Connection Newspapers: A Tale of Two Immigrants

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

By Michael Lee Pope

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. 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.”

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.”

If elected, she says, she would vote against hospital construction standards for abortion clinics and for closing the gun show loophole as well as allowing local governments the ability to remove Confederate statues. If elected, she would introduce legislation that would encourage recycling of coal ash, the byproduct of coal-fired power production. She says she would also introduce legislation strengthening career and technical education programs by creating stronger partnerships with employers who would provide input into the curriculum.

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.”