Fri, Nov 10, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Asian-Americans rack up wins around the country


Asian-Americans scored critical victories in US legislative elections as they rode on the wave of a Democratic comeback and displayed political clout beyond traditional strongholds in California and Hawaii.

As victorious Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives and Senate in Tuesday's polls, the Asian-American community added another crucial seat in the House and expanded their influence in state legislatures.

Democrat Mazie Hirono, a Japanese-American former lieutenant governor, beat a state senator in Hawaii to become the seventh representative from the Asian-American community in the House of Representatives.

She will be the first Japan-born American to serve in the House.

Several other Asian-American lawmakers scored big victories to retain their seats, including sole senator from the community, Daniel Akaka, a Japanese-American, in Hawaii.

Others included House law-makers Chinese-American David Wu in Oregon as well as Japanese-Americans Michael Honda and Doris Matsui in California.

Bobby Jindal, who became the first Indian-American in 2004 to enter the House of Representatives, also retained his Republican seat with ease in Louisiana.

"This election underscores a new reality in American politics," said Toby Chaudhuri, spokesman for Campaign for America's Future, a think tank.

"Asian Americans can run for office and win -- not just in traditional Asian-American population centers like Hawaii and California, but in states like Ohio, Iowa, Texas and Kansas," he said.

Numbering 14 million, Asian-Americans make up only about 4 percent of the 300 million US population but their votes were seen critical in about 100 of the 435 congressional districts, said William Marumoto, president of the Asian-Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

The US Census Bureau says the community's population could jump to 40 million or more in the next 50 years.

"The numbers don't lie -- our community is growing and becoming naturalized at higher rates than years past," said Christine Chen, executive director of APIAVote, a non-partisan group championing greater participation by the community in the electoral processes.

"However, unless we mobilize our community to participate in the political process, these numbers will not transfer into political empowerment," she said.

In Connecticut, political novice William Tong wrested a traditionally Republican seat in the state legislature while in Maryland, Pakistani-American Saqib Ali gained his maiden victory to the legislature.

Indian-American Kumar Barve, the majority leader in the Maryland legislature, regained his seat to become the community's longest-serving lawmaker.

Asian-Americans also stamped their mark in Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio and Texas, where lawmakers coasted to re-election.

But in one of the most closely watched congressional races, Tammy Duckworth, a Thai-American US Army helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in Iraq, failed to wrest a traditionally Republican seat in the suburbs of Chicago.

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