If elected, Filipino-American Joshua Ang Price will make history in the state of Arkansas as its first Asian American state representative.
The 38-year-old first time candidate is running for the House District 39 in the state come November, in the midterm elections that a lot of people are looking into. But before that, he needs to win the Democratic primary next week, May 22.
Arkansas has not elected an Asian American despite its growing Asian American population of about 41,000 with nearly 5,000 Filipinos in the state.
His district has about 30,000 residents and it has the highest concentration of Asian Americans in the state with around 2.7% of the population, composed mostly of Chinese and Vietnamese.
“Filipinos though make up the largest portion of Asian Americans in the Little Rock, central Arkansas area because a lot of them have a same story as my mom. They were registered nurses recruited to work in rural parts of the state,” Price told the Asian Journal.
Joshua’s mom Teresita Ang was born in Roxas City, Capiz in the Philippines. Most of her relatives are still in Roxas and Iloilo while some siblings are in Michigan and California. His dad Allen was born and raised in Arkansas and his family has lived there since the 1820s.
The Price family is no stranger to local politics and public service. His dad’s mother – Frances Jean Price was the state’s first female Justice of the Peace of Pike County and held the position for 30 years until retirement.
“She is the inspiration why I wanted to get involved in public service. During the 60s, there was a history of racism in Arkansas and she would allow African American couples to get married inside her home. That was a time when it was just not the norm and segregation was still a thing,” he shared.
While his minor in college was political science and public administration, the aspiring politician began considering a career in politics only four or five years ago.
Joshua owns Hybrid Strategies, a Central Arkansas-based communications and public relations consulting firm specializing in economic and community development projects, nonprofit organizations, women and minority-owned small businesses, and government communications and policy.
He formerly served as the digital communications manager and special policy advisor for the Delta Regional Authority, an independent federal agency with the mission to improve economic opportunities in communities across an eight-state region along the Mississippi River.
“I got to work with the governors of those eight states and that was a good experience. It helped met get a good top down perspective,” he shared.
Childhood and growing up
“It was different. I don’t remember a lot of racism directed towards me, I was more of a curiosity. I was like the token Asian because there were no Asian kids in my school growing up,” Joshua shared. “I never had Asian classmates or peers.”
That curiosity about him continued even when he grew up as an adult, but he understood where that came from.
He learned to take it in stride knowing that it wasn’t coming from a place where they were being hateful or negative. They were just curious because they were not exposed to Asians before.
His mother inculcated in him and his sister their Filipino side.
“It was very important to my mom that my sister and I were exposed to Filipino culture because we were so separated and there wasn’t really a Filipino community there back then,” he said.
Joshua and his younger sister both speak Visayan.
“I have cousins in California who live in areas with big Filipino population like Milpitas and they don’t speak the language because their parents wanted them to assimilate,” he added.
“If I am to be elected, the people I’m representing, they’re my boss, they’re my employer, I’m the employee, if I don’t do a good job, they can write me up, they can fire me, at the end of the day I’m there to serve, serve the needs of the community,” Price said.
“I have a unique perspective, that helps me get a foot in the door. Arkansas is still very sheltered and it is still not very diverse,” he added.
83 out the 100 members of the state legislature are white men and there’s only one female African-American.
Price was a delegate for Hillary Clinton in 2016 at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. At the DNC, he realized that the state had no Asian caucus at all so he went to the officials and asked what needs to be done to start one.
He became the first President of the Asian American Pacific Islander Democratic Caucus of Arkansas, of which he is also the co-founder. In this role, Joshua also serves on the Democratic Party of Arkansas State Committee.
Price is offering a multi-level platform that would serve his district, which he says is the most affluent in the state, with $82,000 average household income (as opposed to the state average with $34,000).
Among his priorities are improved infrastructure (roads, bridges, water/sewer and broadband internet) to attract new businesses and create jobs and growing small businesses through supporting initiatives that assist local entrepreneurs.
“I would love to see access to internet broadband across the state. My dad’s family is from the southwest part of the state and they still don’t have internet access there. I can get on my phone and Skype with family in the Philippines but I can’t even call my dad’s family in Arkansas who are just two hours away,” he said with an incredulous tone. “To me, that doesn’t make sense. Providing internet is crucial to providing education and economic opportunities in the state.”
According to a study he mentioned, about 16 of the seats are flippable, his district included. The incumbent is a Republican who has been the district representative for six years now.
“Call it “blue wave” or “Trump effect”, I think people are disillusioned and dissatisfied and they are looking for something new. I have been so actively involved in the community and I want to tell the constituents that I am someone who is accessible, they call or email me and if they have an issue, we can talk about it,” he said.
And that is the brand of politics that Joshua Ang Price wants to be known for. He wants to be collaborative.
“I am a Democrat who is someone who can work with my colleagues across the aisle to get things done, specially right now in Arkansas where the Republicans have the super-majority in the House, with 76 out the 100 seats,” he added. “If I have to put my pride on the side and swallow my ego a little bit to get the job done for the people I am representing, then that’s what I’m going to do.”