Kimberly Yee may be the first Asian-American woman ever elected to the Arizona Legislature, and the first woman to serve as the state’s Senate majority leader since Sandra Day O’Connor in 1973, but her path to public service is not altogether surprising.
“I was class president for three out of my four years in high school,” Yee says. “And I started working for my first public official when I was still in college, in my county attorney’s office.” Growing up, she went to the polls each November with her parents and faithfully watched the Republican National Convention every four years. Down the road, Yee herself would speak at that convention in support of Donald Trump’s candidacy. She worked for two California governors (gaining her first gubernatorial appointment at age 23) before coming home to Arizona.
During her first campaign for the state House in 2010, someone suggested she keep her last name off her yard signs, for fear that it was “too ethnic.” She declined and won anyway. “I said, ‘We’ll see if Arizona is ready to elect its first Asian-American woman representative,’” she says. “And they were ready.”
Now Yee has set her sights on statewide office: She’s running for state treasurer.