In 2018, when a new seat on the Fremont City Council was opening up, Robert Keng immediately thought of his wife, Teresa. Although she had never served as an elected official before, he felt she would be “perfect for the job.”
He’d seen her in action at their church, serving people from within many different roles over the years. He’d also watched her diligently serving customers at Milk and Honey Cafe, the Taiwanese restaurant that the couple has owned in Fremont since 2016.
Although a total outsider when it came to politics, Teresa Keng sparked to her husband’s idea. So she took the initiative and launched a run for a Council seat in ‘18.
“The first election I ran, I got 18 percent over the second-place person,” said Keng in an interview with The Beat.
After serving her first term, Keng was re-elected to the seven-seat Fremont City Council in 2020.
Now she is running for State Assembly District 24. Her name is on the ballot for the upcoming primaries, happening on June 7. And she’s the sole woman striving for the Assembly seat.
In the past couple years, Keng has seen her community drastically altered by the pandemic, which has only further strengthened her resolve to serve.
In the meantime, as a local business owner and a mom to two kids on the autism spectrum, Keng has also seen her fair share of personal struggles. After things shut down in 2020, it was a challenge to navigate distance learning with her kids, while also doing what she could to keep their restaurant business alive and strong.
Along with that, about six months after the pandemic started, Keng’s husband had a stroke.
“While he was in the hospital, I was putting the kids in the car and going out to do deliveries for the business,” said Keng, recalling the chaotic period in their lives.
One of the big reasons that Keng decided to run for Assembly was to advocate for the best resources for children, given that they’re facing a future with a high cost of living.
“I feel our government is lacking…especially for people who don’t speak the language,” said Keng. “In Fremont, over half the residents are born outside the country. We have many first generation immigrants that don’t feel like their voices are being heard. They don’t have the access they need because of language or culture.”
Keng feels that government should do more to ensure that citizens are being served.
“We really need to change our mentality,” said Keng. “When people need to access a service, they need to be treated well. They shouldn’t have to jump through hoops.”
Should she be elected to the Assembly seat, Keng’s focus will be on good-paying job creation, enhancing the quality of public schools, ensuring community safety, and expanding housing solutions and mental health care to tackle homelessness.
While running her business and campaigning for the Assembly seat, Keng is also undergoing a doctorate program for Education Leadership at San Jose State University. She felt compelled to enroll because she wanted to more deeply understand the urgent needs of schools and how best to implement solutions.
Keng is running against Alex Lee (current District 25 Assemblyman), Kansen Chu (District 25 Assemblyman from 2014-2020), Lan Diep (San Jose Councilmember), and Bob Brunton (business owner). The newly re-districted Assembly District 24 is made up of Milpitas, Newark, Fremont and parts of San Jose.
“Asian-American women are the least represented group in California,” Keng said.
Given her work as a business owner, her service as a Councilmember, and her dedication as a mom to two special needs kids, she feels she can step up and be the advocate that District 24’s residents so need.
“We need a voice,” said Keng, “who can represent all the needs in our community.”
To learn more about Teresa Keng, go here.