Candidate for Lowell’s 5th District City Council: Tooch Van

Lowell, MA —8/28/2021 —Tooch Van held his first fundraising campaign at a new Cambodian restaurant in Lowell called Olympic, which opened recently after its former owner closed the business due to the pandemic. The place used to be known as “Sunnyda Restaurant”, a sister function hall of Sampao Meas Hall located on Chelmsford St.

Tooch is running for the 5th District Lowell City Council as part of a city wide election redistricting, which includes South Lowell. His challenger is Kim Scott, a former school committee member.

Tooch Van at Corner Cafe in South Lowell. Photo by Khmer Post USA

The candidate came to America from Cambodia in 1997 on a scholarship to study at Middlesex Community College, where he earned an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts and Science. He continued his study and completed his Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a minor in Human Rights and Asian Studies at Trinity College, and a Master Degree in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

His childhood is a testament to his perseverance. At five years old, Tooch lost of both his parents to the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979). At age 15, Tooch helped tutor his friend in mathematics in exchange for food and shelter. From there, he was on a springboard to America and earned his degrees in higher education, earning scholarship after scholarship.

Following graduate school, Tooch moved back to Lowell and started working at Middlesex Community College as a Senior Engagement Officer where he worked for 12 years. Here in Lowell, he lives with his wife Chorvy and two children Winston & Franklin. In Lowell, people know Tooch as a dedicated father, hard worker, and a lifelong supporter of community events. He has helped many Cambodian international students call Lowell home, and in turn they showed up to support him on his campaign night. 

While working at Middlesex Community College, Tooch was very dedicated to Khmer art and culture. He transformed MCC into an institution where people could come to learn about Cambodian history and politics. It is now a place for students, scholars, and activists to learn, explore and exchange conversations about Cambodia, the Cambodian community in Lowell and beyond. It was a grand milestone for the Cambodian people in making their culture more widely known in America, and Tooch’s programs continue to today. 

Former students of Tooch at Middlesex Community College showed their support for his candidacy. From the left to right: Seila S. Chuop, Diego Leonardo Garcia, Maria Aybar, Mai Nagabayashi, Tara Hong, Karonika Brown, Zarais German George, and Vireak Yim. Photo by Khmer Post USA.

As part of the redistricting, South Lowell is now within the 5th district, with 13,641 citizens of voting ages: 53.9% white, 20% Asian (16% Cambodian descends), 17.6% Latino, and 6.2% Black according to the 2010 U.S. Census and 2018 American Community Survey. Tooch says that South Lowell has been forgotten by City Hall. “There are potholes, no side walks, all sorts of problems. This is why I wanted to run. I want to help make this district better,” said Tooch.

Tooch was also one of the plaintiffs on the federal voting rights lawsuits “Hout et all vs. City of Lowell” in 2017 which had lead to this charter change in the voting system. He said “City Hall should reflect our district, that it is a very diverse place”.

Tooch’s eldest son, Winston, grade 7 at Lowell Community Public Charter School, performs “White Monkey” dance for his fundraiser 8/28/2021. Photo by Khmer Post USA

His resume indicates that he had served on the Board of Directors of Cultural Organization of Lowell, Lowell Day Nursery, CMAA of Greater Lowell, and Cambodia Town Lowell. He currently serves as Vice-Chairperson of the City of Lowell Homeless and Hunger Commission, Treasurer of the Nonprofit Alliance, and Board of Trustee of Lowell Community Charter Public School (LCCPS) where both of his sons attend: Winston, grade 7, and Franklin grade 4.

Elected officials attending his fundraiser included State Representative Vanna Howard, School Committee Member Dominik Lay; Councilor Vesna Nuon, Incumbent for City Council at-Large; Ben Opara, School Committee Candidate for district #1; Mayor John Leahy, Incumbent for City Council for district #3; Tooch Van, Candidate for City Council for district 5; Stacy Thompson, Candidate for School Committee for district #1, and Bobby Tugbiyele, Candidate for City Council at-Large.

Tooch’s most recent employment was with the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce. He is currently working at CMAA as the Outreach & Translation Coordinator. Because there are only two candidates in the 5th District for City Council, there is no primary. Tooch is heading into the general election on November 2nd, 2021.