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Asian Americans Running for Congress

Although the final results were disappointing, the 2010 cycle was a breakthrough year for credible Asian American candidates running for Congress. In total, eight candidates made it through the primary, all Democrats. Ultimately, State Senator Hansen Clarke, who ran in Michigan's 13th Congressional District, was the only one to emerge victorious. (Clarke joined the progressive and AAPI caucuses in Congress soon after winning his seat.)

However 2012 could be just as big as six solid candidates have already announced their candidacies.

CALIFORNIA

Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang hopes to be the second Korean American in Congress, running in a new district in Orange County. Kang made his announcement in the Korean press which treats him like a rock star. It'll be a tough road to victory, but according to the OC Liberal, Kang does have a path:

Kang would draw on progressive voters in HB, Irvine and Laguna Beach plus a strong support from Korean American voters known to cross party lines to vote for a candidate and not a political party.  Kang carries a track record of steering Irvine through a difficult economic climate, unsurpassed support for Irvine schools, practical and successful business experience and a track record of working across party lines with elected from other parties in other cities.  Regardless of the battle between Campbell and Rohrabacher, voter registration still favors the GOP but with a bloodbath between Dana and John in an open primary would drain finances and votes from the GOP advantage leaving Kang in situation to raise cash and shake hands for a general election.  With 2012 being a presidential election, Kang can benefit from President Obama’s long coattails in OC.

Riverside Community College Board Trustee Mark Takano (pictured above) is running for a proposed seat in the Inland Empire. If Takano wins, he would be the first gay Asian American in Congress. The district will have a sizeable Latino population, but Takano is hoping to showcase his fundraising prowess to scare off any potential challengers.

Mark Takano is a familiar name in local Democratic politics.   He was in the 43rd Congressional District in 1992, agd again in 1994.  While he He won the 1992 primary, he did not win the general election.

Takano gave his best challenge to Congressman Ken Calvert during the contest for California’s 43rd Congressional District in 1992.   Calvert won by a margin of about 550 votes.

CONNECTICUT

State Representative William Tong of Stamford is the one Asian American running for Senate. He's going for the seat being vacated by the retiring Joe Lieberman. He might not be the most progressive candidate when it comes to fiscal issues:

Tong, who considers himself a fiscal conservative, voted against almost every budget proposal since the 2007 legislative session. Sources say this may better position him to win a general election.

But he also has been a leader in criminal justice reforms such as the passage of the law requiring people to report lost or stolen firearms, and the implementation of a new criminal justice information technology system.

Tong also supports legislation which allows undocumented students to pay the same college tuition rates as Connecticut residents.

“I don’t think it’s easy to pigeon-hole me,” Tong said of his legislative agenda.

ILLINOIS

Assistant Secretary of Veteran Affairs Tammy Duckworth recently stepped down from her position in the Obama Administration and moved back to her home in the Chicago suburbs. Soon after, she made her campaign official. Duckworth first ran for this seat six years ago in a high-profile campaign, raising over $4.5 million and having the support of many prominent politicians like Senators Dick Durbin and future-President Barack Obama.

Duckworth should have an easier go of it this time around, even though 2012 likely won’t prove to be a Democratic wave election like her first go round in 2006. Illinois’ 8th district was drawn as a blue seat under Democratic-controlled redistricting, and she won the portion of the old 6th district that is in the new 8th district.

Candidate for State Comptroller in 2010, Raja Krishnamoorthi this time has his eyes set on the newly-created Illinois 8th. While the district is predicted to have 12% Asian Americans, Raja will face stiff competition in Tammy Duckworth.

The candidate has relatively wide name recognition from a statewide race in 2010, where he sought the Democratic nomination for comptroller. He was narrowly defeated by David Miller, who then lost to Judy Baar Topinka in the general election. Krishnamoorthi was also considered for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor after Scott Lee Cohen won that election and then promptly resigned. Sheila Simon was ultimately chosen by party leaders to replace Cohen.

NEW JERSEY

Former Mayor of Edison Jun Choi is challenging incumbent Leonard Lance in New Jersey's 7th Congressional District. To win, Choi is going to have to mend some fences with the unions.

Choi, 39, was chief executive of Edison, the fifth-largest municipality in the state, from 2006 to 2009. He beat incumbent Democratic Mayor George Spadoro in a primary to win the party nomination in 2005 and went on to win the general election.

His reform efforts angered municipal employees, particularly police and firefighters, who in 2009 threw their support behind then-councilwoman Antonia Ricigliano, who won the Democratic primary and went on to become mayor.

It's still early so expect more candidates to emerge. Hopefully, Asian American progressives will have a better winning percentage.

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