Jay F. Chen (Chinese: 陳介飛; pinyin: Chen Jiefei; Pe̍h-oe-ji: Tan Kai-poe, born 23 February 1978) is a Taiwanese-American Democratic politician, known as a member and president of the Board of Education of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District in Southern California, and as a candidate for election in 2012 in California's 39th Congressional District. He is a Marshall Memorial Fellow.
Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Kelvin and Nain Chen, Jay Chen spent half of his formative years in Ohio, Indiana, Oregon and Singapore.
In 1988, when Chen was 10, the family relocated to Hacienda Heights, California, where he attended Glen A. Wilson High School and received an NROTC scholarship to attend Harvard University. While at Harvard he was active with Harvard Model Congress, The Harvard Crimson, and wrote for two editions of Let's Go budget travel guides, covering the countries of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Bolivia and Chile. He also interned at the US Embassy in Costa Rica and the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights.
After graduating, he was recruited by Bain and Company, a consulting firm, to advise Fortune 500 companies, and worked for Technoserve in Honduras before moving on to start a small business in realty. He also currently serves in the U.S. Navy Reserve and is a Lieutenant Junior Grade attached to Command Naval Forces Korea.
Chen is a self-described progressive. In 2007, Chen ran successfully for the Hacienda-La Puente School Board. He was later designated president of the board, and was re-elected in 2011 with the highest margin of vote, in a controversial recall election. In 2011 he joined the board of directors of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, founded by former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta. In 2012 Chen was elected president of the Asian Pacific Islander School Board Members Association and in 2013 he was re-elected president of the board of education by his peers.
In 2010, the Hacienda La Puente School Board voted 4 to 1 to adopt a new Chinese language and culture class at Cedarlane Middle School in Hacienda Heights. The program, called Confucius Classroom and sponsored by the Chinese government's Chinese Language Council International, came at no cost to the district. The decision sparked some debate within the community, particularly among local members of the Tea Party, who believed the language program would teach communism. Chen came out as a vocal supporter of the program, calling its detractors "misinformed." The controversy was covered by Aasif Mandvi on an episode of The Daily Show. Chen was featured prominently in the segment, titled "Socialism Studies."
In February 2012, Chen announced his candidacy for the United States Congress in February 2012 for the newly redrawn 39th District, which includes the cities of Brea, Buena Park, Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, Fullerton, Hacienda Heights, La Habra, La Habra Heights, Placentia, Rowland Heights, Walnut, and Yorba Linda. The district is largely Republican, but contains one of California's highest proportion of independent voters; more than 23% of voters in the district are independent. 39% are Republicans and 32% are Democrat. The district is also one of the most diverse in California, with 29% Asian, 33% Hispanic, and 34% White.
During the campaign Jay Chen became the target of several racist attacks. In October 2012, the campaign of incumbent Ed Royce accused the Chen campaign for violating Federal Election Commission rules that violate super PACs from coordinating with individual campaigns. During the campaign, a super PAC called America Shining, funded by Chen's brother Shaw Chen, had launched attack ads at Royce. The FEC dismissed the allegations and closed the case. As of October 17, the Royce campaign has raised $2,558,642 in campaign donations, as compared to $773,493 for the Chen campaign. While Jay Chen carried Los Angeles County, Royce won Orange County and the election.
In 2013 board president Jay Chen led a push for greater transparency and accountability in Hacienda La Puente Unified when it was discovered that Chinese exchange students recruited by current and former school board members were being mistreated. The allegations led to an internal report that revealed conflicts of interest and abuse of authority by board members. Chen has advocated making the report public and transparent. As a result, the Los Angeles County District Attorney has opened an investigation on two board members and one board member has been formally censured by the board.
In 2014 in a bid to make the district more transparent about its budget, Jay Chen encouraged Hacienda La Puente Unified to adopt the OpenGov platform, which would place all district finances online in a searchable format. Hacienda La Puente Unified is the first school district in California to adopt the OpenGov platform. Chen also successfully guided the district to adopt the most comprehensive energy efficiency measures in district history.
Jay Chen wed Karen Chang (張凱菱), a Taiwanese American, in Guatemala on January 14, 2012. The wedding was officiated by John Chiang, a California politician.
Chen is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish and speaks conversational Taiwanese Hokkien.
Chen's parents Kelvin K. and Nain L. Chen also live in Hacienda Heights. His elder brother Shaw Yi Chen (b. 1977) is an investment banker in Hong Kong.