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BEST POLITICIAN Minneapolis 2002 - Mee Moua

Readers' Choice: Sen. Paul Wellstone

If it's true that the future for Hmong Americans starts in St. Paul, then there's no question that Mee Moua took a giant step toward leading that charge. In January Moua became the nation's first Hmong legislator, a feat that drew enough attention to land her on the pages of the New York Times. Perhaps the important thing about Moua's victory is not so much that it happened, but how it happened. She faced an uphill battle while vying for newly elected St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly's vacant senate seat in District 67 on St. Paul's East Side. First the 32-year-old Moua had to prove to the famously provincial residents that she was a true East Sider. Second, she had to take on the area's old political guard, as Kelly threw his might behind another candidate. But Moua pulled off the trick of true democracy: She rallied the vote, getting Hmong residents to register and go to the polls for the first time. In the end, Moua's nascent political machine drew 51 percent of the vote. Time will tell how the freshman legislator fares, but for now the future belongs to her and her supporters.

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