Connection Newspapers: A Tale of Two Immigrants

Candidates hoping to replace Dave Albo are both living the American Dream.

By Michael Lee Pope

BURKE, Va. — One is from Ecuador. The other is from Vietnam. Both are successful professional women hoping to fill the seat vacated by retiring Del. Dave Albo (R-42). But only one will prevail in November, creating one of the fiercest political contests on the ballot in Northern Virginia this year.

Republican Lolita Mancheno-Smoak is a proud supporter of President Donald Trump, a man she calls a "positive disruptor."

Democrat Kathy Tran has emerged as a leading voice of the opposition to a Republican White House, and her campaign is enjoying support from groups like People for the American Way and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.

“My opponent is a Tea Party activist who says that Trump is her ideal presidential candidate,” said Tran, shortly after appearing at a press conference with Steyer. “She wants to defund Planned Parenthood, and she hasn’t walked back any support of Trump.”

Mancheno-Smoak is against Medicaid expansion, and she wants to defund Planned Parenthood. But like Albo, some of her views are not necessarily orthodox Republican. For example, she says she would vote in favor of closing the gun show loophole. And she says she would vote in favor of allowing local governments the ability to remove Confederate statues. As for the allegation that she is a Tea Party activist, Mancheno-Smoak rejects that description. She acknowledges that she spoke at several Tea Party meetings, but she says she was asked to speak as a candidate when she was running for the Fairfax County School Board. As for her early support for Donald Trump, she stands by the controversial president who lost her district by 20 percent.

“Sometimes in order to generate change, in order to get new energy to actually feel passionate about a new beginning you need positive disruption,” said Mancheno-Smoak while campaigning for votes at the Burke farmer’s market. “I see Trump as a positive disruptor.”

THE 42ND HOUSE DISTRICT stretches from West Springfield south into Colchester into Fort Belvoir and Mason Neck. It includes the historic estates of both George Washington and George Mason. Although Republican Bob McDonnell beat Democrat Creigh Deeds in the district back in 2009, its recent history in statewide elections has been solidly blue. Last year, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in this district — 57 percent for the Democrat, 37 percent for the Republican. That puts this race at the top of the agenda for Democrats, who see the retirement of Albo as one of the best possibilities of the year.

“There’s no question that HD-42 is one of the Democrats’ top pick-up targets and therefore one of the main down-ballot races to watch this year,” said Geoff Skelley at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Without the popular Albo running for the GOP, the crossover support that he received in the past will surely be harder to come by for Mancheno-Smoak.”

TRAN, 39, is a native of Vietnam. She came to America as an infant, resettling in Southern California. She moved to West Springfield about three years ago, attracted to Northern Virginia by the public school system. She has a bachelor’s degree in history from Duke University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan. She was at the United States Department of Labor for 12 years, working in different leadership and management positions shaping national workforce policies. Then she went to work in immigration advocacy at the National Immigration Forum, working at the intersection of immigration policy and workforce development policy.

“I’m doing this for my kids,” said Tran. “I’m a mom of four, and I want to make sure that my kids have the best and brightest future and not just them but all the other children and families in my community, and that’s what this election is really all about.”

For Tran, the biggest priority would be expanding Medicaid to the 400,000 people who qualify but don’t currently have health insurance because of Republican opposition.

“For me, it’s a moral issue because I believe that everybody has a right to health care,” said Tran. “It’s also an economic issue because we’ve left more than $10 billion on the table, and so that’s our taxpayer dollars that we’re not utilizing.”

[Read more at Connection Newspapers]

Kathy Tran Defies Trump in New Mailer by Standing Up as Proud Refugee


SPRINGFIELD, Va. – While two federal appellate courts, including the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, deliberate on President Trump’s revised Muslim ban, Kathy Tran, Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, is sending a powerful message to voters: Trump’s discriminatory executive orders are un-American. 

The mailer leads with a 1979 photo of a seven-month-old Kathy Tran in the arms of her mother, Thu Tran, taken during processing at the Pulau Bidong refugee camp in Malaysia. Tran makes clear what this nation means to her and what is at stake if we close our doors to refugees, declaring, “When America welcomed my family, it literally saved my life.”

On the inside of the bifold, Tran details her family’s past. “As a refugee from Vietnam, Kathy Tran saw America at its best,” the piece begins. “Kathy Tran’s family left for America from Vietnam as ‘boat people’ in 1979. Kathy was just an infant during the trip, and grew so sick that her family feared she would actually die at sea. Fortunately, she recovered and her family literally lived the American Dream.”

The mailer continues by explaining how the United States welcoming Tran as a refugee has informed her entire life, including her run for the Virginia House of Delegates’ 42nd District, in the Fairfax County suburbs of Washington, D.C. “Kathy has helped other working families in search of opportunity build a better future,” the piece explains, citing her 12-year service at the U.S. Department of Labor, where she shaped national workforce development policies that helped millions of families achieve the American Dream. Tran went on to work at the National Immigration Forum, one of the nation’s leading immigration advocacy organizations, where she pushed for programs that prepare immigrants in the workforce to reach their full career potential.

