Nevada has a chance to elect their first Asian American Congresswoman and the first Korean American Congresswoman in the U.S.
Lisa Song Sutton (@lisasongsutton), an entrepreneur and Miss Nevada United States 2014, is seeking to challenge Rep. Stephen Horsford in the state’s 4th Congressional District, which covers the central counties of Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine, as well as the northern Clark County and southern Lyon County.
Sutton, who holds political science and law degrees from the University of Arizona and the University of Miami, respectively, co-founded Sin City Cupcakes in 2012, which has now become an iconic Las Vegas treat.
She then expanded her business portfolio and co-founded Ship Las Vegas, Elite Homes – Christie’s International Real Estate and Liquid & Lace Swimwear.
Sutton decided to run for office after opening the second location of Ship Las Vegas, when she came to terms with the problems her district faces.
“Politics was never in the plan for me, but after opening the second location of my shipping store in an area of the District that is totally forgotten by our current representatives, I realized that something had to be done,” Sutton told NextShark.
“Our national and state economy are doing so well, yet there are pockets of the District where residents lack access to basic resources, veterans aren’t receiving services they need, and the District’s business community is tired of career politicians who have no clue what it’s like to run a startup. Plus, our government needs to be more representative of its constituents. It needs more women, more Asian-Americans, more minorities, and more business owners making their voices heard.”
Born to a Vietnam War veteran father and a South Korean immigrant mother, Sutton hopes to represent Nevada’s growing Asian American population. In 2014, she became the first Miss Nevada United States — a pageant not to be confused with Miss Nevada or Miss Nevada USA — of Asian descent.
“The Asian-American population is the fastest growing segment in Nevada,” she said.
“Many Asian-Americans are moving to Nevada from California and Hawaii, attracted to our state’s low cost of living and business-friendly environment. We account for the fastest growing portion of small business owners in the state. We have never had an Asian-American representative in Congress from the state of Nevada.”
To Sutton, breaking more barriers is no longer an issue.
“It’s time for our government to be more representative of its constituents. I’m used to breaking barriers. I was the first Miss Nevada (US) of Asian descent, and I’m ready to become the Asian-American Congresswoman from Nevada.”
One of the greatest challenges Sutton faced as a beauty queen was being underestimated — but she managed to prove her worth with flying colors.
“When I competed in the pageant, I was the shortest contestant and was told I hadn’t ‘put in my dues.’ The girl who ended up being my first runner-up was the first runner-up from the previous year, so she was the favorite going into the competition. Everyone said she had ‘put in her time,’ she was friendly with the director, and was plugged in. I vowed to outwork every other contestant and show the judges that I was the clear choice. I did just that and won, becoming the first Miss Nevada of Asian descent. I ended up conducting over 500+ community appearances, traveling all around the state to volunteer and help others. I also brought in the most state sponsors of any contestant.”
Unfortunately, that underestimation persisted in her business ventures, but she knew her way around the negotiating table. She thanked her mother for “good genes” that made her look younger than people’s expectations.
“In business, there have been countless meetings over the years where older executives were surprised to see ‘someone so young’ at the negotiating table. Thank you to my Korean mother for good genes. I’m constantly told that people assume I’m in my 20s, but the truth is I’m almost in my mid-thirties. I’m a ruthless negotiator and always go in prepared, with a clear line of what my minimum acceptance level is.”
As a new politician, Sutton expects that she could still be underestimated, but she relies on lessons she has gained from past experiences to prove herself as “the clear choice.”
“Since I’m not a career politician, the establishment is curious about me, perhaps underestimating me. But I will take and apply the same lessons I have utilized time and time again in my life, to outwork my competition and show voters why I’m the clear choice. I’m the only candidate that has created jobs in the District, and actually cares about the community. I have a proven track record of giving back for years, without any layer of political advancement or personal gain. And, to my benefit, the traditional ‘establishment’ donors are thrilled to have a fresh face in Nevada politics.”
Alongside fighting for representation, Sutton, a Republican, centers her platform on several key policies, such as improving Nevada’s school system, prioritizing American businesses, capping taxes and setting term limits for U.S. representatives, among others.
“I have volunteered at schools all across the state for nearly a decade. I have heard from both students and our hard-working teachers how lacking the school system is here in Nevada,” she shared about working on education.
“We need to provide more resources to teachers to better equip them. They handle crowded classrooms with minimal resources everyday. We need to advocate for students’ personal development. Curriculums that include STEM, arts, gifted/talented and other important disciplines are crucial to developing well-rounded students and future leaders. And we must create an accountable budget that the administration/school district actually adheres to.”
Upholding the “American Dream,” Sutton believes any American can succeed, and thus vows to put American businesses first.
“I consistently hear from the community that they support an America-First agenda. We all should. We are so blessed to live in a country where are we free to pursue ‘the American dream.’ It doesn’t matter what your background or education level is. It doesn’t matter what industry your parents or grandparents worked in. We as Americans have the ability to pursue any job you want, and create any opportunity for yourself.”
As an entrepreneur herself, she opposes tax increases that she argues only aids a bloated government budget and unnecessary regulations that cripple small businesses.
“I will not support increased taxes and have seen first-hand how harmful unnecessary regulations are to small businesses. Our federal budget is already well over it’s max. Our national debt has ballooned out of control and we can’t keep mortgaging our future by continually raising the debt ceiling.”
Sutton also hopes to establish term limits for U.S. representatives so that their contributions can actually be monitored.
“Currently, there are NO term limits for members of Congress. This is how we end up with career politicians who hold seats for 20+ years and the community is none better for it. There should be measures and standards in place that representatives are held to,” she said.
“Just like a business, how exactly are these representatives serving their communities? Have peoples’ lives been improved? Have these politicians fulfilled promises made?”
Donations to Sutton’s campaign can be made here.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article’s headline misstated Lisa Song Sutton potentially being the first Asian American Congresswoman from Nevada and the first Korean American Congresswoman in the United States. The headline has been clarified to reflect this.