Over the last five years Tran has served as Dromm’s chief of staff, and is now seeking to be his successor.
Last Wednesday, standing next to her daughters, supporters and campaign team at Moore Homestead Playground, Tran officially kicked off her bid for City Council in District 25, which encompasses Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.
“It has been a privilege to serve this community,” she said. “But I know there is more work to do.”
Inspired by a new slate of leadership coming up in the district, Tran said she thought hard about how to continue using the skills and tools she has gained over the last decade to push social justice issues. She said she felt the next shift was running for public office.
“I felt that this district was ready for a bold, leftist Asian-American woman to represent it on a local level,” she added.
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Tran is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who fled violence during the Vietnam War. Her parents were among the thousands of “boat people” who left by sea in search of safety and opportunities in the United States.
After studying Asian-American Studies at San Francisco State University, Tran moved to Queens in 2009 to pursue a master’s degree at The New School before working for Dromm. She worked on hundreds of constituent cases, oversaw city budgets and planned community celebrations that reflected the diversity of the district.
Tran said she learned on the job that community leaders on the ground know local issues intimately, come up with solutions and figure out the best way to move forward. She said government is just a conduit for those solutions.
The idea that “government is not going to save” the community was best exemplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tran said. The virus struck Elmhurst particularly hard, and exacerbated the issue of access to health care, which the candidate said is both a race and class issue.
“This campaign embodies community-driven solutions, and it’s here to do your work,” Tran said in her kickoff speech. “We know those on the ground working with impacted communities have the solutions and are the real leaders.”
The candidate said she will use the campaign as an opportunity to engage neighbors, activate those who are often ignored and amplify those community-led solutions. Tran said her campaign will be also grounded in the principles of inclusivity and transparency.
A single mother raising two young daughters in the district, Tran said she envisions a future that is grounded in care, accountability and “shared liberation.”
“This is our first step toward building that vision on a local level,” she said. “Now is the time to show the rest of New York City how our collective voice and civic engagement can reimagine a new way of thriving and living.”
Among the community members who are supporting Tran is Daniel Puerto, a community organizer raised in Jackson Heights. Puerto said he has known Tran for over a decade, and is familiar with her work and leadership on community issues.
He argued that Tran will be a representative who understands the issues facing single moms and immigrants, and will be an ally to the LGBTQ community.
Another supporter is Carolina H. de Leon, a Jackson Heights resident and former organizer of domestic workers.
“Having the right City Council member, in particular a woman in the office, is really beneficial to the community,” she said. “As an immigrant, I know full well that she will represent my values.”
Tran enters a crowded field, with seven other candidates vying to replace the term-limited Dromm. Among them are Shekar Krishnan, a community leader and civil rights attorney, and Alfonso Quiroz, a local activist and communications professional for Con Edison.
With the primary set for June 2021, the candidates will have to campaign during a pandemic, which Tran said means a lot of the work will be done digitally. She said her campaign will rely on strategies like reaching voters through one-on-one calls.
“We also need to engage people in the way they communicate and learn about information,” she said. “It will be difficult, but no challenge is big enough to deter us.”
The election will also use the new system of ranked-choice voting, in which voters rank their preferred candidates rather than choosing just one. Tran said that might lead to some confusion, but she also sees ranked choice voting as an opportunity to educate and engage the community about candidates and issues.
She has looked at other cities that have implemented the voting system, particularly in high-immigrant communities, and found that it leads to less dirty campaigning and animosity.
“It’s a different approach for the city,” Tran said. “I think it fosters better relationships and campaigning among candidates.”