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Presidential candidates invited to California AAPI Forum


Views from the Edge

As a sign of their growing political influence, Asian American political groups plan to host a forum in Orange County, California, for Democratic presidential candidates this September.

AAPI Victory Fund and Asian Americans Rising said they plan to sponsor the Sept. 8 forum. Although participants have not yet been announced, the Orange County Register reported that an organizer said several “top-tier” candidates have pledged to appear.

Orange County, which used to be a bastion of Republicans, turned decidedly Democrat in the 2018 Midterms. The AAPI communities were a key factor in turning its eight Congressional Districts blue.

About 20 percent of the county’s population is Asian American or Pacific Islander, according to census estimates, with large populations of people of Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Japanese descent.

To date, 18 candidates, including three AAPI candidates, are seeking the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination, including three Asian American and Pacific Islanders. The forum will showcase the candidates who are most interested in securing the AAPI vote in the Presidential primaries.

“We saw a record number of Asian American and Pacific Islanders run for elected office in 2018 in response to the abusive policies of President Trump and the Republican Congress,” said Shekar Narasimhan, chair and founder of AAPI Victory Fund. 

“The diversity and breadth of the 2020 Presidential democratic field and our community’s desire to engage has surpassed our expectations. We felt it was important to hold this groundbreaking forum with Democratic candidates, to test if they believe the AAPI vote is worth investing in, and also to ensure that our community has the information needed to participate in the primaries and the general election,” said Narasimhan.

Voting statistics of Asian Americans

California has largest and most diverse population in the nation with a strong track record of early voting. Nearly 60% of California Democratic voters cast a ballot by mail in the 2016 Presidential primary. For the 2020 election, California will be voting even earlier than in previous years, as its primaries have been shifted to “Super Tuesday” in March, in order to have a greater influence on the Presidential nomination process. 

With approximately 1.6 million AAPIs in Los Angeles County alone, delegate-rich California will be receiving ballots on the same day that Iowans head to their first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. California outpaced Iowa in delegates in 2016, 475 to 23.

“We are excited to host this forum in Orange County, where 1 in 5 residents are Asian American and Pacific Islander. Rather than being dominated by one immigrant group, Orange County’s communities have a Pan-Asian feel, with Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Filipino and Japanese influences,” said Katie Nguyen Kalvoda, co-founder and president of Asian Americans Rising. “We may have descended from many, but we rise as one to lift the AAPI voice for political parity.”

As the fastest growing racial group in the US, the AAPI electorate will have an even more formidable effect in the 2020 elections than it has in the past. Roughly one in four Congressional Districts have more than 5% AAPI voters, and AAPIs have become the swing vote in multiple districts and states. Results from the 2018 mid-term elections show that AAPIs contributed significantly to the Democratic margins of victory.

“The Trump Administration has repeatedly attacked and shown disregard for the AAPI community through policies that separate our families, undermine our health care and suppress our civil rights and liberties,” said Bel Leong-Hong, co-founder of AAPI Victory Fund. 

“In the 2016 Presidential Election, AAPIs made up 5.9 million registered voters, and 9.3 million eligible voters. Because of the President’s policies, we expect AAPI voter registration to increase significantly in 2020. This forum will energize the AAPI community and inform them which candidate is best suited to lead our country.”

The first-ever AAPI Democratic Presidential Forum, and the Day of Action that will precede it, will highlight AAPI issues as well as our goal of increasing the number of new AAPI voters by 1 million in 2020. 
To RSVP, and for additional information about the AAPI Democratic Presidential Forum visit www.AAPIConstellation.com.

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