By Kathy Aoki, Co-Chair of AABA Newsletter Committee
June 21, 2016
Victor Hwang remains cool, calm and collected after his victory in the June 7, 2016 election to become a San Francisco Superior Court Judge.
“I was very relieved initially,” said Hwang. “Although we had worked hard and I felt confident that we would finish strong, as a first-time candidate I had no idea whether or not we would survive the night. Over the course of the week, as our percentage has continued to climb with late voters and provisional ballots, the fact that we almost took 50% has caused some second-guessing as to whether we could have done something differently to win in June.”
Hwang, who currently works as a deputy director at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO), received more than 19,000 votes to his closest competitor Paul Henderson.
Was Hwang surprised about the outcome?
“My consultants had predicted we would finish in the high 40s so I think I was emotionally surprised but not intellectually surprised,” he said.
What are Hwang’s plans as he moves forward to the election in November?
“In the next few weeks we’ll be looking at voting turnout and patterns to see where we need to improve our outreach,” said Hwang. “In July and August, I will be continuing to attend house parties where folks gather up a couple of friends to hear my message and consider donating to my campaign. Beginning in August/September, we’ll crank up our field campaign again where we’ll go door to door to talk to voters and also pass out literature at transit stops. “
Hwang has experience in civil and criminal law including working as a civil rights attorney and is well-known beyond the Asian American communities. He has been involved in many community organizations and is a former president of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA).
What has been the toughest part for Hwang of being a judicial candidate and going through the election process so far?
“Asking friends and community members to donate their time and money is the toughest part of the race,” he said. “Not having run for office before, I had no idea how costly it would be to get our message out. We’ve spent nearly all of the money we’ve raised so far and now we have to start fresh. I’m hoping folks will think about making a donation to the campaign.”
“You have to be thick-skinned and you have to be willing to put yourself out there at all times,” explained Hwang, when he described what characteristics someone needs to have when deciding to pursue a political venture. “While in the heat of the campaign, I come into contact with 300-400 folks a day and most don’t have the time or interest to hear even a 10-second pitch- so there’s a lot of rejection involved. After my first month of campaigning, I realized that it does take a lot of discipline and sacrifice to run for office and I donated to a friend’s campaign. Even a small donation means a lot- it means someone else believes in your message and is willing to put something on the line. I also take handouts now from all sorts of folks from religious people to the ladies in Chinatown passing out takeout menus. Having one person take an interest in your work keeps you smiling through the next 7 rejections where they can’t even look you in the eye.”
Hwang has learned that running a political campaign “takes a lot of sacrifice” and “it’s not an easy thing to do or to ask your friends to join.” The political process has not only tested Hwang and his relationships but has also made him stronger as his quest to become a superior court judge continues.
What are the most important things Hwang would like to contribute to our society if he is elected to become a superior court judge?
“Within the courts, I hope to be a voice for accessibility for those who have been historically disenfranchised and excluded from our system. As a member of society, I hope to build a closer bond and understanding between our courts and our community so that I can increase transparency, trust, and faith in our system of justice. And of course, I hope to be invited every year to swear in AABA’s new board of directors,” said Hwang.