From the Pacific Islands to Virginia, Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates dot the political landscape in the United States.
Research from the Asian and Pacific American Institute of Congressional Studies found that 123 AAPI candidates are running for state or federal office in 2016. That total does not include the Hawaii State Legislature because the filing deadline there is June 7.
“Asian American representation is on a steady upward path, in line with the growth of the Asian American electorate,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan to AsAmNews. Ramakrishnan is a professor and associate dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Irvine. “There is still a big gap between the Asian American share of the population and the Asian American share of Congress. Much of this gap is narrowed, however, when we look at the Asian American share of the voting population.”
AAPI candidates are running in 28 states, the North Mariana Islands, America Samoa and Guam. Democratic candidates outnumber Republicans by two to one with 24 Democrats, 12 Republicans, two libertarians and one independent running for Congress. On the state level, the gap between Democratic and Republican candidates is even greater with Democrats outnumbering Republicans 58 to 25.
Not surprisingly, the survey also reveals a gender gap with men outnumbering women 80 to 43.
One prominent Asian American women elected official is Rep Judy Chu (D-CA).
“Building a strong leadership pipeline for AAPIs is something that I have prioritized in my capacity as Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus,” she said to AsAmNews. “I hope that as more AAPIs see people like themselves in leadership positions, the more they will believe that they too have a place at the table.”
The number of Asian American voters is expected to grow by 107 percent by 2040, according to a study from the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge and APAICS. As the number of voters increase, so does their political strength. The number of AAPI candidates is increasing along with that voting power.
APAICS also released a map showing where all AAPI elected officials are located on the local, state and federal levels.
“We are not only showing up in densely-populated AAPI communities, but in new areas where AAPIs have not traditionally been represented in the political sphere,” said Floyd Mori, President and CEO of APAICS. “The database helps us understand to a fuller extent, the status of AAPIs holding political influence– including where our voices are most strongly represented and where there is still room for growth.”
Chu says she is encouraged that Asian Americans have become a “deciding demographic in key states like Virginia and Nevada. That means more candidates are paying attention to issues that matter to us. It also means we’re seeing more AAPI candidates running for office at all levels.”
Perhaps surprising to some, many Asian American candidates are coming from districts that are minority Asian American. Ramakrishnan told AsAmNews it will be important for these candidates to reach out to other racial and ethnic groups, including African Americans, Latinos and White voters if they are to succeed.
“We can’t just assume that the number of Asian American representatives will automatically grow along with population growth,” he said. “Asian Americans need to participate in much greater numbers than we are doing today, and our participation needs to be strong in midterm and elections as well as presidential elections. In fact, getting more involved in school board and local elections may be the best way for Asian Americans to steadily build their power base in order to gain visibility and influence, both the short and long term.
The APAICS Political Database is the first and only database of currently elected AAPI officials. The numbers are based on data as of March 21, 2016.
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