A former refugee whose family fled the Khmer Rouge regime became the first Cambodian-American legislator in the U.S. after being elected as a state representative in Massachusetts Tuesday.
Rady Mom, 45, a Democrat, will represent the city of Lowell, which has the second-largest Cambodian population in the U.S., in the Massachusetts State House after winning more than 60 percent of the vote in the 18th Middlesex district in the U.S. midterm elections.
The Lowell Sun newspaper reported that Mr. Mom defeated Fred Bahou, an independent candidate, by 3,847 votes to 2,386.
In 2010, Sam Meas, also a Cambodian-American from Massachusetts, made an unsuccessful run as a Republican candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to his campaign website, Mr. Mom, who owns a physical therapy business, escaped the horrors of the Pol Pot era to a Thai refugee camp as a child, before traveling to Minnesota and finally being reunited with his family in Lowell in 1984.
Lowell is home to an estimated 13,000 Cambodian-Americans, and even has a Cambodian consulate, which opened in April 2009.
Mr. Mom has been involved in several community organizations there, including the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Organization, the Asian American Business Association, the Angkor Dance Troupe and the Khmer Cultural Council. He became a U.S. citizen in 1990.
Although his election night party was held at the Pailin City Restaurant in Lowell, Mr. Mom reportedly did not mention his Cambodian heritage in his victory speech. He did, however, speak of the diversity in the room.
“Take a second to look around you. Look at the color around you. Isn’t it beautiful? You are family, as I am to you,” the Lowell Sun quoted him as saying.
“This is history. This is just the beginning.”
Photographs posted online show the married father-of-four popping a bottle of champagne in celebration.
Mr. Mom will be sworn into office in January. He could not be reached for comment.