by Del. Kathy Tran
My family and I fled Vietnam as refugees when I was just seven months old. At the refugee camp, the French, British, Australians, and Canadians offered us asylum early and often. But my parents said no. They were going to wait for the United States – for them, this country represented hope, opportunity, and freedom. Today, those values are under threat.
My youngest daughter, Elise, recently turned two years old. When she was just one month old, I decided to run for office. In the wake of the 2016 election, my husband Matt and I named our new baby Elise Minh Khanh. “Elise” is inspired by Ellis Island, a beacon of hope for generations that Matt’s family passed through as they escaped anti-Semitism. And “Minh Khanh” is Vietnamese for “bright bell,” inspired by the Liberty Bell. To us, her name means “to ring the bells of liberty and champion opportunity for all.”
I ran for the legislature in 2017 to show my four young children that when your values are under threat, you have to take action to defend them. It’s an honor to represent the 42nd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. During my first term in office, we expanded Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians, advanced redistricting reform, and increased teacher pay. This last session alone, I passed bills to fight climate change, improve access to oral healthcare, and create a more welcoming Virginia.
I’m running for re-election because, while we made great progress in my first term, the fight is far from over. We’re all excited about electing a Democratic President in 2020. But before that happens, we have elections in Virginia this year that will decide control of both chambers of the legislature.
There’s a lot on the line this November in Virginia as we fight to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, pass common-sense gun safety policies, raise the minimum wage, and so much more. It won’t be easy – the anti-choice lobby is already attacking me because last session I proposed legislation to remove restrictions on women’s health care that are medically unnecessary and politically motivated.
Since then, my legislation has been distorted by the radical right. My family has been threatened. And Republicans are already organizing against me.
I’m not backing down, but I need this community’s help.
While I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish during my first term, there’s still much more to do. I want to show my children that the fight for justice is not won overnight. It requires heart and hard work, even when it’s not easy to stay the course.