BELLFLOWER — Kevin Wen’s fascination with politics began a few years ago when he innocently signed up as an unpaid intern. His job: help out on Kevin Faulconer’s campaign for mayor of San Diego.
Wen, a Bellflower resident who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, was looking for something fulfilling to do after finishing college and getting together with friends for a while to run a start-up clothing company. He had heard through fraternity brothers that Faulconer was looking for good, young help.
He applied and helped Faulconer win the election,
Wen, 24, is now the campaign manager for Steve Napolitano’s bid for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ Fourth District seat in the Nov. 8 election.
“I wanted to make a difference,” said Wen about working in politics. “I realized it was something I really loved to do.”
As campaign manager, Wen helped Napolitano finish in second place in the June 7 primary to gain a spot on the November ballot against U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro. Napolitano received about 37 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Hahn. A third candidate, Whittier Union school board member Ralph Pacheco, received about 16 percent of the vote.
Wen said he believes in the principles of limited government, lower taxes and fiscal responsibility.
He said he learned to appreciate those values by way of his experience as a Chinese immigrant. He came to the United States with his parents when he was 3.
When his parents divorced while he was in grade school, he learned about low-income living and the hard work that’s needed to move ahead socioeconomically. He later learned when his father, an architect, was dying of cancer, to get serious about schooling and making a career for himself.
“I didn’t want my family experience to dictate my future and how I treat other people,” said Wen, who remembers how proud the family always felt about coming to the U.S. and earning citizenship. “I use it for motivation, to keep going and to pursue the American dream every day.”
Wen has worked on several successful Republican races for the state Assembly and Senate, city councils and local ballot measures.
He has managed hundreds of campaign workers and has always made sure they reflected a mix of races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, ideologies and political parties. He has also brought in independents, veterans and disabled people, the spokesperson said.
“You couldn’t get a better melting pot of people than those I have in my campaign groups — the on-ground teams, volunteers and interns,” Wen said.
Napolitano learned of Wren’s talents and hired him help to run a campaign in the cosmopolitan Fourth District, a crescent-shaped territory that extends from Diamond Bar through Long Beach to Marina del Rey and west to Catalina Island.
Napolitano, who is running to replace Supervisor Don Knabe, who will leave office because of term limits, previously served as mayor and city councilman in Manhattan Beach and currently serves as a senior deputy to Knabe.
Wen and his teams have visited many households around the district. He said he is absolutely convinced that voters, especially undecided ones, value the personal touch and interaction when a campaign makes the extra effort to have a representative go out and knock on doors.
Billboards, mailers and TV commercials can only go so far, he said.
“In my experience, that’s what makes the difference,” said Wen about creating dialogues with residents and working to earn their votes. “Because they’ll remember at the polls that someone tried talking to them, someone wanted to get to know them. And because at a local level of politics such as this, every vote truly does count.”