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Ahead of Super Tuesday, campaign manager Roger Lau talks how APIs fit into Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign

Photo of Roger Lau canvassing for Elizabeth Warren via Twitter. Lau is the campaign manager of Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign.

By Jennifer Zhan, AsAmNews associate editor

When Roger Lau first started working in politics on the East Coast, he didn’t see a lot of Asian Americans in any roles, much less leadership roles. 

Today, the son of Chinese immigrants boasts an impressive career – he has worked on the campaigns of several elected officials in Massachusetts, including former Secretary of State John Kerry and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.  

Last February, Lau was named the campaign manager for Warren’s presidential campaign, making him the first Asian American to hold the position for a major presidential campaign. It’s a role he doesn’t take lightly.  

“Every time an Asian American comes to me and says, ‘I want to be in politics, but I never thought it was possible until I saw you doing it,’ it inspires me and makes me want to work harder,” Lau said on a press call Friday. “I feel definitely a sense of responsibility to make sure that I do a good job on this.” 

Currently, the Warren campaign is gearing up for the presidential primaries that will take place on March 3, nicknamed Super Tuesday due to how many delegates are up for grabs (around a third of the total, and the most available on a single day of the primary). 

According to NPR, Elizabeth Warren is currently trailing with 8 delegates behind Bernie Sanders (45), Pete Buttigieg (25) and Joe Biden (15). But there’s still a long road ahead: candidates need 1,991 delegates to secure the nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention. 

“We are fighting this delegate by delegate,” Lau said, adding that Warren has a record of being able to win even in races where she initially trailed. “I’m confident that we’re going to continue fighting all the way through until the convention.”

So far, Warren has marketed herself as a candidate that represents progressive values on issues such as healthcare accessibility, anti-corruption, climate justice, universal childcare, college affordability, gun violence and the closure of private prisons. 

When it comes to the API community specifically, Lau said the Warren campaign is focused on recognizing addressing the nuances and differences that exist. Breaking down aggregate data is a key feature in Warren’s policy plan for Asian Americans, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders

Lau pointed to the “dramatic” income disparity between different API groups, and added that different concerns can also come when people hail from different countries and have different visas or social networks and community structures available to them. 

“In order for us to best serve any constituency, you have to understand who they are, where they come from, and what their needs are,” Lau said. “A lot of it comes from the data. And so (Warren’s) a big proponent of making sure that data is disaggregated, for healthcare, for economic reasons, for education reasons.”

Meanwhile, Lau believes the Democratic Party has now moved to a place where people recognize that different communities are emerging and want to “lay their claim to their piece of the democracy.” 

“I think that’s a good thing, and I think that we’ve seen that with African American communities and Latinx communities,” he said. “But I’m excited that the API community is raising their hand as well and demanding their seat at the table.”

There are over 100 API staffers on Warren’s campaign team. Lau, who served as the political director for Warren’s 2012 Senate campaign and her state director in her Senate office from 2013 to 2018, said Warren has consistently demonstrated a belief that ideas about how to govern come from people you talk to and who work for you.

He said having the opportunity to play a role in a campaign deciding who the next president will be feels like a culmination of all the work he’s done so far.

“It’s been a humbling experience for me,” he said. “I’m excited and I’m proud.”

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