Capitol Alert

Get to Know a Freshman: David Chiu

Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, at Old Skool Cafe in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood in May of 2014.
Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, at Old Skool Cafe in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood in May of 2014. Courtesy of Assemblyman David Chiu’s office

David Chiu’s native city and the city he now represents overlap plenty: constantly mutating weather, three World Series championships in the last decade, reliably liberal politics.

Long before he moved to San Francisco and rose to become its latest Assembly member, Chiu was a child of Boston. And before he worked as an attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights as the organization helped dismantle Proposition 187, the racially charged ballot initiative that galvanized California’s Latinos, Chiu had discovered his calling while studying the civil rights movement in college.

“I got super inspired,” Chiu said. “When I was growing up in Boston, race relations were interesting and challenging and I observed a lot.”

That revelation led him to law school and the San Francisco district attorney’s office. Chiu said he was guided by his experience as a son of immigrants who grew up amid the racial unrest roiling Boston. That included race riots in some of the working class neighborhoods near where he attended high school.

“The politics of Boston and new England were very much, if not Irish versus Italians, white and African-American folks trying to figure out next steps,” Chiu said, noting that he attended school in Dorchester, “a neighborhood of working class, mostly Irish and Italian kids, and African-Americans, who lived side by side and frankly didn’t always get along.”

Chiu’s time pursuing justice for the district attorney’s office gave way to the quintessential San Francisco experience of running a technology company, in his case a firm that built software tools to help environmental groups, labor unions and others organize. He emerged last year as the formidable San Francisco tech industry’s preferred Assembly candidate. But there are still a few ways in which he continues to adapt to California.

“As someone who grew up in Boston, part of what I loved about California is I saw the guys on their surfboards and I was someone who had never snowboarded before,” Chiu said, “so I am someone who enjoys, in my very very sparse free time, trying to get on a board of some sort.”

VIDEO: Watch Chiu talk more about his New England roots

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.