The National Association of Asian Pacifics in Politics and Public Affairs (NAAPPPA) is proud to present the 2016 list of the top 40 AAPI political operatives and public affairs professionals under 40. NAAPPPA established this list to highlight the growing number of AAPIs who are beginning to dominate the professional unelected side of politics.  These honorees represent groundbreaking AAPI campaign strategists, lobbyists, legislative staff, and corporate public affairs professionals that work behind the scenes to elect and advance AAPI electeds and the AAPI community.  These elite individuals are breaking the meek Asian model minority stereotype by excelling in the rough and tumble, rule-bending, bare knuckle world of American politics.

 

NAAPPPA is a non-partisan non-profit national organization dedicated to promote and develop Asian American and Pacific Islander career advancement and excellence in political consulting, public affairs, and legislative advocacy through networking, innovative training, and professional development programs.  NAAPPPA’s members include legislative staff and professionals specializing in political campaigns, direct mail, polling, communications, opposition research, political compliance, fundraising, public and government affairs, media relations, and legislative advocacy.

 

Updated 05.23.16 - 3:19 PM PST - List by alphabetical order:

 

Kris Anderson | Principal, Prospect Strategic Communications.  Kris is a research and communications professional with nearly a decade of experience working in American politics, as well as advising Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations. A veteran of Governor Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid, Kris served as the campaign’s Research Director, where he was responsible for developing the campaign’s attack and response strategies against President Obama, including during the presidential debates. Most recently, Kris served as Research Director and Deputy Communications Director at the Republican National Committee, leading the effort that uncovered and exposed some of the 2014 election cycle’s most-covered campaign stumbles. Kris also served as Research Director and Deputy Communications Director for Governor Jon Huntsman’s presidential bid, as well as in senior campaign roles for Carly Fiorina and Steve Poizner.

 

George Andrews | Chief of Staff, CA Assemblyman Tom Lackey. In this capacity, he is based in Lackey’s Palmdale district office as the Assemblyman’s principal staff advisor. George has served as senior staff to California policymakers at the federal and state level. He specializes in developing and executing policy initiatives with a focus on public relations, community outreach and constituent services. Currently, he serves as an Executive Committee member for the NAACP-Antelope Valley and delegate to the Citizens Advisory Committee for California State Prison – Los Angeles. George is a graduate of University of California, Davis where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History.

 

K.J. Bagchi | Director of Asian American and Pacific Islander Engagement, Democratic National Committee.  He also currently serves on the board of Asian American Action Fund and as a Commissioner on the D.C. Mayor’s Commission of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs.  K.J. has worked as Field Director for a winning Congressional campaign and government consultant with clients including state agencies and local governments. He worked as Legislative Counsel to Councilmember Jim Graham at the D.C. City Council and served as Legislative Counsel for Congressman Mike Honda.

 

Ross Buckley | Chief of Staff, CA Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian.  Ross serves as Chief of Staff to Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian, who currently represents California’s 35th Assembly District in the State Legislature.  Ross has spent much of his time in the Capitol focused on banking, energy and local government policy.  In addition to working for the Legislature, Ross has been involved in several local, state and federal political campaigns. His passion for politics and policy began while attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he received a BA in Political Science.  Ross was adopted from South Korea and grew up in Atascadero, California.

 

Tami Bui | Manager of Philanthropy for Edison International. Prior to her promotion to managing Edison’s corporate and employee philanthropy, Tami was as principal advisor to Edison International and a regional manager for public affairs for Edison’s subsidiary, Southern California Edison.  Before Edison, Tami She then worked then-Assemblymember Judy Chu, Senate President pro Tempore Don Perata, Senator Tom Torlakson, and Senator Lou Correa. While in Sacramento, she formed the Asian Pacific Islander Capital Association, which sought to promote Asian Pacific Islander staff to leadership positions.

 

Chris Chan | Deputy Chief of Staff, Democratic National Convention Committee.  Chris joins the DNCC team from the Association of Asian American Investment Managers where he has been President of the organization for the last two and a half years.  He previously worked on the 2012 and 2008 Democratic Conventions as well as having served three and a half years at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

 

Annabel R. Chang | Director of Public Policy, Lyft.  Annabel oversees policy and strategy in the Western half of the United States, including some of Lyft’s most mature markets such as California, Illinois, and Washington State.  Before joining Lyft, Annabel prosecuted cases at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office and litigated at one of San Francisco’s largest firms, Morrison & Foerster. Prior to practicing law, Annabel worked as a legislative staffer for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein in Washington, DC.

