Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Even as the roomful of Asian-American community leaders feted his recent victory, Virginia’s new governor Bob McDonnell was sending his own congratulations to the first Asian-American in the Commonwealth’s House of Delegates, Filipino-American Ron Villanueva.

McDonnell is one of the rising stars in the Republican Party.

He was selected to deliver the GOP rebuttal to tonight's State of the Union address of President Obama.

The new governor was formerly Virginia Attorney General, and hails from the Virginia Beach region that has a large Fil-Am community.

Villanueva survived a recount after last November’s canvass showed a 14-vote lead against Democratic rival Bobby Mathieson in the race for the 21st district. That set the stage for a recount.

The recount showed Villanueva actually had a 16-vote lead.

“We’re thrilled that he won,” McDonnell enthused.

“I helped him in the recount, to make sure he had the funds he needed to compete and we’re ecstatic that Ron Villenueva, my old friend from my own home town of Virginia Beach, is the first Filipino American to be elected in the House of Delegates,” he declared.

Villanueva led a spirited campaign to push McDonnell’s candidacy in the large Fil-Am community of Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

A large chunk of the 60,000 Fil-Ams, mostly retired servicemen and US Navy personnel, live in the 21st district.

“Filipinos have been successful in other endeavors as professionals but they really have yet to make a big dent in the political arena. Ron Villanueva is the first and I’m hoping there will be more,” said lawyer Wari Azarcon, one of the founding members of the Filipino American Republicans of Virginia (FARV).

Ed Pabalan, FARV president, said Villanueva’s win was “very big”.

“He’s first the Filipino American to be elected as state delegate in the history of Virginia following the footsteps of Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. It’s very historical,” Pabalan stressed.

Virginia is about the size of Luzon, Bicol and Samar Island combined; has a population about one-tenth that of the Philippines; but produces about $70 billion more than the total Philippine Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008.

Next only to New York, Virginia has produced more US Presidents than any other state, including Thomas Jefferson.

Although government statistics show Asian-Americans comprise only about five percent of total population, they are the fastest growing group in some key districts of the Commonwealth.

“I think Asian Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican this time, particularly the Chinese, Korean, Indian and Filipino community but I don’t want to take anything for granted as I continue to talk about small business development,” he explained.

He noted that 70 percent of Virginia’s economy is composed of small, mom-and-pop type businesses.

President Obama won Virginia in 2008, the first Democratic presidential bet to carry the Commonwealth in over 40 years.

“I said during the campaign that I want the road to the resurgence of the Republican party to come through Virginia and New Jersey,” McDonnell told reporters.

The new governor predicted Republicans will fare well in the Fall midterm elections, where 37 governors, 34 senators and 435 congressmen are up for elections.

“I want to say thanks to all my friends in the Filipino American community with their tremendous help. They gave me so many great festivals with lumpia and pancit, and learning a lot of Filipino American traditions,” he said.

“He (Villanueva) will serve well. He’ll do a great job representing Virginia Beach,” he predicted.

“He will have to show the citizenry in Virginia that Filipinos can deliver, that the hopes and aspirations of Filipino Americans are no different from the hopes and aspirations of the rest of the populace,” Azarcon averred.

“If he is successful, and I have no doubt that he will be, that would demonstrate to the rest of Virginia and the rest of the country that Filipinos deserve a big place in the American politics,” Azarcon declared.

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