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Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)

Electoral Ambivalence Dept.
By ADAM REILLY  |  July 10, 2009

When you're running against a politician as entrenched, powerful, and seemingly unbeatable as Boston Mayor Tom Menino, it's hard to get your supporters to proudly tout their allegiance. But Sam Yoon has done it. Stroll down Dorchester Avenue — the main drag in Boston's biggest neighborhood, and the heart of the city's Vietnamese-American community — and SAM YOON FOR MAYOR signs are everywhere: Lucky Cafe, Lan Beauty Salon, Nails Bay Supply . . . the list goes on. Clearly, this is Yoon Country.

Or is it? The problem, for those inclined to read the political tea leaves, is that the sundry businesses that seem to be in Yoon's corner also appear to be backing Menino. Take King Do, home of perhaps the best banh mi in Boston: the restaurant has one Yoon sign, but five(!) green-and-white MAYOR MENINO signs. And — just to make things even more confusing — the dueling Yoon-Menino placards have recently been joined by two more signs, in transliterated Vietnamese, touting the mayoral candidacy of Michael Flaherty, Yoon's fellow at-large Boston city councilor.

So what gives? Can Yoon — who's Korean-American, grew up in Pennsylvania, and used to live in Arlington — count on a measure of pan-Asian solidarity when city voters winnow the mayoral field down to two candidates this September? Or does Dot Ave's streetscape suggest that — Yoon's national-fundraising success with Asian-Americans notwithstanding — Boston's Asians see him as just another candidate?

Jim Spencer, Yoon's chief strategist, prefers the former perspective. "Sam's going to get great support, obviously, in the Asian community," Spencer tells the Phoenix. "As far as the signs go, Sam went down to Dorchester Ave with the head of the Vietnamese Business Association and got those signs up. And as soon as he did, Menino's Vietnamese liaison" — Diane Huynh — "called up every one of those businesses and basically threatened them."

Not true, insists Menino campaign director Emily Nowlin. "Ms. Huynh is a wonderful person who has worked tirelessly on behalf of her community, and she is a recognized leader within the Vietnamese community," Nowlin says via e-mail. "To portray her as anything but an enthusiastic supporter is a ridiculous and meritless charge." (Spencer's claim of intimidation, Nowlin adds, is "divisive and unsubstantiated.")

Over in Chinatown, meanwhile, the portents for Yoon are less ambiguous than flat-out grim. In that community — Boston's oldest Asian-American enclave — allegiance to Menino is, if not ubiquitous, fairly visible (e.g., Trans-Pacific Travel, Peach Farm Seafood, Great Taste Bakery and Restaurant). But even though Yoon worked at Chinatown's Asian Community Development Corporation before becoming a city councilor, your correspondent couldn't find a single Yoon-for-mayor sign during a recent stroll.

The good news for Yoon — such as it is — is that, if he really wants to regain the campaign-sign lead on Dot Ave, he can probably pull it off. "We're for everyone who wants to put a sign up," a young stylist at the T&T Hair Salon told me, mid-cut, earlier this week. "Just go ahead and do it!"

