This year has already seen its fair share of political strife as the presidential election draws closer. Gridlock is more apparent than ever in D.C., and there has been heavy scrutiny and criticism over whether the two primary presidential candidates are of adequate and proper mental capacity to run for office. Many congress members have had their share of words regarding the election, and that includes UCLA’s congressional representative, Ted Lieu.

UCLA is part of California’s 36th Congressional District, which stretches just beyond Beverly Hills and down to Redondo Beach, covering most of western Los Angeles County. This region contains a plethora of iconic landmarks, and it has been a fundamentally Democratic district. Since 2023, amidst the rise of Asian American political participation, Ted Lieu has been UCLA’s representative, making him an appropriate person for a campus filled with activism. However, his story to Congress is one that is seldom seen.

Ted Lieu was born in Taiwan, but his family emigrated to the U.S. when he was only three years old. To get by with their new life in Ohio, Lieu’s family sold jewelry at a flea market. They were able to grow into six separate stores, and Lieu eventually took a great leap forward, graduating from Stanford University in political science and computer science. Afterward, he went on to receive his law degree from Georgetown University, during which he received four American Jurisprudence Awards, merits given to those who achieve the highest grade and rank for a particular subject.

Lieu would eventually go on to join the Air Force’s JAG Corps for four years and serve as California’s State Assemblyman from 2005 to 2010 as well as California’s State Senator from 2011 to 2014. Currently, he is the representative for California’s 36th congressional district and vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, the highest position ever attained by an Asian American in Congress. When talking about his election, he said that going from flea markets to a position of democratic leadership demonstrates “the durability of the American dream.”

2024 has seen intense political discord, and Lieu has not been afraid to voice his qualms. Recently, he called out Trump for his inability to attain a $464 million bond amidst one of the many pending trials against him. On the social media app X (formerly Twitter), Lieu wrote that “Trump claims he is a billionaire. But he can’t pay a $464 million judgment. That means he is lying. How do I know? Math.” 

As expected, this has received some criticism. Mark Cuban, an American businessman and TV personality, was one of them. While he held a similar dislike as Lieu towards Trump, he noted that Trump likely avoided keeping a large portion of his worth in the form of cash and went on to justify why Trump could not pay the bond.

On a separate topic, an article from CODEPINK—a feminist grassroots organization—criticized Ted Lieu for voting on a bill that would send $26 billion to Israel in their occupation of Palestine, calling his vote “soul crushing.” They further hoped that he would “pledge not to vote another nickel for Israel’s ethnic cleansing in Gaza.” As of May 4, 2024, Ted Lieu has not commented on this criticism.

Given Lieu’s influence on the Hill, it is unsurprising that his actions are constantly under heavy scrutiny from all sides of the political spectrum. His efforts should be especially noted by UCLA students who are more or less represented by him even if they do not officially reside in California’s 36th district. Everyone has different values and political beliefs, but for a campus with students looking to make a difference, it is important to know who to reach out to.Beyond the politics, Lieu’s story to Congress is a unique one and demonstrates the power of perseverance and determination. From flea markets to vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Ted Lieu is a vanguard for the growing political power of Asian Americans, a community that will have a heavy influence on the 2024 election.

Visual Credit: New America

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