How we win: build local power

The answer to how we regroup, and how we win, is the same as it’s always been, even given that the unthinkable occurred. It is how any group of people has ever won against long odds.

I am not saying that the next four years will be easy. I remember working my twenty-three year old heart out in Minnesota in 2004, and watching election night returns with a steadily sinking heart. My friend and I hugged each other and held tight. My flight and SuperShuttle back was full of Republicans jubilant in victory. Meanwhile, all I could think was that it would take the rest of my lifetime to undo the SCOTUS decisions that would occur under 4 years of President George W. Bush. I had already seen the deleterious impact of the PATRIOT Act and special registration while working in my Congresswoman’s district office, with families coming in and crying over hard decisions of going underground, splitting up, or moving to Canada.

That was 12 years ago and it feels like a lifetime. Now we have a president-elect whom the previous worst president ever and his father wouldn’t even vote for. I’m pretty convinced that it will take 2 lifetimes to undo the damage done by a Trump presidency. Republicans are 1 state away from controlling enough legislatures to pass Constitutional amendments (this is perhaps scariest of all.) Watching the 2016 returns from the NVDems theoretical victory party, feeling half alive, half dead, and very much like Schrodinger’s cat, I hugged that same friend from ’04 who was there and we commented on how similar it felt. How just like 2004, it doesn’t feel better to win your state when the whole country has lost. As I left Aria, I glanced at the faces of all the young staffers and volunteers, at the children who were in attendance, and I felt bad. They didn’t know just how bad it can get. I’d worked in DC under a Republican administration, where all the agencies turn into the opposite. But this, this would be more unpredictable.

A day later, I went to lunch with a friend and mentee. She asked me the odds of us surviving. Initially I gave a low number but then I thought about all the people I saw on Election Night, friends I’d made over 3 cycles. Friends who had done great work in building local power in Las Vegas and Nevada who were also shocked that Nevada had accomplished so much in four short years.

If you had asked me 4 or 6 years ago if I thought Nevada would be the shining star of election night, I would have snorted. People used to cry about being sent to work the state because of in-fighting, lack of infrastructure, and a highly transient population. Then we won, picking up 2 out of 6 House Democratic seats, and helping to send the first Latina to the U.S. Senate.

Nevada’s victory didn’t come out of nowhere. It took lots of dedicated hours and volunteers. It took some people stepping down so that new leaders could arise. But most of all, it took people putting aside their differences and personality conflicts and egos. The unions worked together and Culinary’s program anchored Labor 2016. Other progressive groups also worked together better. They built local organizations and local power. The AAPI community finally built a community center, and new leaders surfaced who were committed to serving the community. Mostly, no one wanted a repeat of 2014 where the Silver State lost all their Democratic statewides and both legislative houses, which led to a disastrous legislative session. So they were determined to work together.

Other cities, other states can do it too. We, as individuals, can work together. We have to work together because the consequences for not holding tight are too dire. Each of us can make a difference by taking a stand. By running for PTA president or school board. By reaching out at an interfaith service. It all starts somewhere. The answer to the question of how we survive is the same as ever: build local power. Some are waiting for someone, anyone to come and save us. But if there is one thing that I learned from Ferguson, it’s that we have to save ourselves. We are beautiful and so very worth saving. Our democracy is a time-tested and yet fragile ecosystem, one that requires our energy and our participation to keep it alive and functioning. So we are here to do the work, with our two hands, full lungs, and a steadily beating heart.


Asian American Tech and Media Luminaries Appeal to Millennial Voters

Asian American Tech and Media Luminaries Appeal to Millennial Voters

Asian American Tech and Media Luminaries

Join an All-star lineup of Asian-American tech and media luminaries as they gather today via Skype to urge American youth to vote in Nevada and nationwide

Ahead of the general election, media and tech luminaries will gather to share their personal experiences about why voting matters with a millennial audience.  The all-star event will be moderated by Richard Lui of MSNBC, and panelists Lisa Ling of CNN and tech luminary Bing Chen will discuss how they became politically active and urge young voters to turnout on November 8th.

Young voters will also gather in person at Asian Community Development Council at 2610 S Jones Blvd #3 in Las Vegas for a live Q and A with the speakers. The Asian American Pacific Islander vote in Nevada is over 9% of the electorate. The event is being broadcast in partnership with Comcast NBC, APIAVOTE, and Island Block radio.


Richard Lui, MSNBC anchor

Lisa Ling, journalist and host of CNN’s This is Life

Bing Chen, co-founder of Victorious, former YouTube Head of Global Talent Management, named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30

AJ Rafael, Youtube musician

Taz Ahmed, co-Host of #GoodMuslimBadMuslim

Elisiva Maka, Ted x International speaker, Founder of Strength + Beauty: Empowering Pasifika Women

WHAT: Skype session to encourage the millennial vote in Nevada

WHEN:  November 5, 2016, 4PM Pacific

WHERE: RSVP at http://www.bit.ly/2eWyt1B

WHY: Millennial and Asian American voters are the swing voters in this election.