 

Dennis Cheng | Finance Director, Hillary for America.  Prior to joining Hillary for America, Dennis worked for the Clinton Foundation.  His other experience includes work for Secretary Clinton at the State Department as the Deputy Chief for Protocol.  Politically, Dennis served as Hillary Clinton’s New York Finance Director in 2008.  Prior to his long history with Clinton, he worked on Wesley Clark’s and John Kerry’s presidential campaigns.

 

Sam Chung | Manager of Strategic Public Relations, Western States Petroleum Association.  The Western States Petroleum Association represents the largest companies within the petroleum exploration, production, refining, transportation and marketing industries within Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.  Sam’s core focus includes media relations, message strategies, and issue advocacy strategies.  Sam previously served as Chief of Staff for Assemblyman Marc Steinorth.  Prior to that, Sam served as the Policy Director for former Assemblyman Jeff Gorell.  He also served as the Capitol Director/Communications Director for Assemblywoman Audra Strickland.  As the spokesperson for several elected officials, Sam has been extensively quoted in major media networks and publications, including ABC, CNET, and the Ventura County Star.

 

Lanhee Chen, Ph.D. | David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow, Hoover Institution. Lanhee is the David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution; Director of Domestic Policy Studies and Lecturer in the Public Policy Program at Stanford University; and an affiliate of Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He currently advises the presidential campaign of Senator Marco Rubio and in 2014 was Senior Adviser on Policy to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Lanhee was the policy director for the Romney-Ryan 2012 presidential campaign, as well as Governor Romney’s chief policy adviser; a senior strategist on the campaign; and the person responsible for developing the campaign’s domestic and foreign policy. He also served as the deputy campaign manager and policy director of Steve Poizner’s 2010 California gubernatorial campaign, the domestic policy director of Governor Romney’s first presidential bid in 2008, and a health policy adviser to the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2004.

 

Jason Chung | National Director for APA Initiatives, Republican National Committee.  Jason leads the Republican National Committee’s media planning and strategy for the entire Asian and Pacific Islander media, while also overseeing the creation of an RNC Asian Pacific surrogate program. Prior to his position at the RNC, he served as a consultant to The Livingston Group, LLC a Washington, DC based government relations and public affairs firm. Jason has served as a Congressional Liaison in US Customs and Border Protection.

 

Carmela Clendening | Director of State & Local Government Affairs, Salesforce.  Prior to her promotion, Carmela was the manager of Salesforce’s state and local government affairs and political action committee. Camela’s political experience came from a variety of positions including serving as deputy district director to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, PAC Manager for Hewlett Packard, Finance Director for Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s PAC to the Future, and Mid-Atlantic Deputy Finance Director for the DCCC.

 

Sabrina Demayo Lockhart | Communications Director, California Independent Petroleum Association. She currently serves as communications director for the California Independent Petroleum Association. Since 2009, Sabrina has owned Lockhart Communications.​  Previously, she served as the Assembly Republican Caucus communications director and press secretary. Sabrina also worked as broadcast services manager for the Assembly Republican Caucus under the leadership of then-Assembly Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.  She served in the Schwarzenegger administration both as deputy communications director for the California Health and Human Services Agency and as the chief deputy press secretary for the Governor. Sabrina also served as the communications director for Senator Dave Cogdill, deputy communications director for Steve Poizner’s 2004 Assembly campaign, and communications director for Senator Anthony Cannella’s successful 2010 and 2014 elections. In 2007, she was nominated as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the U.S.

 

Tyler Diep | State Outreach Specialist, CA State Board of Equalization. Tyler is an outreach specialist for the California State Board of Equalization, an agency responsible for collecting more than $50 billion dollars of sales and use taxes every year. Diep graduated from the California State University, San Diego (SDSU) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration. Tyler also possesses a background in Vietnamese-language broadcasting. His experience includes working as a news anchor for VietFace TV (Direct TV Channel 2076) and a program host for Radio Bolsa (106.3 FM).  Tyler is also an elected member of the Westminster City Council. First elected to the Midway City Sanitary District at the age of 23, Tyler Diep was the youngest Vietnamese-American to hold public office. Two years later, Diep made history again by being the youngest person to win a seat on the Westminster City Council, at the age of 25.

