OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) — At 37, Sheng Thao is not only the youngest mayor in Oakland’s history, but also the first Hmong to be elected mayor of a major US city. Thao’s victory symbolizes long-awaited visibility for a sometimes overlooked community.
During the lunch rush at the Lao Champa Garden restaurant in Oakland, there is a sense of pride after Thao’s victory.
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Adam Saechao, one of the restaurant’s managers, says “as you grow up, you don’t tend to see a lot of Asian representation in the media and so on.”
Thao is the daughter of refugees from Laos and often talks about her past as a survivor of domestic violence and a single mother. In 2018, she became the first Hmong to be elected to the California City Council.
“It’s exciting to see what’s happening. Maybe if young kids have someone to look up to and inspire, it could help them build more,” Saechao said.
Thao’s victory comes after an extended vote count, due to the rank-choice vote. Another council member, Loren Taylor, led the race until last weekend and conceded his candidacy for mayor on Tuesday morning. Thao’s victory ended with less than 700 votes.
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At the city’s 31st annual Thanksgiving dinner, which fed more than 3,000 community members, ABC7 News caught up with Councilman Treva Reid. She ran for mayor of her own, forming a coalition of choice with Taylor and placing fifth.
“We can really come together and unite as leaders to have the spirit of collaboration between the mayor’s office and the city council, in the community and we will dig deeper into the community,” said Reid, who spent the morning packing meals. at the Marriott along Broadway.
Oakland is a community looking for answers as the city grapples with a variety of issues.
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Saechao is concerned about attacks against the AAPI community.
“I have grandparents and I don’t want anything to happen to them. Maybe she’ll see things from a different point of view, think of something different to the table,” Saechao said.
Thao plans to hold his first press conference on Wednesday.
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