Fri, Nov 05, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Asian-Americans win key positions in Tuesday's polls

KEY CONSTITUENCY Piyush Jindal became the first Indian American to win a seat in the House in 46 years, while others gained seats in state and local governments


Asian-Americans are moving up the ladder in US politics, winning key positions in Congress, state legislatures and local council in elections held parallel to the nail-biting presidential race.

The community has become an influential voting group in the US, with some 6 million of them registered as voters in Tuesday's elections and courted by both the Republicans and Democrats.

Leading the Asian American campaign was Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, who became the first Indian American in 46 years to win a House of Representatives seat. He ran in his district in suburban New Orleans.

Several other Asian Americans successfully defended their House seats. Among them were Japanese Americans Mike Honda and Robert Matsui from California and Chinese American David Wu in Oregon.

Asian Americans also made forays into state legislative councils from among 200 from the community who ran for office in the elections.

"Each candidate, whether they win or lose, they help to galvanize, educate the Asian-American community about the political pro-cess," said Daphne Kwok, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

The group focuses on getting more Asian Americans involved in the political process.

Americans picked 435 mem-bers of the House of Representatives, a third of the 100-member Senate and governors of 11 states and many local officers in Tuesday's elections.

Expecting an "exponential" population increase over the next decade, Asian-Americans are gaining national political clout and proving to be a force to be reckoned with in local politics, said Janelle Hu, national director of APIAVote, a coalition of groups promoting public policy and the electoral process among Asian Americans.

"We are no longer a discounted community," she said.

In Hawaii, for example, increasing support from Filipino Americans to Republicans nearly cost the Democrats their traditional four electoral votes from the islands in the presidential vote. A pre-election poll found more than half of Filipino-Americans in Hawaii planned to support President George W. Bush and they had the highest number of undecided voters after those of Japanese descent.

Among Asian-Americans who made breakthroughs in state legislatures were Vietnamese Van Tran and Hubert Vo. They become the nation's first Vietnamese American state legislators.

Van Tran, a city councilman who received political support from around the nation, became a California lawmaker while Vo emerged as legislator in Texas.

Most Vietnamese Americans backed Bush because Senator John Kerry, a Vietnam war hero, had returned from combat in the 1970s to denounce the US for going to war against North Vietnam.

"Growing political influence is getting translated to more Vietnamese Americans progressively becoming higher office holders," noted Dan Hoang, representative of an advocacy group promoting awareness among Vietnamese American voters.

China-born immigrant Jimmy Meng, a successful businessman in Flushing, became the first state lawmaker of Asian-American heritage in New York. Meng, who lived in Taiwan before moving to the US in 1973, became the second Asian American from New York City elected to a legislative body.

In Washington state, Bob Hasegawa emerged as the first Asian American to enter the Washington state legislature.

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