C(API)TOL CORRESPONDENT: What does the 2012 election mean for AAPIs?

The recent election was nothing short of historic for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs).

When the dust settled on the morning after the election, the first openly gay AAPI, the first Hindu and the first Chinese American to represent New York were elected to Congress. It was also when the first AAPI woman was elected to the United States Senate.

In addition, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus nearly doubled in a single election cycle. The Caucus stands at 13 members … the most AAPIs serving in Congress at one time in the history of the United States.

In California, the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus survived hard fought campaigns to maintain 11 seats and stand as the second largest ethnic caucus in the state legislature. The races that involved new API candidates Al Muratsuchi, Rob Bonta, Phil Ting, Ed Chau and Jennifer Ong involved millions of dollars in campaign spending.

What does this mean? One word: respect.

Finally … AAPIs are being taken seriously.

It’s not a declaration. It’s a reality. For the first time, discussions about the AAPI vote appeared in nationally recognized media coverage including the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, Politico, NPR, Roll Call, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. At least two articles after the election were written about the puzzling conundrum about how AAPI voters bucked the typical pro-Mitt Romney high-income voter demographic and overwhelmingly supported the re-election of President Barack Obama.

The Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, along with Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote and the National Asian American Survey, recently released preliminary findings of a post-election poll that showed Obama won 71 percent of the AAPI vote.
So now what?

Can AAPIs hold or grow their seats? Is there enough infrastructure to sustain a long-term political presence for AAPIs in the halls of power?

We’ll find out in less than two years. AAPI candidates are already prepared for another campaign battle royale in 2014. Campbell City Councilman Evan Low is poised to replace Assemblyman Paul Fong.

Assemblymember Dr. Richard Pan has already opened an account to run for the state senate and is expected to face his colleague Assemblymember Roger Dickinson. State Controller John Chiang will be running for state treasurer and Board of Equalization Member Betty Yee will be running to replace Chiang in the Controller’s office. Former San Francisco Assemblymember Fiona Ma will be running to replace Yee on the State Board of Equalization. Rumor has it that an AAPI candidate is considering a run to replace termed out Assemblymember Tom Ammiano in San Francisco. Former Assemblymember Mary Hayashi will most likely take on Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski for a state senate seat. Ohlone Community College Trustee Garrett Yee may then make a run to replace the termed-out Wieckowski.

Outlier AAPIs that were swept in by the Obama voter turnout machine like Mark Takano and Ami Bera may face a tougher re-election in a low voter turnout midterm election.

If AAPIs want to keep what they have or make gains in the world of politics they’ll have to up their game because their opponents will be ready. Welcome to being taken seriously.

Bill Wong is a political and strategic consultant with more than 25 years of legislative and campaign experience. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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