Mon, May 14, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Asian-Americans turn angst for Trump into political activism

A record number of Asian-Americans are running for the US Congress, including three dozen Democrats eager to help flip Republican seats in the House of Representatives

By Janie Har  /  AP

Illustration: Yusha

Members of the US’ fastest-growing minority group are running for federal office, dozens of them as Democratic candidates deliberately playing up their Asian roots against a president they say demonizes the immigrants that make the US great.

The candidates include former refugees from Vietnam and children of immigrants from South Korea and India. They live in places where Asian-Pacific Americans make up a large chunk of the electorate and in places where they do not. Their chances of winning vary.

However, the candidates’ unabashed celebration of their foreign ties is notable for a group of people who have had to prove their “American-ness,” no matter how long their families have been in the nation.

“I think that it is partly a reaction to the current administration, which has in its policies and statements sent out a very xenophobic message,” said Democratic Representative Ted Lieu of California, who is campaigning for a third term in the US House of Representatives.

“It’s also a recognition that what makes America great is immigration and the American dream; it’s what people all over the world come to seek,” he said.

Christine Chen, executive director of the non-partisan Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, said this year could be a watershed year for civic participation.

Asians, who make up 6 percent of the population, have traditionally lagged in voting due to language and cultural barriers and minimal outreach from political parties, she said.

For example, in the 2016 presidential election, about 49 percent of eligible Asian voters cast ballots. That was less than the 65 percent for whites and 60 percent for blacks, but slightly higher than the 48 percent for Latinos.

It is difficult to say definitively how many Asian-Pacific Americans are running for the US Congress, although The Associated Press identified at least 80 candidates of both parties. More than a dozen candidates are Republicans, and the rest are Democrats, including incumbents.

There are currently 18 Asian-Americans or Pacific Islanders in Congress — three are in the US Senate.

“What’s fascinating with the congressional candidates is that they’re coming from everywhere,” Chen said, ticking off races in Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, New Jersey and Texas. “What we’re hoping is with all these people running, and if they win, that will continue to change how people perceive the community.”

Among the candidates are nearly three dozen Asian-Pacific Americans seeking to overturn Republican seats in the House as part of a broader Democratic surge to take control of the chamber. Some of them have already been eliminated, but others have advanced.

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval won Ohio’s Democratic primary on Tuesday last week. He faces incumbent Republican Representative Steve Chabot of Ohio in November.

The Republican Party also has compelling and diverse candidates, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Jesse Hunt said.

Republican Young Kim is a Korean-American who is on the June 5 California primary ballot.

“When my family came to this country, we came legally,” she says in a 30-second campaign ad. “Not because we wanted handouts, but because we wanted the opportunity America provided to succeed on our own.”

For former Groupon executive Suneel Gupta, a Democrat, it is precisely because of US President Donald Trump’s immigration policies that he is running for an open seat near Detroit, Michigan.

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