2014 : Stephanie Chang, 1st Asian American in Michigan’s Legislature

November 4, 2021 all-day

Stephanie Chang won the Democratic primary for 6th District Representative and is poised to become the first Asian-American woman in Michigan’s State Legislature. General elections will be held on November 4th, but in this heavily Democratic district, her win is presumed.

The second-generation Taiwanese American beat out six candidates, winning 49% of the vote in Detroit, in a district that is 87% African American.

“Our campaign was really focused on connecting with residents individually,” said Chang. “I personally knocked on all the primary voters’ doors twice! One resident joked with me that I had been over to his house more than his family members and another even jokingly referenced during her sermon at church that I had been by her house too many times!”

Chang was born and raised in Michigan to immigrant parents from Taiwan who worked in the auto industry. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she moved to Detroit to serve as an assistant to Asian-American civil rights icon Grace Lee Boggs. Over the next decade, she worked with a host of community organizations and progressive causes, taking on issues like affirmative action, voting rights, and immigrants’ rights.

While finishing up graduate degrees in public policy and social work at the University of Michigan, Chang was encouraged to run for office by friends and community leaders, including current state representative for District 6, Rashida Tlaib. Chang’s motivation, she says, was personal.

“My husband and I plan to start our family here in Detroit,” said Chang, “So I want to fight for a future that includes excellent education for every child, safe neighborhoods, a fair justice system, and a safety net to make sure everyone has a chance to thrive.”

[Chang became the first woman to give birth while serving as a Michigan State Senator.]

Her district, Chang says, has a legacy of diverse leadership from which she could draw lessons.

“We’ve had Hungarian American, Latina, Jewish, Palestinian state representatives in this seat,” said Chang. “One lesson is that residents really can see past difference. Ultimately people want someone who is going to work really hard for them, someone who shares their values, and someone they can trust.”

“I think that winning this election with 50 percent of the vote in a seven-way primary shows that people really just want someone who will get results regardless of race or background.”

Source: “Stephanie Changes Makes Political History in Michigan“, NBC News, August 14, 2014.