B/W photo of Lily in high school in China

My Story: The Spirit of America

I was born and raised in China during great political unrest and came alone to the States to improve my odds when China opened its door to the rest of the world. I landed in the middle of cornfields in Indiana (a big change from Shanghai) where I had to use a Walkman to record lectures and work several jobs between classes to complete my studies.

With my young family, I completed two master’s degrees, moved across four states and built a career in student affairs in higher education. I eventually settled in the Washington region where I established myself as an economic development official in DC and Montgomery County and became a community leader.


Only in America can you run for office and get elected by people who can’t even pronounce your name.”

– Lily on NPR (interview with Steve Inskeep)

Thanks to your support, I won a highly competitive race in 2018 and joined the Maryland legislature as the first Chinese immigrant and a member of the largest female legislative class in history. Our campaign unleashed tremendous new energy (“Qi”) among first-time Asian American voters.

Listen to my story on NPR and read about my campaign in the Washington Post.



Lily with African American group

While working at American University, I managed a minority student retention program with predominantly Black students and learned some profound truths about America and race relations that got me involved in civil rights and community affairs. After earning my MBA, I went on to become Vice President of Business Development for the Washington, DC Economic Partnership to grow economic opportunities for the capital city during its early years of revitalization. I later served as a spokesperson for the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, before being tapped by County Executive Ike Leggett to serve in his administration.

During my decade of service in Montgomery County government, I focused on improving government cultural competency and our economic standing. As the first Asian American appointed Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, I worked on developing global partnerships and led a series of strategic initiatives including establishing BioHealth Innovation, Inc. and the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation and building a national award-winning integrated business portal to grow our economy and make it easier to do businesses in Montgomery County. 

To me, being in elective office is another way of paying back and paying forward. I have advocated for years on immigrant integration and political engagement (read my op-ed in Maryland Matters) and wrote a monthly column for Asian Fortune on civic and cultural matters. I have modeled local involvement by serving on numerous nonprofit boards and commissions including Leadership Montgomery, Suburban Hospital, Imagination Stage, and Manchester University in Indiana (my alma mater), and chairing Governor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs. 

I am beyond grateful for what this country and this community have given me and my family, and proud to have been recognized as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women, Person of the Year by the Greater Washington Chinese Post in 2018 and three times awardee by the National Association of Counties for my service to Montgomery County. But I knew I could do even more to directly affect changes. That was why I decided to run for office in 2018. 

Endorsements and Affiliations

2022 Endorsements

MCEA Apple logo
Sierra Club logo
Volunteer Fire & Rescue Assn logo

2018 Endorsements

Sierra Club logo
Moms Demand Action logo
Montgomery County PAC logo
LGBTQ Democrats logo
Asian Americans Democratic Club logo
AFL-CIO logo
Maryland League of Conservation Voters logo
Greater Greater Washington logo
Association of Black Democrats logo
Volunteer Fire & Rescue Assn logo
Montgomery County Lodge 35 logo
IFF logo
NARAL logo


Emerge Maryland logo
Maryland's Top 100 Women logo

In Her Own Words

Immigrants ARE America. We shouldn’t have to wait a generation to be Americans”

– Lily Qi

Lily with women of the MD House of Delegates