Tran will continue her lifelong advocacy for working families in the Virginia House of Delegates by fighting for progressive values, like protecting women’s access to health care, investing in our public schools to ensure all of our children receive a world-class education, expanding access to quality, affordable health care, including by expanding Medicaid in Virginia, and resisting the Trump agenda at the state level. 

Voters in Virginia’s 42nd House District will receive the mailer this week. 


Kathy Tran and her family risked everything to come to the United States as refugees in search of the American Dream. A workforce development expert and career public servant, Kathy has devoted her entire career to fighting for working families, including at the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Immigration Forum. As a mom of four and president of her local PTA, she is deeply committed to investing in our schools to ensure all of our kids receive a world-class education. Kathy will never back down from fighting for our progressive values, like defending women’s access to health care, expanding Medicaid, advancing common-sense gun violence prevention measures, and protecting our environment.

Mother's Day

Today, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about my mom, Thu Tran.

In 1979, when she was just 26 years old, my mom made the decision to leave behind the only home she had ever known in Saigon. My parents refused to raise their new family under tyranny, so they risked it all to come to the United States.

Having studied American literature in Vietnam, my mom taught herself a completely new skillset so she could get a job as a computer operator making $5.15 an hour. She left our house at 5 AM every day to take the bus to work, took classes at the local community college in the evenings, and worked to earn her real estate license, all while raising my brother and me.

My mom’s generous spirit, tireless determination and sacrifice to make a better life for our family defined how I have always thought about motherhood, and taught me how to be a mom for Daven, Charlotte, Quinn, and Elise.

At the heart of it, that’s why I’m running. Like our neighbors I talk to every day knocking on doors, or like the parents I see at PTA meetings and our kids’ T-Ball games, or like so many of you who have stepped up in support of this campaign – before anything else, I’m a concerned mom who wants the best for her kids.

I’m worried about the direction our country is headed in and what it means for our children’s future. And I knew I couldn’t just sit back and watch that future be defined for them. I knew I had to be a part of fighting for it. As a mom, I wanted to set the same example for my kids that my mom set for me: fight for your family, fight for your values, and never give up.

I spent this morning with my family, and I hope you’re with the people you love today, too. Happy Mother’s Day, and thank you for being a part of this campaign.


Delegate Paul Krizek Endorses Kathy Tran

Mount Vernon, VA — Delegate Paul Krizek (D- Mount Vernon, Lee) endorsed Steve Jansen, Sara Townsend and Kathy Tran, in their primary campaigns to be the Democratic nominees for the Virginia House of Delegates today.

“I strongly believe these candidates give the Democratic Party the best opportunity for victory in the November General Election,” said Krizek. “Jansen, Townsend and Tran are laser-focused on policies that will bring high-quality jobs to their areas and grow Virginia’s economy.”

About Kathy Tran In HD42, next door to his district, Krizek said, Kathy Tran is knocking the doors, making the phone calls and putting in the work required to win in the Primary and General Election. As a policy expert in workforce development and the president of her PTA, she will fight to invest in our public schools, grow our economy, and be a strong progressive voice for a welcoming and inclusive Virginia.”

Click here to donate to Kathy Tran

Paul Krizek is the Democratic Delegate representing the 44th House District of Mount Vernon and Lee. He was elected in 2015 and serves on the Courts of Justice and Counties, Cities and Towns committees of the House of Delegates.

Read more at Blue Virginia

April 30th

April 30th is a painful day in our history as Vietnamese Americans. Like many Vietnamese, after the fall of Saigon my father was sent to a so-called “reeducation camp” where he was subjected to forced labor and attempted brainwashing for more than two years. When he was finally released, my parents were determined to not raise their family under such tyranny. They left behind family and dear friends, and risked our lives to escape Vietnam as boat refugees.

As you know, the journey was extremely perilous. We were pirated several times. I was not even seven months old and became gravely ill on the boat. My parents prepared to bury me at sea.

After days of floating on the water, our boat was able to reach a Malaysian refugee camp. As a dentist, my father worked for the hospital servicing the refugee community while my mother provided interpretation services for the consulate offices there – the French, the British, the Canadians, the Australians, and the Americans. Those other countries offered our family asylum early. But my parents refused. They waited for 13 months, longer than anyone else on our boat, for the United States to finish processing our application. To them, this country represented hope, opportunity, and freedom, and they were willing to risk everything to make sure they could come here.

My family has never forgotten that America stepped up to accept refugees at that time, and we have spent our lives working to give back to this country that has given us so much. It motivated me to be a public servant, my brother to serve in the United States Marine Corps, including two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and my father to offer dental services at no charge for his patients who couldn’t afford to pay.

