The surprising Republican front-runner in the traditionally Democratic 49th State Assembly District — which covers Alhambra and much of the West San Gabriel Valley — is Dr. Matthew Lin. On Nov. 6 he will face off against attorney Ed Chau, who has been endorsed by the current Assemblyman Mike Eng. Despite that support, Lin was the leader in the open primary last June.
This would not be the first time Lin broke the mold: He is an orthopedic surgeon who was the first Asian American to serve on the San Marino City Council. Married for 40 years to wife Joy and the father of four adult children, Lin opened a medical office in Alhambra more than 30 years ago.
Alhambra Source is inviting candidates for local offices to sit down and answer questions from staff and community members. We spoke with Elizabeth Salinas, who is running for City Council, and will also be speaking with Lin's opponent, Chau. Lin spoke at his San Gabriel campaign headquarters and — between dispensing medical advice to his staff and friends — talked about why Democrats should cross party lines to support him, the right balance of development, and what the nation can learn from Alhambra.
What connections do you have to Alhambra?
I opened my first office space in Alhambra in 1978 at 801 West Valley Boulevard. One of my friends in the area told me that he knew of some physicians who were looking for a surgeon that specialized in hand surgery. And I was convinced by those local physicians to come here.
I had just come from Baltimore, and I rented a small apartment across the street from the Garfield Medical Center emergency room so the nurse could ask me to come from my apartment to see patients. And that’s when I rented the West Valley office, which I shared with a few other physicians. We bought used furniture for the office and I started my medical practice. After a few years in Monterey Park, I moved back to my Alhambra office in 1987 and have been here since then.
What do you think distinguishes you from your opponent Ed Chau?
I’ve been working in the area and living in this assembly district for the last 34 years. Ed Chau just moved in maybe 9 to 10 months ago. I probably understand more about the local community and cities than Ed Chau. With my business and government experience, serving eight years on the San Marino City Council and three terms as mayor, I understand how city government operates, I understand more about what it needs and how to improve it. I have a background in running a business in the local area and I really know how a business works. I’m a physician and a surgeon, I’ve helped people my whole life, my job is to heal people and get them healthy. Ed Chau is a personal injury lawyer, so it’s decidedly different.
Why should a Democrat vote for you?
The country is strong because people work together, disregarding ethnic background, regardless if you are Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic. When people fall down, you help them stand up and don’t ask them if they are Republican or Democrat. People look at my background and know that my heart is in trying to help the state so that there is a bright future again.
With that idea, when I walk the streets and talk to people, I intentionally do not ask them about their political party. I just tell them my ideas and they understand where I’m coming from, so I’ve gained a lot of support.
That’s why we need to work together and not divide ourselves by party. I think those days should be over. We are all Americans and we should work together to make California better.
Our readers have brought up that there is little awareness among residents about what is actually happening in local government. What are some of your ideas for improving communication and participation?
New immigrants, not just Asian immigrants, when they first come to this area, usually struggle to make ends meet, to put food on the table. They pay less attention to what goes on outside of their home. But we really need to bring awareness to the newcomers and others who are not interested in the political process, that this is not only your right, but also your obligation. This right was given to you because many people protect you, fight for you, and gave their life so you could have the right to vote and choose your leaders.
When I’m elected, I’m going to take some time and use television and radio to inform people about what is going on in the world and what we can do to improve people’s lives, what affects you and what can help you. Once they have a broader understanding of things, they will understand their choices and participate more in this process.
Some residents feel that there is too much local development, and some would like to see more development. What is your perspective?
I understand the needs of the residents, that they need a peaceful, calm community. But I also understand that the local residents also need a job to feed their families, and we need to develop jobs for them.
How do you balance it, with the residents wanting a calm bedroom community and local businesses wanting to generate more business to hire more employees? We need to find a balance, and the community leaders need to do that. There may be areas with less residential and more commercial development. Commercial development in residential areas would interrupt the bedroom feel, we need to respect it and not change it. Change should happen with controlled development and a consensus of the citizens of Alhambra. With input from everybody, it’s probably the right way to go.There were many good redevelopment projects, but now the state eliminated the agencies, so Alhambra is short of certain funds. They may need to find some way to recreate the so-called redevelopment agencies, so any development funds can stay local.
Alhambra must work hard to relocate businesses back to the City, to encourage small businesses and give them some incentives to help them grow and hire more employees. The City can be an incubator for small business, using public-private partnerships. Jobs are really the number one priority for city government and the local community, along with education and public safety. Alhambra has a lot of small and medium-sized business and has been taking very good care of them, and I’m sure the City will continue to do so.
What do you like about Alhambra? What is your favorite place?
It’s a very peaceful and convenient city; I’ve practiced here almost all my life. All my patients come from Alhambra and the San Gabriel Valley. The City has very good cultural diversity and that’s the beauty of America, there are people who have lived here a long time, there are people who are new immigrants whether from out of state or out of the country. People from different races and cultures seem to live together well. Alhambra is a shining example for many other cities in the United States to learn that this cultural mixture promotes not only the family but also the economy.
I very much enjoy Almansor Court, for playing golf and walking. It’s a nice, peaceful area. And my wife and I often go to Costco. And in Alhambra, there are also many nice restaurants.
Interview was edited and condensed.
*Updated: This story is not an endorsement. We are speaking to all of the candidates. This story was updated to ensure clarity of our position.