Why are a record number of Asian American candidates running in 2012? Today a leading media outlet looked into this intriguing development (via Christian Science Monitor):
A record number of Asian-American candidates are running for the US House and Senate this fall, and they have a message: It’s time for a seat at the table that reflects their numbers in American society.
Just 5.8 percent of the US population is Asian, but only 12 out of 535 members of Congress, or 2 percent, claim Asian heritage, two in the Senate and 10 in the House. Now the numbers may be starting to catch up. Including Pacific Islanders, 30 Asian-American candidates launched congressional bids this cycle, compared with 10 in 2010 and eight in 2008, according to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies in Washington.
In the process, the piece quotes AAA-Fund endorsee Manan Trivedi:
This political activism also reflects increased professional success in fields like medicine and academia, says Manan Trivedi, an Indian-American and a Democrat, running for the first time in Pennsylvania’s 6th district.
“It makes sense that the next step is to get involved in policy and politics,” Mr. Trivedi said, in a phone interview. “That’s where the rubber meets the road.”
Towards the end, the piece quotes this blogger:
Many of the districts Asian-Americans are vying to represent do not have Asian-American majorities, a trend some note as another sign of progress.
“A lot of people think if there aren’t enough people who look like you, you can’t get elected – that’s nonsense. You can win the people’s trust anywhere,” says Gautam Dutta, executive director of the Asian American Action Fund, which backs Asian-American Democrats running for Congress.
Finally, the piece quotes AAA-Fund endorsee Tammy Duckworth, Honorary Board President Rep. Mike Honda, and Honorary Board member Judy Chu:
Two-term Rep. Judy Chu (D) of California, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress, says that Asian-Americans have historically faced difficulty in running because political networks for Asian-Americans are still developing. Moreover, the relatively small number of Asian-Americans in elected office had in the past made it harder for newcomers to compete, she says.
“Right now we are developing that infrastructure,” says Ms. Chu, pointing to the caucus’s recently launched CAPAC Leadership PAC. “It’s a different world today.”
Six-term Rep. Michael Honda (D) of California has long spearheaded efforts to boost the electoral prospects of Asian-American candidates. In addition to mobilizing Asian-Americans to vote, he’s acting as an Asian-American surrogate in key congressional races and for the Obama campaign.
For Mr. Honda, the motivation is partly personal. As a toddler, he and his parents were sent to a Japanese internment camp during World War II, an experience he says highlighted for him the importance of having Asian-American representation in Congress.
“It took about 60 years for us to get an apology from our own government,” he says. Now, “we have to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
When Asian-Americans run for Congress, voters “start to look past our perceived foreignness and look at us as participating Americans who can contribute to this country,” he adds.
Challenger Duckworth, the Democrat challenging Rep. Joe Walsh (R) of Illinois, says that Asian-Americans from Midwestern areas like hers represent constituencies that have traditionally been shut out.
“Places like here have never had Asian-Americans elected to office, not even to state office, or even an alderman,” Duckworth says. “There’s a good chunk of the population that’s not getting all of its concerns represented.”
Some outstanding Asian American candidates have stepped up to the challenge of running for office. Now let’s all do our part to help them make history in November.
– Gautam Dutta