 

Mufaddal Ezzy | California Manager, Public Policy and Government Relations, Google. Mufaddal currently helps lead Google's California state-level policy work and has over a decade of legislative experience on a range of topics from K-12 and higher education to business and technology. He worked as a Congressional Aide in the Office of US Congressman Sam Farr and was selected for the prestigious California Senate Fellows Program, where he helped lead Senator Tom Torlakson’s effort to pass landmark SB 638 which implemented $550 million in state funding for afterschool programs.  Mufaddal then served as a key member of Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg’s policy team where he advanced the pro Tem’s policy priorities on technology and business issues.

 

Vince Fong | District Director, Congressman Kevin McCarthy.  For nearly a decade, Vince has served as the district director to House Majority Leader and Congressman Kevin McCarthy.  Vince started his career with Congressman Bill Thomas, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, working on international trade policy to open up markets for our nation’s farmers and small businesses. Vince is a former board member for Goodwill Industries of South Central California, elected member of the Kern County Republican Central Committee and a lifetime member of the NRA. He serves on the boards of the Jim Burke Education Foundation and Honor Flight Kern County where he works to send WWII, Korean War and Vietnam Veterans to Washington, DC to see their memorials.

 

Cassandra Hough | Senior Sales Manager, Pandora.  Cassy leads Pandora’s West Coast political advertising team.  Cassy comes to the digital political world with a background in broadcast media spanning 14 years. Cassy was recently recognized as on of the American Association of Political Consultants Inaugural 40 Under 40 Awardees.

 

Jessica Hsiang Ng | Senior Vice President, Mercury.  Jessica Hsiang Ng is a Senior Vice President at Mercury. A veteran of major statewide and national candidate and issue campaigns, she boasts a wide-ranging background in political communications and public affairs.  Prior to joining Mercury, Jessica served as press secretary to California’s Republican gubernatorial nominee. She also served on the communications teams of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, California’s successful No on Proposition 29 campaign and Carly Fiorina’s 2010 U.S. Senate campaign. Jessica previously worked as a regional press secretary for StudentsFirst, and as press secretary for California State Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres). Jessica began her career working for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, both in executive communications and as a spokeswoman advocating for the administration’s education reform priorities and initiatives.

 

Larry Huynh | Partner, Trilogy Interactive. Larry has over a decade of experience in digital communications and is a nationally recognized digital strategist having earned dozens of awards across multiple online disciplines and frequently presents and trains at conferences.  In 2003, Larry helped lead the Draft Wes Clark movement and went on to head up the online fundraising operation for Clark for President, pioneering the use of digital channels for fundraising in politics.

 

Joon I. Kim | Senior Vice President for Grassroots and Digital Strategy, New Partners. Joon has over 15 years of experience in Democratic politics. His clients have included the Australian Labor Party, the AFL-CIO, MyWireless - the advocacy arm of the wireless phone trade association, Eli Lilly, Microsoft and numerous other organizations and causes. Prior to joining New Partners, Joon coordinated fourteen independent expenditure campaigns in six states winning seven races for the Communications Workers of America, the AFL-CIO, The Blue Green Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, VoteVets Action Fund, The American Worker Project.

 

Carol Kim | Director of Public Affairs, HealthNet. Carol most recently served as the Health Deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, overseeing the strategic direction, financial management, and operations of the county’s $4 billion health care system. Prior to joining Supervisor Yaroslavsky's staff, she served with the office of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle at the Senate Finance Committee and at the U.S. Treasury Department as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs and Public Liaison.

 

Alissa Ko | Associate Director of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, White House. Alissa is the White House’s primary liaison to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and focuses on expanding access to opportunity for AAPIs across the country.  She previously served as Associate Director at the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.  She is a top level Democratic strategist with over a decade of experience in high-level community organizing, coalition building, and successful legislative  campaigns.  She previously served as the Deputy Director of Ready for Hillary and oversaw the organization's day-to-day operations and managed the field, constituency, data and digital departments. She also worked on the 2012 Obama for America campaign as the National Asian American and Pacific Islander Vote Director.

 

Byron Koay | Chief Operating Office and Co-Founder, America Rising.  Byron is chief operating officer and a co-founder at America Rising LLC, a GOP opposition research and strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C. He led America Rising’s Senate team during the historic 2014 cycle that was responsible for major hits such as the Bruce Braley fundraiser video and Michelle Nunn campaign memo that impacted the cycle's outcome. Byron was the Republican National Committee's deputy research director in the 2012 presidential election and previously worked on several statewide campaigns in California.