AAAFund Endorses Catherine Cortez Masto for Nevada

Asian American Action Fund logo

November 1, 2016
Contact: Richard Chen, media@aaafund.org

Superior representation for all Nevadans

The Asian American Action Fund is proud to endorse Catherine Cortez Masto for U.S. Senate. Cortez Masto has long served the people of Nevada— she began her career as a federal prosecutor in Washington D.C., was an Assistant County Manager in Nevada’s Clark County, and acted as former Nevada Governor Bob Miller’s Chief of Staff. Most recently, she served two highly successful terms as Nevada’s Attorney General from 2007-2015. Her terms were defined by her advocacy for some of the country’s most vulnerable communities, including women, children, and as such has strengthened laws against sex trafficking and senior abuse in the state of Nevada.

If elected, Cortez Masto will be the first Latino elected to a seat in the U.S. Senate. As the granddaughter of immigrants, Cortez Masto understands the importance of bipartisan immigration reform that allows families to stay together, and creates pathways for citizenship in the U.S. She remains fiercely committed to protecting the rights of all Americans, the Asian American Pacific Islander community included.

Says Irene Bueno, the AAA Fund’s Endorsement Chair, “The Asian American Action Fund is endorsing Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto because she knows the AAPI community. She has spoken out against the deplorable anti-immigrant rhetoric being used this election season, and we know that she will fight for us and be our voice in the U.S. Senate.”

Read more on Cortez Masto’s campaign platforms and vote November 8.


AAA-Fund (www.aaafund.org) is a progressive political organization that is dedicated to empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the United States. Through the AAA-Fund, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) from different ethnic groups and from all over the country work together to increase the voice of the AAPI community in local, state and federal government. We do this by helping to elect AAPI and other political candidates who have a demonstrated commitment to the community, and by engaging AAPIs in the political process.

Catherine Cortez Masto

On Nevada voter outreach and caucus predictions

Editor’s Note: Read Caroline’s op-ed in yesterday’s Nevada Asian Journal.

With the upcoming caucuses, I’ve had people ask me what I think Nevada turnout will be since I’ve done a few campaigns there. I think it will be close. Unlike many states, polling doesn’t count for much. In 2010 and 2012, election night polls had Harry Reid even with Sharron Angle, and he wound up pulling out a 5 point win because of minority voters who were pissed that Angle said things like, “some of you look more Asian to me.”

There are a lot of reasons why polls of Nevada voters are not accurate which I detailed in my 2010 post-mortem. In brief:
1) Very transient population (changes addresses + phone/ cell numbers frequently.)
2) High Limited English Proficiency and polls generally poll in English only, missing the close to 40% of Nevada that are Latino or Asian Pacific American.
3) Many young voters and people who only have cell phones. (Back to #1.)
4) People work day and night and lots of shift-workers. Between the casinos and the health care field (nurses, personal health aides, etc.) a lot of people are shift-workers who are not always at home at normal hours. So phonebanking and doorknocking are less efficient and less likely to reach someone at home, if they still live there (see #1.)

The biggest issue is that Culinary has not made an endorsement in the presidential election, and Culinary is the powerhouse of voter turnout in Clark County. They will be bringing workers to the polls for their preferred candidate, State Sen. Ruben Kihuen, in CD 4 in an attempt to knockout first term incumbent Congressman Crescent Hardy (R). And actually, this northern district which spans North Las Vegas and upwards is about 8-10% AAPI. (I say actually because people think that the concentration of AAPI voters is in Chinatown. It’s actually in the Southwest.)

Where do the candidates stand with the AAPI community and what history do they have?

In the AAPI community, Sanders starts off at a pretty big disadvantage. Hillary has many high level AAPI staff and supporters, from Vice Chair Huma Abedin, to Finance Director Dennis Cheng, to Policy Adviser Maya Harris, to 3 AAPI women directors on her outreach team – former Olympian Michelle Kwan as Surrogate Director, Mini Timmaruju as Women’s Director, and Lisa Changadvega as AAPI Director. She has a very robust list of prominent AAPI supporters, and had the first ever AAPI specific launch of any presidential campaign. President Bill Clinton authorized the first White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. So the Clintons’ history of working with the AAPI community stretches back more than 20 years.

Hillary’s campaign has an infrastructure in the AAPI community in Nevada, and is more organized than Sanders’ supporters. She has the backing of all the major leaders in the AAPI community, not unlike her support from the general Democratic establishment. It is a time for the AAPI community in Nevada to shine and to come out to vote, a fact that has been reported by no less than the Associated Press.

But surprisingly, a Dec 2015 Gallup poll of AAPIs shows that of all the candidates, Sanders has the most net likability. So there is absolutely an opening for him. Our community deeply cares about education. His free college tuition for all probably resonates with students who excel academically and with their parents who would be relieved to not have to remortgage their houses to afford to get their kids into the best universities. And actually, he received probably his first AAPI endorsement from the Muslim Democratic Club of New York. To be fair, the organization isn’t only AAPI but it is predominantly South Asian American.

It will be an interesting caucus day in Nevada for sure, and this race could be close enough that Asian American and Pacific Islander voters make the difference.


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