Saturday, October 20, 2018
  • share this
Emil Amok!

In Virginia Beach, a Filipino loss on Election Day

/ 01:19 AM November 10, 2017

Virginia House of Delegates four-termer Ron Villanueva lost to Filipino-Am Democrat Kelly Fowler. WIKIPEDIA

While the nation in general heralded what I call the “Trumpudiation” of hateful divisive politics, there was one race that all Filipinos should note.

It was downstate in Virginia, not the top race for governor, which was won by a Democratic.


No, this was the race in Navy and Filipino American stronghold Virginia Beach, a state delegate race between incumbent Ron Villanueva and Kelly Convirs-Fowler.

Villanueva is a Republican, as are many Filipinos in that area.  Convirs-Fowler said she’s part Filipino and is a Democrat.


“She claims to be 1/4 Filipino,” a friend who lives in the area told me. “But no one knows her or her family.”

The person I talked to was a Democrat, who this week was happy to vote for the Republican Filipino.

While race has been used by politician Trump to divide the electorate and fill the rhetoric with hate, race can also be used as a unifying factor.

In other words, race does have the power to trump Trumpy politics.

When one sees a Filipino face, there is a tendency to vote for the person who looks like you. You like them. You trust them. They get your vote. Especially if you find people who actually are brave enough to stand up, speak out and run for office.

“Ron is Filipino,” said my friend in Virginia Beach. “Despite being a Republican, he has always been involved in our Filipino American community. He has always put our community first before politics. Fowler, on the other hand, has never been involved in our community. She has done nothing and announced her ‘Filipino-ness’ a few months ago to push her agenda. Will give her the benefit of the doubt, but for now, we lost a great political asset in Ron.”

You can’t always assume an Asian American or a Filipino American is a Democrat, or thinks like you.  In fact, most Asian American surveys point out how conservative Filipinos are.


And yet does being a Democrat or Republican even matter if race can get beyond ideology and build a sense of partisanship based on community and what it needs?

Democrat political novice Kelly Fowler defeated fellow Filipino-Am Ron Villanueva, a Republican. VOTESMART

That was good enough for some Democrats I know in the minority in Virginia Beach to back Republican Villanueva.

But Villanueva had some problems in this campaign with stories tying him to a corrupt defense contractor. And then there was the overall Trumpudiation he had to overcome. The Democratic wave that emerged on Tuesday just seemed like it was going to wipe out most Republicans.

It did.

It’s left my friend wondering where this all leaves the Filipinos of all political stripes in Virginia.

Mostly without a go-to person. And without a real direction.

“Race does trump politics,” my friend insisted. “Politicians here feel our community is very powerful and can sway a candidate’s outcome. Since Ron lost, the illusion of the Filipino vote is now lost, i.e., the Filipino community is not as powerful politically as politicians thought.”

Don’t get me wrong. I feel the Trumpudiation, in general, is ultimately a good thing for Asian America and Filipino Americans.

But it must be noted that not everyone in Virginia is cheering. There was at least one Filipino American casualty—Ron Villanueva.

“Ron has served our community, our city and our state as a Filipino American for nine years,” said my friend, who admitted he often disagreed with Villanueva, but then they could always find common ground.  “He would say, ‘What do you call the only other Filipino you see at a Republican or Democrat gathering?”

He paused.


One more weekend of “Amok Monologues: NPR, Harvard and more” at the Charm City Fringe Festival in Baltimore. Get your tickets here.

And check out the podcast, Emil Amok’s Takeout available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2018 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.