A first: Cambodian-born candidates vied for same statehouse seat

Rady Mom made history in 2014 when he became the first Cambodian American elected to the Massachusetts state legislature. He made history again in the 2016 election.

Mom on November 8 defeated his Republican challenger, Kamara Kay, marking the first time in U.S. political history that two Cambodian-born candidates faced off in a state election.

Mom also defeated another Cambodian American, Cheth Khim, in the Democratic primary.

It’s a free country, and it is very good that other Cambodian candidates are running against me,” Mom told VOA earlier this fall.

Mom represents the 18th Middlesex District, home to the city of Lowell and the second-largest population of Cambodian Americans in the country, behind Long Beach, California.

Despite their differing opinions on how to resolve local issues, both Mom and Kay followed strikingly similar paths to the campaign trail.

As child survivors of the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s, both escaped their war-torn country for refugee camps in the early 1980s. After becoming naturalized U.S. citizens in the early 1990s, both men came to call Lowell, a former mill town on the Merrimack River, home.

This was adapted from earlier Voice of America articles.