By Julia Tong, AsAmNews Intern
AAPI Victory Fund, the first Super PAC centered on the AAPI Community, has announced the appointment of Brad Jenkins as its President and CEO. The organization hopes that Jenkins will leverage his diverse experiences in both politics and entertainment to mobilize Asian American voters during a critical moment for the AAPI communities.
A self-described “political junkie,” Jenkins began his career as an Associate Director for the Obama Administration. At the White House, however, his career took an unconventional turn. In an effort to reach more of the populace, especially young people and people of color, the administration partnered with the comedy production company Funny or Die. Jenkins embraced the entertainment world, eventually becoming an Executive Producer for the company. (“It’s an interesting thing to switch bosses from Barack Obama to Will Farrell,” he jokes.)
The pivot from politics into comedy may seem jarring. For Jenkins, however, popular media was the perfect vehicle to communicate public policy and politics to marginalized voters. As he ran over 50 social campaigns with Funny or Die, he played with new forms of communications and entertainment—some fun, some humorous, some serious. Jenkins eventually used his knowledge to start Enfranchisement, his own production company focused around Asian Americans, running campaigns with numerous Asian American community groups such as the Asian American Foundation, the Indian American Impact Fund and We Are Sikhs.
“The biggest lesson learned was that you have to meet our communities where they are. You can’t expect them to always be reading or watching the kinds of…traditional forms of communication of political groups do,” Jenkins said.
As the AAPI Victory Fund searched for their next permanent president, they were drawn to Jenkins’s mixed entertainment-politics background. According to Chairperson Shekar Narasimhan, Jenkins’s experience successfully conducting multimedia outreach campaigns would be essential for the PAC’s plans to continue promoting Asian American political engagement after record turnout in the 2020 presidential election.
“One of the things that Brad has that is superior to any of the other candidates and most people I’ve met is communication skills,” Narasimhan said. “He’s not only highly likable, but he has [the ability to]…communicat[e] on issues in a way that is life for the next generation audiences.”
As president of the AAPI Victory Fund, Jenkins hopes to conduct much-needed work researching the community and supporting underresourced Asian American candidates. First, he emphasizes the need to study the politics of the Asian American community, a group long ignored by mainstream SuperPACs and other related organizations. Jenkins says the Victory Fund has plans to poll the community and make “historic” investments into refining, improving, and disaggregating data, gaining a more complete understanding of AAPI than ever before.
Jenkins also stressed the importance of using that research to build an “one-of-a-kind creative campaign” encouraging Asian Americans to show up at the ballot box. The 2020 presidential election featured record turnout as Asian American voters mobilized against Donald Trump. Ultimately, Jenkins hopes that the AAPI Victory Fund will seize the moment and build the “biggest national Asian American voter movement we have ever seen.”
“We as a community…are not this, quote-and-quote ‘nonpolitical’ or not as active as other communities. In fact, that was quite clearly disproved last cycle,” Jenkins said. “We need to make sure that that was not just an aberration, that that wasn’t just, a unique rally against Donald Trump. We need to make sure that our community is showing up to the polls every election.”
In addition, the AAPI Victory Fund announced a partnership with Collective PAC, an African American political group, and the Latino Victory Fund, in order to build a multiracial coalition. As a biracial person, with an African American father and a Korean mother, Jenkins is particularly passionate about the potential of cross-ethnic solidarity. He hopes that being able to share data and resources with the other groups will increase the electoral power of people as a whole.
“If not for Asian Americans, African Americans, and Latino Americans, there would be no Joe Biden in the White House. There would be no, you know, again, House and Senate Majority,” he said. “We know that we can’t wait on others to do this work for us. So we just decided to link arms and invest in each other and really lean on each other, work with each other, on making sure that that we’re winning these elections.”
Jenkins’s Washington experience, biracial lived identity, and ability to creatively communicate to important groups—voters, donors, and other organizations—contributed to his unanimous election as President of the AAPI Victory Fund. Ultimately, though, board members like Narasimhan were struck by his clear understanding of what it takes to produce results.
“I’ve often said that those who keep telling me that democracy is at risk and we need to save democracy should be highly focused on elections with the people who care about democracy because that’s the way we preserve our democracy,” Narasimhan says. “I think that Brad understands how to win. And we think with him, we have a winner, but importantly, we have to support him to win.”
And Jenkins is as motivated as Narasimhan portrays him to be.
“The exciting thing about this job is that we would all agree, as Asian Americans that we’ve never seen anything like the Stop Asian Hate movement, that our communities have been centered, we have been standing up and will continue to stand up,” Jenkins said.
“I’m so excited to be able to channel all of this energy for all of these amazing Asian American candidates running for office.”
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