Ling Ling Chang announces bid for state Senate in 2016

Ling Ling Chang

Asm. Ling Ling Chang

Assemblywoman Ling-Ling Chang, R-Diamond Bar, has announced her campaign to replace termed-out State Senator Bob Huff.

Chang’s campaign for the 29th State Senate district sets up a showdown with former Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang for a seat that Democrats see as an opportunity to reclaim their supermajority in the upper house. Her campaign came at the urging of the Senate Republican Caucus, which sees the former mayor of Diamond Bar as the strongest candidate to replace the termed-out Senate Republican leader.

On Friday morning, the Republican Assemblywoman, who has been on the job for less than six months, announced her campaign with endorsements from Huff, Rep. Ed Royce and Asm. Young Kim. With a united front behind a top-tier candidate, Republicans hope to take the 29th Senate seat off the table in 2016.

Chang: Self-Described Tech Geek

In just her first term in the State Assembly, Chang has quickly risen to the top of the freshman class. A powerhouse fundraiser, Chang raised more than $632,000 for her 2014 Assembly campaign.

That fundraising prowess helped her land a spot on Asm. GOP leader Kristin Olsen’s leadership team as Republican Whip. In addition to serving as Vice Chair of the powerful Assembly Rules Committee, Chang holds key spots on the Appropriations Committee, Business & Professions Committee and the Privacy & Consumer Protection Committee.

Senator_Bob_Huff

Senator Bob Huff

Her current district includes substantial portions of the 29th Senate district. Prior to representing the 55th Assembly District, she served on the Diamond Bar City Council and Walnut Valley Water District Board of Directors.

“My mom didn’t understand why a young girl would be so obsessed with computers, so she would try and prohibit me from going online. I found my way around it until my mom started removing the keyboard,” Chang told the Sacramento Bee earlier this year. “Now she completely regrets it. Technology, to me, it’s like second nature. I can actually work something without having to read the user manual.”

The self-described “tech geek” has endeared herself to her colleagues by being a team player. In advance of the 2014 general election, she contributed more than $60,000 to party committees and legislative targets, including colleagues Kim, David Hadley, Tom Lackey, Marc Steinorth, Catharine Baker and Eric Linder. However, she’s also stumbled in her first few months in the state legislature, backing a plan to bring back redevelopment that is strongly criticized by property rights advocates.

Shaw expected to withdraw from the race

Chang’s candidacy changes the dynamics of the race and likely brings to an end the short-lived candidacy of fellow Republican Tim Shaw, who currently works as an aide to Huff. A La Habra City Councilman, Shaw has struggled to raise money since announcing his campaign in February. He had yet to file a campaign finance report, according to the state’s financial disclosure database.

Sukhee KangAs a result of Shaw’s perceived weaknesses, Democrats recruited former Irvine mayor Sukhee Kang to run for the seat. During his final term as mayor of Irvine, Kang won praise from liberal Democrats for his plan to ban single-use plastic bags. That’s helped him secure early backing from prominent statewide Democrats, including Senate Pr­­esident Pro Tem Kevin de León and former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

Kang’s candidacy has its own baggage. Namely, he only recently packed his bags and moved into the district. He’s also weighed down by the ongoing audit of the Orange County Great Park. According to OC Weekly, while on the Irvine city council, in an alliance with former councilman Larry Agran and councilwoman Beth Krom, “Sukhee Kang diverted more than $174,000 per month in park funds to three political operatives — George Urch, Chris Townsend and Arnold Forde — allegedly performing ‘public relations’ for a government park that still hasn’t been built — and then shrugged their collective shoulders about why there was no money left for the noble endeavor.”

In 2012, Kang unsuccessfully challenged Rep. John Campbell for the 45th Congressional District. A first-generation Korean immigrant, Kang hoped to appeal to the district’s more than 89,000 Asian American voters in a uphill race against Shaw, a white Republican.

As the first Taiwanese-born woman to serve in the state Assembly, Chang undercuts the Democrat’s campaign strategy. According to voter registration statistics from Political Data, Inc., there are approximately 10,000 more registered voters with Chinese surnames than Korean surnames. Voters in the 29th Senate district have requested nearly twice as many Chinese language ballots than Korean ballots.

Kang’s campaign adviser Garry South seemed unfazed by Chang’s announcement. “See ya in a presidential year!” he said, welcoming the news.

Republicans hold a 3.5 percent edge in voter registration, with 37.3 percent of all registered voters in the district, according to AroundtheCapitol.com. The district’s high overall registration rate makes it difficult for Democrats to invest in a registration program to close that gap. The GOP has 15,000 more voters than Democrats. Orange County makes up more than 70 percent of the 29th State Senate district, which also includes portions of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. In 2012, Huff retained the seat with 55.1 percent of the vote, after spending minimal funds on his reelection campaign.

Under the state’s revised term limits law, Chang is eligible to serve two terms in the State Senate as well as one additional term in the State Assembly.

2 comments

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  1. Garry South
    Garry South 29 May, 2015, 15:13

    Chang a “powerhouse fundraiser”? Sukhee Kang raised more than she did for her ’14 Assembly race (at $4,100 limits, all soft dollars) when he ran in the Campbell seat in ’12, raising under $2,500 limits, all hard federal money, against an incumbent in a seat with only 29% Democratic registration. Plus, she loaned her campaign $100K, which she hasn’t paid back.

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  2. Constituent
    Constituent 29 May, 2015, 16:34

    How disrespectful to not include a picture of one of the candidates. It shows me how unbiased, disrespectful, and inconsiderate the writter is.

    Reply this comment

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John Hrabe

John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about California politics for CalWatchdog.com and CalNewsroom.com.

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