Jay Chen, a Democratic challenger for Congress, is calling out incumbent and rival Ed Royce’s campaign for negative ads that Chen says has prompted anti-Asian emails and threatening phone calls in recent weeks.
With the race nearing conclusion Tuesday, the campaign for the Congressional seat in the newly formed 39th district, which includes Diamond Bar and Walnut, has heated up.
Chen held a press conference Friday to discuss the emails and calls. The businessman and Hacienda-La Puente Unified school board member said that racist attacks aimed at his campaign have increased since U.S. Rep. Royce, R-Fullerton “began running negative and false ads claiming that Chen’s financial support came from Communist China, and that Chen ‘could not be trusted.’”
“There is no place in Congress or in our community for a representative who campaigns by instigating racism and hate," Chen said in a news release. “The way Royce seeks to win votes by stirring fears of China speak to his true views about the diverse district he seeks to represent.”
One of the mailers Chen appears to be referencing is one in which Royce’s campaign states that $750,000 has been spent on anti-Royce ads and mailers by a Super PAC called America Shining. The political action committee is funded entirely by Shaw Chen, Jay Chen’s brother, according to opensecrets.org. Shaw Chen’s place of residence is listed as Hacienda Heights on the website.
The Daily Bulletin recently reported that Shaw Chen lives in Hong Kong. Jay Chen told the newspaper when a movie trailer-like ad depicting Royce as a monster first came out that he did not know about America Shining, which funded the ad, and had no coordination with the group.
Chen, who is Taiwanese American, said after Royce sent out the mailers about his funding coming from China, his campaign received hate-filled voicemails from Royce supporters laced with expletives, threats about physically attacking Chen, and racial slurs for Asians.
The candidate’s Fullerton office also was vandalized last month and signs have been posted around the district asking if Chen is a “closet Commie” and urging residents to “vote for the American.”
"We have to understand that there's still this kind of mentality out there,” Chen said. “That should motivate more people to come out and vote and get involved in the political process.”
Dave Gilliard, a political consultant and spokesman for the Royce campaign, said he doubts Chen’s claims about the voicemails and threats.
“The whole thing is bogus, “ Gilliard said in a statement. “Chen is just trying to draw attention to his failing campaign. We condemn any racist comments, if in fact they really happened, but considering the underhanded tactics of the Chen campaign and the outright deception involved with the Super PAC America Shining, I would not be surprised to learn that these were self-generated incidents.”
Chen’s campaign said that Gilliard has received scrutiny previously for his involvement in a 1988 campaign where private security guards were hired to intimidate voters in predominately Latino precincts.
Chen said his opponent Royce has spoken publicly against multiculturalism and is a proponent of English-only laws, the kind of divisiveness that a district that is about 29 percent Latino and 30 percent Asian, doesn’t need.
Gilliard said in April that Royce is not against multiculturalism in the U.S. and touted the congressman’s track record of working with ethnic communities.
"He's been very involved with the Vietnamese community, he's been very involved with the Korean community, he's been very involved in the Indian-American community," Gilliard said. "And we don't give up one inch of ground to Jay Chen on any of those. It's sad and telling that he's trying to run a racial campaign here."