generation immigrants like Hubert, and they feel like he understands their issues.”

Calvert is president of the Houston 80-20 Asian American Political Action Committee. During the campaign season, 80-20 endorsed Vo, knocked on doors for him, placed ads in Asian media, and sent out campaign literature in five Asian languages. Now, with Vo’s slim electoral victory being challenged in the Texas Legislature, Calvert is organizing to keep Vo in office.

“We do not want to see his victory stolen away,” says Calvert. On Vo’s behalf, Calvert is helping with a petition drive that aims to collect 10,000 signatures, and she is organizing a delegation of Vo supporters that will appear in his behalf at the Legislature’s inauguration day, Jan. 11.

According to sources close to Vo, the newly-elected rep is spending his days with the people who elected him, listening again before he begins working in Austin.

“He has an apartment in Austin, but he has his hands full back in the district,” reports our source. “His schedule is as tight as it was in the campaign.” On Tuesday Vo attended a holiday party with the Alief Super Neighborhood Council, a civic group that he belonged to before he decided to run.

“Oh, yes, I have seen him several times this month at different functions,” says 80-20 communications chair Steven Pei. “He’s doing his homework.”

"It's also important to stress that Hubert has grassroots support from other communities as well," says Pei. "Hubert has support among Africans, African Americans, Hispanics, and Anglos."

“We felt that Hubert represented the community best,” says Calvert as she explains an endorsement process which requires a two-thirds majority from 80-20 participants. “He has been successful in his own life, and he was running a successful campaign. We took those to be good indications that he would also be a successful voice for us in the legislature.”

80-20, explains Calvert, gets its name from a concept that assumes any group of people will have 20 percent of its population loyal to one side of the political spectrum and another 20 percent loyal to the other side. The challenge then becomes one of moving the middle 60 percent to one side or the other to create an 80-20 bloc. In some races, 80-20 moves the middle toward Republicans, in other races, like Vo’s, the middle moves toward a Democrat.

In the legislature, Calvert and Pei want Vo’s help in passing a bill that would give definition and funding to a Southwest Chinatown area East of Vo’s district. You can see a colorful map of the area at, where else, chinatownmap.com (see link below).

“We want to promote the area as a major tourist attraction,” says Calvert. But the area needs work first, especially with lighting, police protection, and other infrastructure.

“Safety of the community is the number one issue that keeps coming up at our meetings,” says Pei. “People want more security in their neighborhoods.”

Meanwhile a source close to the Vo camp says that the election challenge is “just chugging along” as the parties inspect about 200 names of voters that Republicans allege cast illegal ballots.

“We have to see if their ballots were actually illegal and who they voted for,” reports the source.

But it seems that a larger wisdom should prevail when the challenge hits the chambers of the legislature. Does Texas want to understand and develop the issues that work best for immigrants like Vo, create a Southwest Chinatown, and extend Highway Six as a global highway that runs both ways? I don’t see why not.

Why not go for Vo? It’s a simple thing to say, and a smart thing to do for Texas.

NOTE: 80-20 President Rogene Gee Calvert can be reached by cell phone at 832-723-4508.

See the map of Southwest Chinatown at:
http://www.chinatownmap.com/houstonswchinatownmap.htm

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