Kansen Chu didn’t run for California State Assembly last time around. In 2020, he shifted his attention to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors race, the better to avoid the commute to Sacramento and attend to a family concern.
“The reason I left Sacramento,” Chu said in an interview with The Beat, “was because of the health situation with my mom.”
“Now,” he added, “she’s no longer with us. She’s in a better place.”
The State Assembly is back on the table. Chu’s election team has hit the ground running, gearing up for the California Primary in early June. Two years ago, when he went for the Board of Supervisors, he was defeated by Otto Lee. And since he’d steered away from the Assembly, the seat he’d vacated (after holding it for six years) was filled by progressive newcomer Alex Lee.
But Chu’s now in it to win it, going after Assembly District 25, citing his “Life experience, work experience, government experience.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of walking,” he said. “I’m full-time, 24-hours campaigning. Talking to the voters.” His campaign does not have special interest support. “It’s a very, very grassroots campaign. I’ve received more than 3,000 donations from more than 3,000 different entities.” He’s got volunteers out walking, knocking on doors, phone banking, and doing other forms of voter outreach.
Chu fires off a list of problem areas currently faced by Californians: public safety, the environment, jobs, wildfires, education, homelessness.
“The public safety issue would be my number one priority,” he said. “It’s to the point where I cannot watch the news on the television, because the first 10-15 minutes is about senseless shootings and the loss of innocent lives.” He cited recent smash-and-grab robberies. He said, “A lot of people are in fear of going out to the shopping centers.”
He also explained, “I believe that mental health is a way to prevent a lot of these things happening in our society…I’ve been a strong advocate for mental health.”
Sometime back, Mental Health America recognized Chu for advocating for mental health services in every California school. His goal is to make such care more accessible, for both students and families alike. He envisions a California school system wherein academic counselors, nurses, and mental health specialists are all on hand, ready to serve.
But “funding is a challenge,” he said. “It’s always a challenge to be able to find the funding…It’s a matter of priority, so I will continue to be advocating for funding…Part of the money should go to mental health services.”
Mentioning COVID-19, he said, “Everybody got impacted in a different way.” Following school shutdowns, he’s seen more students in need of disciplinary actions. He feels kids’ social skills need to be addressed, an issue that’s a component of his larger mental health concern.
Meanwhile, Chu pointed out that our state’s wildfires are often traced to arson, making them a mental health issue of a different sort. But he explained that power lines across the state need to be buried underground so as to avoid the shutoffs which commonly create dangerous wildfire conditions: “It is a huge investment, but it’s important.” There’s also the greenhouse gasses emitted by the fires: “It’s really a disaster, on top of the personal lives and property damage.”
“We can definitely do it by sections. Those that are in the forest, the woods – they should go first. We should be constantly, continuously burying those lines.”
Chu runs not just on his plans, but on his experience and skill: “I definitely will bring my life experience as an immigrant who came to the country with only a few hundred dollars in his pocket. To be able to raise a family and to get to where I am today, that’s a lot of personal life experiences. And I’ve worked in the high-tech field. I’m trained as an engineer. So my analytical skills, I think are important. And I make decisions based on real data, and not based on emotion. And the fact that I’ve worked in corporate America, also brings me a unique perspective into the lives of people in the district…And then my government skills…”
Chu’s been a name in the region for most of this century. Initially, he served as a volunteer on the Santa Clara County Mental Health Board, then on the Berryessa Union School District School Board for 7 years starting in 2002, followed by 8 years on the San Jose City Council, then 6 years with the California State Assembly. He described himself as someone who can “Collaborate with people with different views, and also with different parties.”
Another strength of Chu’s? “Listening skills. I listen. And I try to understand people from different angles. And I make the decision based on what’s best in our community.”
When asked about his successor – and now opponent – Alex Lee, Chu cited Lee’s interest in establishing universal health care in California. He said, “I think it’s the wrong time and the wrong place to do it. Some socialist programs may be good, but it has to be implemented at a federal level, and not a state level.”
He suggested imagining if social security was only available in California. What would California be like? What would America be like?
“The state has a long list of problems that we need to solve. We should fix the DMV issue and fix the EDD issue before we take on single-payer healthcare.”
He named those 2 entities just as examples. During his time as a State Assemblymember, his office received thousands of calls from people complaining about the DMV and the EDD, especially after the initial COVID outbreak. Chu feels improved technology, better trained personnel, and enhanced logistical support would lead to better services.
“Vote for people,” he said, before heading back out on the campaign trail, “that have the experience and that can address the issues that we’re facing in our community, and not promoting some political ideology.”
He went back to highlighting Alex Lee and his “socialist” proposals, referring to them in plain words as the “Wrong level of government.”
The California Primary Election is on June 7.