In the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, six to eight AAPI candidates ran for Congress. This year, the number has tripled to 25 challenger candidates – one running for the Senate and at least two dozen contending for the House – making the AAPI community crucial in the battles to control Congress. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have also seen the fastest and most dramatic increases in their numbers in the last 10 years, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
The APAICS Leadership Network is the first of its kind to unite AAPI elected and appointed officials, incumbents and challengers from across the political spectrum. It will provide direct support and training to AAPI policymakers and candidates. The network is affiliated with APAICS, which promotes civic participation and leadership development.
“There can no longer be any question about the political clout of the Asian American community – the time for an AAPI leadership network has come,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu, a founding board member of the APAICS Leadership Network and chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Chu first ran for office in 1985, when she sought and won a seat on the local school board. In July 2009, she was elected to represent California’s 32nd District and became the first American woman of Chinese descent to serve in the U.S. Congress.
Congressman Mike Honda, an APAICS Leadership Network co-founder is currently serving as the U.S. Representative for California’s 15th District. Born in California in the 1940s, he spent his early childhood with other Americans of Japanese descent in an internment camp in Colorado, before beginning his political career in the 1980s.
“When I first started, reaching Congress seemed like a far-off dream – there were only seven Asian Americans in the House then,” said Congressman Honda. “Today, there are 10 Asian American and Pacific Islander Members of Congress – and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) has 42 Members and associates. That’s a testament to the persistence, enthusiasm and sheer will of the community to get and stay involved in the mainstream political process of this country.”
Currently, two AAPIs serve in the U.S. Senate and 10 serve in the U.S. House of Representatives (including delegates from American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.) Since 1903, there have been five AAPI U.S. Senators and 21 AAPI U.S. Representatives along with 20 Delegates and Resident Commissioners representing territories. They have come from a mix of ancestries, states and party affiliations.
Founders of the APAICS Leadership Network see involvement at the local and state levels as important to increasing Asian American and Pacific Islander political participation at the federal level.
“Making sure local excitement leads to cadres of AAPI policymakers at the state and federal level is a key goal of the APAICS Leadership Network,” said Washington State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, chair of the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators and a founding board member of the network. “Politics is a tough business and this network will help us ensure that, through mentoring, networking and support, no AAPI leader falls through the cracks.”
“As more and more AAPIs get interested in and run for local and state offices, they become role models which in turn fuels the next generation of AAPI policymakers,” said Evan Low, founding board member and the president of the National League of Cities’ Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials.
The 25 AAPI challenger candidates running in the 2012 Congressional elections represent a large and diverse swath of the AAPI community. At least eight are Indian American, four are Chinese American, three are Japanese American, two are Korean American, and there is one each who is Hmong American, Taiwanese American and Native Hawaiian. Another three are mixed race. Four candidates are Republican, with the remainder running as Democrats. In addition to Asian American hub states like California, Hawaii, Michigan, New York and Texas, the candidates also hail from Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington.
Ten of the AAPI congressional contenders are on the national party committees’ radar screens as key races because they could alter the balance of power in the next Congress. They are Senate candidate Mazie Hirono, Congressional candidate Ricky Gill and Congressional candidates Ami Bera, Mark Takano, Tammy Duckworth, Manan Trivedi, emerging candidates Blong Xiong and Nathan Shinagawa, and Steve Hobbs and Darshan Rauniyar who are vying in a crowded primary for a targeted seat.
The 2012 AAPI congressional candidates include:
- Mazie Hirono (D), U.S. Senate HI
- Dr. Ami Bera (D), CA-07
- Ranjit “Ricky” Gill (R), CA-09
- Blong Xiong (D), CA-21
- Otto Lee (D), CA-22
- Justin Kim (D), CA-31
- Jay Chen (D), CA-39
- Mark Takano (D), CA-41
- Sukhee Kang (D), CA-45
- Vipin Verma (D), FL-06
- Charles Djou (R), HI-01
- Muliufi Francis “Mufi” Hannemann (D), HI-02
- Tulsi Gabbard (D), HI-02
- Esther Kia’aina (D), HI-02
- Tammy Duckworth (D), IL-08
- Dr. Syed Taj (D), MI-11
- Upendra Chivukula (D), NJ-07
- Grace Meng (D), NY-06
- Nathan Shinagawa (D), NY-23
- Dr. Manan Trivedi (D), PA-06
- Ron Bhalla (R), TN-3
- Joe Chow (R), TX-06
- KP George (D), TX-22
- Steve Hobbs (D), WA-01
- Darshan Rauniyar (D), WA-01