Capitol Alert

John Chiang to farm workers: ‘My sister worked on your issues’

California state Treasurer John Chiang addresses members of the United Farm Workers union in Bakersfield on May 21, 2016.
California state Treasurer John Chiang addresses members of the United Farm Workers union in Bakersfield on May 21, 2016. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

Four days after announcing his campaign for governor, state Treasurer John Chiang moved Saturday to court Latino farm workers in a contested region of the state, asserting a common immigrant experience and invoking the murder of his sister in 1999.

“We are similar in so many ways,” Chiang, the son of immigrants from Taiwan, told several hundred farm workers at a United Farm Workers union convention here.

He recalled discrimination against immigrants from China in the late 1800s, as well as the struggle of his father, who he said “had three shirts, two pairs of pants” when he came to the United States.

Chiang lamented the rising cost of housing and health care in California and told the farm workers, “I understand how hard your work is.”

Chiang did not mention his candidacy in the far-off gubernatorial contest. But his appearance comes as rivals, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, make forays into the Central Valley. Latino voters are an increasingly significant portion of the electorate in California, and the Central Valley and Inland Empire make up more than a quarter of the state’s likely voters.

In addition to Newsom and Chiang, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former state Controller Steve Westly are widely expected to run for governor in 2018, a wide-open contest to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown. Other potential Democratic candidates include billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Villaraigosa appeared at a UFW dinner on Thursday and Steyer was expected to address the convention Sunday.

In his remarks, Chiang recalled the murder of his sister Joyce, who was 28 and working as a lawyer in Washington, D.C. when she went missing. Her remains were later found on the banks of the Potomac River.

Chiang said of his sister, who worked for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, “My sister worked on your issues.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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