 

Anthony Kuo | Communications Director, CA Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang. Anthony has worked on local, legislative, and statewide campaigns throughout California since high school.  He oversaw Orange County efforts for Meg Whitman and down-ticket Republicans in 2010, and served on senior staff for California’s delegations to the 2008 and 2012 Republican National Conventions. Anthony has gained experience over a decade working to help organizations advancing candidates and public policy like the Orange County Forum, New Majority, and Progressive Bag Alliance.  He has served on the Irvine Planning Commission since 2011, and as Chairman for the past four years. 

 

Ted Kwong | Campaign Communications Director, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey. Ted is currently Senator Pat Toomey's campaign Communications Director, and a political communications professional from Sacramento who has worked with campaign organizations across the country. Since graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Political Science, he has held communications roles on statewide campaigns in California, New Mexico, Hawaii and Pennsylvania, as well as in the press shops of the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and Gov. Scott Walker's Presidential campaign. He was also one of the very first hires tasked with building America Rising into the essential part of the Republican campaign landscape it is today.

 

Clark Lee | Director of Party Leader Outreach, Democratic National Convention Committee.  Clark has nearly 15 years of political experience that includes serving as the Director of Political Affairs and Communications for the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and running the targeted field campaigns for Assemblymember Mike Eng in 2006 and Rep. Judy Chu in 2009, and then managing the successful campaign of California Assemblymember Ed Chau in 2012.

 

Mandy Lee | Lobbyist, Platinum Advisors. Platinum Advisors is one of  California’s elite lobbying firms.  Prior to joining Platinum Advisors, Mandy served as the Vice President of Government Affairs at the California Retailers Association. Prior to joining CRA, Mandy served as a Consultant to Senator Alex Padilla and as Legislative Director for California Assemblymember Roger Hernandez. In addition, Mandy is also very involved in the LGBT community and serves on the board of Equality California.

 

Arjun Mody | Policy Director, Senate Republican Policy Committee.  Arjun has spent a decade working for Senate Republicans. He currently serves as Policy Director for the Senate Republican Policy Committee, chaired by Sen. John Barrasso. He previously served as senior staff to Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Off the hill, Arjun worked as Policy Director for Carly Fiorina’s 2010 Senate race and as an Associate Director for Bono’s ONE Campaign. He started his career in Washington, DC in the George W. Bush White House. He is a graduate of LaSalle University, Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and American University Washington College of Law.

 

Darrel Ng | Staff Vice President, Anthem.  Darrel leads communications for Anthem, Inc's West Region, stretching from California to Ohio. Previously, he has served as director of rapid response for vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in 2012, and as a spokesperson for Meg Whitman's gubernatorial campaign, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Fred Thompson for President. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley.

 

Danita Ng | Special Policy Counsel to the President, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.  Danita currently serves as Special Policy Counsel to the President at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Previously, she was Deputy Chief of Staff, Policy and Communications, for California Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen. Ms. Ng has extensive policy experience on both the state and federal level, including serving as Economic Policy Adviser on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and as Policy Director on Neel Kashkari’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign in California. Ms. Ng received her B.A. from Wellesley College and her J.D. from the University of Arizona College of Law.  She is a licensed member of the California State Bar. 

 

Alan Nguyen | Research Director, Freedom Partners.  Alan is currently research director at Freedom Partners, a nonprofit and nonpartisan chamber of commerce that advocates for free-market policies. Prior to his current role, Alan worked on a number of campaigns, most recently as a member of the policy team on Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential run. He earned a degree in finance from the University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from Harvard Law School.

 

Sam Oh | Deputy Chief of Staff, Congresswoman Mimi Walters.  Sam Oh currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff to United States Congresswoman Mimi Walters, a freshman from Orange County, California who serves on the House’s Leadership team.  Previously, Sam served in senior roles as Chief of Staff, Capitol Director and District Director to members of the California State Assembly. Sam has successfully served as the Campaign Manager for three Members of Congress, and has managed or consulted on dozens of successful congressional, state senate, state assembly and city council campaigns and ballot initiatives in California, Kansas and Arizona. In 2012, Mr. Oh served as the general consultant to the first directly elected Vietnamese-American Mayor in the United States.  Sam is a past recipient of “The Donald” as he was recognized by the Republican Party of Orange County as the 2011 Legislative Staffer of the Year.