On this day, my family takes the opportunity to reflect on our past and the tremendous loss we experienced in 1975 and the years following. We will always honor the Vietnamese servicemen and women of the Army Republic of Vietnam and the American men and women who served and sacrificed during the war. We also take the opportunity to renew our focus on how far we still have to go in our continuing fight to advance human rights in Vietnam. We must stand with the people of Vietnam and with the Vietnamese diaspora around the world in their continuing fight for freedom, hope and opportunity.

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Kathy Tran for Delegate Raised $43,000 in March, Began April with $40,000 Cash on Hand

SPRINGFIELD, Va. – Kathy Tran has reported raising over $43,000 in the first five weeks of her campaign for the Virginia House of Delegates’ 42nd district.  Tran’s campaign also reported starting April with over $40,000 cash on hand, more than any other candidate in the race.

Nearly 85% of the campaign’s March contributions were of $100 or less, and more than 67% of the campaign’s donors were women. The median contribution to the campaign was $50.

“Kathy’s strong first quarter fundraising numbers show that she is uniting both the long-time Democratic activists and the newly engaged progressive grassroots needed to win in the June primary and the Democrats’ best pickup opportunity this November,” said Tran Campaign Manager Noah Kim. “Grassroots donors and volunteers are stepping up, many for their first campaign, to support a refugee who will fight Trump in Richmond and to elect the first Asian American woman to Virginia state government. They recognize that Kathy’s commitment to progressive values like investing in our public schools, expanding access to affordable health care, and fighting to defend a welcoming and inclusive commonwealth is needed to replace the outgoing Republican incumbent and turn the 42nd district blue for the first time in nearly 40 years.”

Current Filing (1/1/17 through 3/31/17):

  • $43,233.79 Raised
  • $40,202.80 Cash on Hand


Kathy Tran Statement on Retirement of Delegate Dave Albo

SPRINGFIELD, Va. – Democratic candidate for the 42nd District of the Virginia House of Delegates Kathy Tran released the following statement upon Delegate Dave Albo’s announcement of his retirement:

“Delegate Dave Albo has spent the past 23 years representing our community in the Virginia House of Delegates. While I may disgree with his politics, Delegate Albo cares deeply about our community. I thank him for his service.

“This presents an exciting opportunity for the 42nd District to elect a new progressive voice with the commitment and experience to advance our community’s common values of hope and opportunity. If elected, I will fight to make sure that our public schools keep their world-class status, that our region is globally competitive and attracts good jobs, and that our community is welcoming and inclusive of everyone.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial: We just found the Most American Thing Ever. She’s not even one year old yet.

Our new favorite baby name is Elise Minh Khanh. It belongs to the daughter of Kathy Tran, who is running to unseat Republican Dave Albo in the House of Delegates. Tran explains that “Elise” refers to Ellis Island, where her husband’s Jewish ancestors arrived on these shores. “Minh Khanh” means “bright bell” and is a reference to the Liberty Bell. “Her name means to us, ‘Ring the bells of liberty and champion opportunity for all,’” Tran — the daughter of Vietnamese refugees — told The Huffington Post.

A child of Vietnamese-Jewish heritage named after Ellis Island and the Liberty Bell might be just about the most American thing we’ve ever heard of. Excuse us for a minute while we go wave the Stars and Stripes.

[Read at Richmond Times-Dispatch]

The Huffington Post: Donald Trump’s Election Could Be A Windfall For Virginia Democrats

The Huffington Post

By Daniel Marans

RICHMOND, Va. ― When Kathy Tran and her husband found out their fourth child was due on Inauguration Day, they were excited. Tran, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees and a workforce development specialist, assumed her preferred candidate, Democrat Hillary Clinton, would win.

“It was fantastic,” she recalled. “How apropos that our baby would be due on Inauguration Day!”

But after Donald Trump’s victory, the impending birth took on a different significance as the couple wondered whether a country of immigrants was turning its back on newcomers. They decided to name their daughter Elise Minh Khanh, a name heavy with symbolism. “Elise” was for “Ellis Island,” where Tran’s husband’s Jewish ancestors arrived in the United States. “Minh Khanh,” which means “bright bell” in Vietnamese, references the Liberty Bell.

“Her name means to us, ‘Ring the bells of liberty and champion opportunity for all,’” Tran explained.

But giving her baby a poetic name was not enough.

“I could not just give such an aspirational name to my baby and expect that she rise to the occasion and create that future for herself and her generation,” she said. “So I had to jump in myself.”

Tran, 38, decided to run for a Virginia House of Delegates seat representing the swath of northern Virginia suburbs where she lives. She is hoping to unseat Dave Albo, the 42nd district’s Republican incumbent. Voters in the district opted for Clinton by a 20-point margin, and she hopes that turning out those voters will be enough to dislodge Albo after nearly 24 years in office.

[Read more at The Huffington Post]