- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2005

VIRGINIA BEACH — The $10 donation that arrived from New York in April admittedly was a minor boost to Supriya Christopher’s campaign for the General Assembly.

But the slip of paper tucked inside the envelope — reading simply “I’m so proud” — touched the Indian-American woman’s heart.

“I then realized how significant this was,” said Mrs. Christopher, 35, who would be the state’s lone Asian delegate if she wins the 84th House District seat in Virginia Beach.

Mrs. Christopher said she hopes to give a voice to Virginia’s burgeoning Asian community, while adding a different face to the overwhelmingly white, male General Assembly.

“You don’t walk into any neighborhood and see all white people,” she said. “When you walk into the General Assembly, you should also have representation of what you see in everyday life.”

First, the Rochester, N.Y., native must get past Republican Salvatore Iaquinto. Both hope to succeed Delegate Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican who is running for state attorney general.

With a four-year tenure as legislative director to the departing delegate, Mr. Iaquinto is a favorite to win.

Mrs. Christopher is making her first foray into politics. A former broadcaster with a radio version of USA Today and an ABC affiliate in Mississippi, she credits her parents with inspiring her civic aspirations.

She recalled when, at age 10, she and her sister dressed up for an occasion that her immigrant parents had fussed over for months — the day when both were sworn in as American citizens.

“That moment impacted me greatly because I realized what it meant to be the first-born American in my family,” Mrs. Christopher said.

She’d settled into a position as a communications coordinator with the city in 2001 when she first grew interested in holding office.

“I started to realize that I really loved the city of Virginia Beach,” she said.

Her campaign issues are typical for candidates in the region — relieving traffic congestion by building a third Hampton Roads crossing, fully funding schools and expanding rail service.

But she also wants to represent Virginia’s roughly 360,000 residents of Asian descent.

“We are contributing so much,” she said. “It’s about time we have a voice in creating public policy.”

It’s a message the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia has been pushing for the past four years, president Eric Liang Jensen said.

In February, the coalition held its first legislative day, hobnobbing with state officials while sharing community concerns.

The next step is getting more Asians such as Mrs. Christopher to run for office, he said.

“We would be happy, of course, to see her election because right now there is no political representation,” Mr. Jensen said. “The more [Asians] see their own leadership participating in the political system, the more they will pay attention to what’s happening in terms of state policy.”

Mr. Iaquinto, a second-generation Italian-American, said he, too, would reach out to Asians and other ethnic groups in the district.

“Right now, we’re working to give benefits to the Filipino community for college tuitions, [and] I would definitely further that endeavor,” Mr. Iaquinto said. “I’m running on what I’m going to do for the community — I’m not running on my heritage.”


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