Related: Can Sam Yoon win?, He's number three, Fixing Boston Schools, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Politics, Local Politics, Tom Menino,  More more >
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Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
 "Unsubstantiated" - yeah, many in Dorchester and other neighborhoods - Asian population or not - don't feel like they can be active supporters of  Menino's opponents.  The fact that this happens (we all know it does) is what is divisive.   Chinatown's very old school so it's no wonder Menino has them roped in to putting up his signs.   Yoon knows he's got the support of his community.  In the end, if he'll be happy for votes without signs.  That's all that counts.
By tumble4ya on 07/08/2009 at 2:39:58
Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
Yes go Yoon!
By bostongal86 on 07/08/2009 at 2:43:24
Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
I have seen a number of places that used to have one Yoon sign suddenly have three or four Menino signs. It's pretty obvious some muscle was put into that. I've also noticed a number of Sam and Flaherty's signs coming down- and Menino signs put up in place. Maybe our thin-skinned mayor really can't stand competition. It's obvious he's not a fan of debates, competition, or criticism. Now he can't even stand elections. Sam is a really nice guy, I can't imagine him strong-arming support, from any community. Menino on the other hand, is notorious for forcing support- even forcing volunteers. Time to go Tommy boy. In with Yoon!
By bostongal86 on 07/08/2009 at 2:47:40
Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
Don't forget that signs don't vote. Sam has had powerful support from the Asian community in the past. T&T Hair Salon might not have a problem putting up a sign for Menino alongside one for Sam, but their real support will become evident on election day.
By studentsttest on 07/08/2009 at 2:48:37
Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
Again with the "sign wars?!" I sincerely hope that people are smart enough to distinguish signs from support. Most of the shops in my neighborhood have upwards of 10 different signs in their windows - half of the shop owners probably don't even know who some of the candidates are. Let's put this tired horse to bed and start focusing on why these candidates really deserve our support.
By ff2005 on 07/08/2009 at 2:52:49
Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
Great article! I'm glad The Phoenix can use their highly qualified and cutting edge journalists to count signs in windows. This is clearly the most acurate method of determining the opinion of Boston's asian community. As a voter I know a sign in a window is more important than votes! Plus, since the election is sooooo far away there is plenty of time to cover and write about the other stuff, eg. the issues.One criticism I have is that 538 already uncovered the importance of signs in windows: //
By rabbitsrans on 07/08/2009 at 3:02:58
Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
Really Adam?  This is all you have to say about the Mayor's race?  Give me a break.  Can you do some realy reporting on where the candidates stand on the serious issues facing our city!
By rallyup on 07/08/2009 at 3:25:10
Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
Rabbit, I certainly wouldn't say signage is the "most acurate" [sic] method of figuring out where Boston's Asian voters stand. It is, however, one barometer, albeit an imperfect one; for example, the dearth of Christy Mihos signs/stickers/etc. in '06 correctly indicated a lack of broad-based support.And no, Rally, this isn't the sum total of my thoughts on the mayor's race. I *think* my profile of Kevin McCrea was the most substantial treatment of his candidacy yet. And while David Bernstein is doing the lion's share of political coverage these days, I certainly hope to write more on the mayor's contest as we approach the preliminary and final.
By Adam Reilly on 07/08/2009 at 6:53:09
Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
As noted above: Signs don't vote. Any reputable opinion polling (with a real-world contact universe) available to back up the assertion? Signage in commercial districts, in the real world of Boston politics, is not a "barometer" of support; it's a morale weapon against the opposition   
By PaulSimmons on 07/09/2009 at 2:08:38
Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
It would have been far more interesting to hear what actual Asian Americans in the community are thinking as opposed to reading about what they might be thinking based on sign barometers!  I'd like to know what issues are most pressing to the community and how both Menino and Yoon plan on responding to those concerns.  Also, what's with the completely offensive image?  It's not even amusing.  Phoenix editors, come on!
By nollufg on 07/15/2009 at 10:19:11
Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
Is this a joke?! First of all, if you know that "taking a stroll" through the neighborhood is an imperfect, but in your view still something of a barometer, couldn't you have just used a more substantial gauge in the first place? Why did you not actually interview any representatives from the Asian American community in Boston? Or is giving them a voice or perhaps expecting that they can speak English too much to ask for? Who the heck writes a piece on a community's opinions without even talking to the actual community? Would you have written a piece on Latinos and not even talked to any of their constituents? Actually, the answer is pretty disturbing if you answer either yes or no. And what's the deal with the incredibly offensive graphic? Would you have had someone wielding a piece of fried chicken as representative of the African American community? Chopsticks and a takeout box? I guess that and signs are what's truly representative of the Asian American community.
Shame on you, Boston Phoenix!
By pcc02139 on 07/15/2009 at 10:25:29
Re: Asians for Yoon — or maybe the other guy(s)
I work right off of Dorchester Avenue. I, too, stroll down Dorchester Avenue to see the many many signs that adorn the windows of the Vietnamese stores. Multiple signs in one store dilute the message. Furthermore,  it has been said in previous comments some owners as well as some customers don't even know who they are. That may be correct.
Also, having worked in Chinatown this past year, I know that intimidation is less likely but bribery (like treating residents to lunch) is often done by some Chinatown associations to have them vote for the "machine" politician in past elections. I will not be surprised that this will be the case as well.  We are lulled to sleep by a mayor who has been in office for FAR TOO LONG while the rest of the cities in the U.S. progress towards the future. I was in middle school in the Boston Public Schools when he became mayor and now I am almost 30. Mr. Flaherty offers the same "machine-type" politics backed by the Boston Firefighters' Union. It's time to move forward and to stop the political machines. Lastly, if Mr. Yoon is just relying on the Asian vote, he will lose. He's smart enough to figure that one out already.
By cchan222 on 07/15/2009 at 9:16:46

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