One year after he became a U.S. citizen, Jingchao Xiong, an immigrant from China who doesn’t speak fluent English, has decided to run for political office in San Francisco.
It’s a long shot, and some people may find him eccentric, but he’s hoping to replace one of the most prominent politicians in the Bay Area: state Sen. Scott Wiener.
“This is not about courage,” Xiong told The Standard in Cantonese. “It’s my mission. And I am qualified.”
Xiong, a Chinatown resident and a delivery driver, has been active in community events and writing his Chinese-language blog to promote his candidacy. His politics do not necessarily focus on the current housing, drug or public safety issues in the city, as he believes in Chinese tradition and Confucian ideas like electing people with virtue and strong capability, valuing trustworthiness, cultivating harmony with one another and creating a new world with common values.
In China, Xiong, now 51, was a marketing salesman. He immigrated to San Francisco with sponsorship from his wife’s family. He was naturalized as an American citizen in September 2022 and voted for the first time in November.
According to an article in the Chinese media outlet Sing Tao Daily, Xiong was a robbery victim when he first immigrated to the U.S. in 2017, and the experience inspired him to run for office. He had been sending letters to elected officials about the “Great Unity (大同)”, an ancient Chinese utopian concept—but he didn’t hear back, which spurred him to campaign to be elected himself.
Xiong explained that the race for state senator is “less competitive” than the 2024 mayoral election because there are fewer competitors. Wiener—who was widely expected to launch a bid for Congress until Rep. Nancy Pelosi announced her reelection plans—hasn’t officially filed to run yet. First elected in 2016, Wiener is eligible for one more term in the California Legislature.
“The wonderful thing about a democracy is that truly anyone can run for office,” Wiener said in a statement to The Standard.
In 2016, Wiener was elected to the state Senate after a hard battle against former Supervisor Jane Kim and was reelected in 2020. He described the past seven years in the state Legislature as productive as he focused on housing, mental health, climate change, transit, LGBTQ+ rights and other issues.
“I’m looking forward to running for reelection in 2024”, he said. “I am excited about what’s to come.”
The deadline to file is in early December. Xiong, who has no party affiliation, will also have to contend with another contender: Republican Yvette Corkrean, who has filed to run, as well.
Although his life sounds like an example of the American dream, Xiong has experienced some personal and financial hardship. Xiong said that his wife has divorced him over his involvement in politics. He has also spent a lot on campaign materials, rendering him unable to pay rent for a month.
But Xiong is determined to pursue his political ambitions.
“This is my first step,” Xiong said. “After I become better known, I will run for Pelosi’s seat in two years.”
Han Li can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org