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The Asian caucus

Anita Kumar

Next year, for the first time, Virginia's General Assembly will boast a pair of Asian-American legislators. Both will serve in the House.

Korean-American Mark Keam was elected to represent Fairfax County and Filipino-American Ron Villanueva was elected to represent Virginia Beach.

The men of differing parties -- Keam is a Democrat, Villanueva is a Republican -- have known of each other for quite some time, but met for the first time last week during new legislator orientation in Richmond.

Will the two form an Asian-American caucus when the General Assembly returns for its annual session in January? Maybe.

Keam (who will replace Steve Shannon) and Villanueva (who will replace Bobby Mathieson if, of course, he wins a state-funded recount) sure are considering it.

"We definitely have common ground,'' Villanueva said in an interview.

Issues the caucus could address include: Immigration, obviously, but also minority business initiatives, diversity in state appointments and judicial posts and economic development.

"The sky is the limit,'' Villanueva said.

Villanueva says he expects they will form an Asian-American Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, and invite other legislators to join them. But Keam said he wants to be make sure that the group will be influential in policy first (and not just a caucus in name only) before he agrees.

"We're going to show we're diverse,'' Villanueva said. "It's exciting."

Most folks in political circles consider Keam and Villanueva the first Asian-Americans in the General Assembly. But others with sharp memories will remember that Del. Tom Bolvin (who lost to Mark Sickles) and delegate turned congressman Bobby Scott each have some Asian heritage.

By Anita Kumar  |  December 11, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Election 2009 , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates  
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