 

Ronald Ongtoaboc | Communications Director, CA Senator Patricia Bates.  Ronald is the communications director for State Senator Patricia Bates. For Senator Bates, he manages press, writing, and social media. He previously served as a writer for the State Assembly and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He also served as the Asian Pacific Islander Capital Association's Communications Director for 2015-16 and is still an active member of the association.  Ronald graduated with a B.A. in political science from U.C. Berkeley.

 

Linda Shim | Chief of Staff, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair, Rep. Judy Chu. Linda was promoted to chief of staff after serving as Rep. Chu’s legislative director where she advised the Congresswoman on Judiciary Committee matters, including intellectual property and crime. Legislative portfolio also includes telecommunications, health care, housing and Indian affairs.  Linda also worked for Congresswoman Jane Harman, the House Judiciary Committee and the Federal Communications Commission.

 

Catherine Tran | Strategic Accounts Manager, Cubic Transportation Systems.  Cubic Transportation Systems is a leading integrator of transportation payment and traveler information.  Catherine previously served as Policy Director for the Democratic Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, developing and managing the policy agenda for the weekly Caucus meetings and the Annual Issues Conference.  Catherine founded the Bay Area Capitol Hill Alumni, chaired the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership and help established the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill. 

 

Victoria Tung | Director of Public Affairs, Texas Instruments. Victoria leads California government relations, public policy strategy and corporate citizenship work for the company. Prior to her role at TI, she managed state and federal relations and consulted on technology policy issues for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Victoria has over a decade of experience in the federal legislative and executive branch. She was a political appointee in President Obama’s administration where she served as the Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmetnal Affairs in the U.S. Department of Commerce. She was the founding Executive Director for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus under the leadership of Congressman Mike Honda where she built the Caucus as a leading organization on Capitol Hill advocating on policy issues on behalf of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Victoria was recognized in the National Journal as a top congressional staff.

 

Candace Yu | Manager of Finance Integration, Google.  Candace leads Google finance integration projects related to mergers and acquisitions and product launches.  Previously, Yu built international alliances promoting cyberspace stability as the Special Assistant for Cyber Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  Politically, she has played a role in selecting political appointees at the White House, drafting landmark federal elections administration legislation at the U.S. Senate, and implementing paid media and polling strategies for the 2008 Obama for America presidential campaign.

 

Elnie Vannatim | Manager of State & Local Government and Community Affairs, Fox Entertainment Group. Fox Entertainment Group is the home to the finest group of film, television, cable, news and sports programming assets in the world. In her role, she advocates Fox’s position on legislation and strategic issues and helps in the execution of the company’s community investment efforts. Previously, she worked in Public Affairs at the Cooperative of American Physicians. In 2012, she was named Woman of the Year by then-Assemblymember Norma Torres. Through the Thai Association of Southern California, Elnie spearheaded the first legislative internship program for Thai-Americans to empower the next generation of community leaders and provide participants with a solid foundation in the legislative and political arena.

 

Amelia Wang | Vice President of Government Affairs and Industry Relations, National Music Publishers Association. In addition to serving as a key member of NMPA’s advocacy team, Amelia manages NMPA’s political action committee. David Israelite, President and CEO of NMPA, lauded Amelia’s extensive experience on Capitol Hill, and specifically in the copyright space, when announcing hiring her to advocate for songwriters and music publishers. Prior to joining NMPA, Wang was chief of staff to Congresswoman Judy Chu for five years and previously worked for Rep. Grace Napolitano. While working for Chu, she spearheaded the creation of the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus.

 

Alex Wong | Foreign Policy Advisor and General Counsel, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton.  Alex is the Foreign Policy Advisor & General Counsel to Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). He advises the Senator on all issues related to national security, international relations, the judiciary, and law enforcement.  He is also the Senator's chief legal counsel.  Prior to his current role, Alex was the Foreign & Legal Policy Director for the Romney-Ryan 2012 presidential campaign. From 2007 to 2009, Alex served as Iraq Rule of Law Advisor for the U.S. Department of State, designing and managing the Department’s efforts to bolster Iraq’s judicial branch and anticorruption agencies. Alex clerked for the honorable Janice Rogers Brown of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

 

Please send any corrections and recommendations for next year’s NAAPPPA 40 Under 40 List to execdir@naapppa.org.