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Tom Hsieh Kicks Off Mayoral Campaign With Lions and Attack on Rival

June 6, 1991

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ An Asian-American city supervisor kicked off his mayoral campaign with lion dances echoing his Chinese roots.

″I have an accent. But I think people would rather elect a mayor with an accent than a mayor who speaks from both sides of his mouth,″ Tom Hsieh told a crowd of about 250 Wednesday in the heart of Chinatown.

Much of his speech attacked Mayor Art Agnos, who Hsieh charged ″opened the door to military deserters and invited vagrants to camp and sell drugs in our parks.″

Agnos, Assessor Richard Hongisto and former police chief Frank Jordan are the strongest of 14 candidates Hsieh will face in the Nov. 5 election.

Invoking the specter of rising taxes and recurring city deficits, Hsieh, one of the first Asian-Americans to mount a major bid for a big-city mayor’s post, excoriated the mayor for employing almost as many staffers as the governor.

He called himself the only candidate with a pro-business record and said he would reduce the city payroll through attrition and wage reform.

His appeal to Chinatown could make him a potent candidate in a city that, according to the 1990 census, has 207,000 Asians and Pacific Islanders, more than half of them of Chinese origin, out of 724,000 residents.

But only about one in four Chinese-Americans in the city is registered to vote, according to the Asian American Voter Project.

Hsieh’s campaign literature, which instructs readers to pronounce his name ″Shay,″ says he immigrated from Taiwan in 1951 with one suitcase, a broken guitar, $400 and a will to succeed.

He earned a master’s degree in architecture at the University of California-Berkeley, set up his own architectural agency, and now lives on posh Nob Hill.

He was appointed to various city commissions during the ’70s when he was raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Democratic Party.

In 1986 Mayor Dianne Feinstein appointed Hsieh to fill a vacancy on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Two years later he won election as the first Asian elected to the board.

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