Fight Back! APAs and the November mid-term elections
By Eddie Wong. Posted October 10, 2018.
It’s been an intense 22 months since Trump’s inauguration. We’ve marched by the millions on numerous occasions (Women’s March 2017 and 2018, Anti-Gun Violence March, March for Climate Justice, Support the Dreamers and All Immigrants); we’ve watched with revulsion as Trump mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in the aftermath of the Kavanaugh hearings; we’ve seen thousands of Latino children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border; and we’ve seen Trump laud white supremacists as “good people.”
Ramming Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court revealed how far the Republicans are willing to go to advance a rightwing agenda and how much they devalue women and sexual assault survivors. On November 6, 2018, we have a chance to fight back
With Trump set to add conservative judges to the bench, it is vital to fight on the legislative front at the local, state and federal level. These mid-term elections are the best chance we have to stop this train-wreck of a president and push back against the rightwing. Even if the Democrats don’t win back the House and Senate, whatever gains we make will lay the groundwork for progressives to advance our agenda in 2020 and beyond.
San Francisco Women’s March, January 2018. Photo by Eddie Wong.
Asian Pacific Americans, a group that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in past elections, have an opportunity to make a difference this year in several hotly contested races for U.S. House and Senate seats. This article provides a short round up of key races. But whether or not you live in or near these key districts, it’s important that Asian Pacific Americans make their presence known by volunteering in campaigns, registering new voters, writing op-ed pieces, hosting campaign events, and more. I know it’s against our nature, but now is the time to be LOUD and PROUD. Let’s send a message to the xenophobes and white supremacists in and out of the White House, BACK THE FUCK UP, WE ARE HERE TO STAY!
The Golden State, which is home to nearly 6 million APAs, is key to Democrats winning back the House of Representatives. Of the 23 GOP-held seats that need to be flipped, several of the seats are in California. Asian American candidates are running in two seats. We’ll start with one northern California district and then move to ground zero Orange County where several seats are in play.
Congressional District 10 (Modesto, Tracy). The race between Democrat Josh Harder and GOP incumbent Jeff Denham in Calif. CD 10 is tied with four weeks left until Election Day. Agriculture and water issues are prominent in the district, but education and immigration are also major concerns among voters. The district is 43.2% Latino and 7% Asian. Republican Denham has served three terms in this Democratic district, but Hillary Clinton carried this district in 2016. Denham is a staunch Trump supporter and has raised $1 million more than Harder.
Parts of the district are only a one-hour drive from the SF Bay Area and many progressives including Nikkei Resisters have joined efforts by Swing Left and Working America to register voters and get out the vote in CD 10. Voter registration ends on Oct. 22 so there’s still time to sign people up. Regular weekend canvassing and phone banks are in operation. Visit www.swingleft.org or www.workingamerica.org for details. You can also sign up with the Josh Harder for Congress campaign. Harder can win this district, but it will require a massive get-out-the-vote effort and the good will of independent voters who detest Trump.
Congressional District 21 (Hanford, Delano). Hillary Clinton won this district in 2016 by 15% over Trump, but the GOP Rep. David Valadao is a firmly entrenched three-term incumbent. Democratic challenger T.J. Cox is the son of immigrants (his mother is Filipino and his father is Chinese/European). He is a chemical engineer and leads Central Valley Fund, which funds small business enterprises. Cox faces an uphill race in this vast rural district.
Although Latinos comprise 71% of the district’s population and Democrats hold a voter registration edge, Valadao has won handily in past races due to high name recognition from his family’s dairy business and his representation of the district in the state assembly. Asian Americans are 3.4% of the population in Congressional District 21.
Cox hopes that his emphasis on health care reform and job development plus anti-Trump sentiment will rally Democratic and independent voters. He has trailed behind in the polls and needs a big push on voter turnout to have a chance at flipping this district.
Congressional District 22 (eastern Fresno, Clovis, Tulare). This solidly Republican district is held by Rep. Duncan Nunes, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and has blocked the investigation of Trump’s connection to Russian influence in the 2016 election. Nunes is well-funded and still leads in the polls as Election Day approaches, but Democratic challenger Andrew Janz, a Thai American district attorney, is making inroads by attracting progressive supporters in the district and winning over independents. The largest newspaper in the region, The Fresno Bee, recently endorsed Janz declaring him “the best chance to both lead the district by attending to its issues and then by striving for bipartisanship in Washington, D.C., which is the only answer to the poison of gridlock politics that is stifling debate and action at nearly all levels.”
Asian Americans comprise 7% of the district’s population and Latinos are 45% of the population. However, the number of Republican registered voters still exceeds those of Democrats by 9 percentage points. Trump carried this district easily in 2016. Although Asian Americans are a small part of the district, they can play a bigger role in the future especially in alliance with Latinos.
Andrew Janz with wife and mother. Photo: Janz for Congress.
Congressional District 39 (Fullerton, Buena Park). Although it has been a Republican stronghold, Hillary Clinton won the district in 2016 by nine percentage points. With the retirement of GOP Rep. Ed Royce, the electorate will choose between Young Kim, a Korean immigrant who was a one-term California Assembly member and former staffer for Royce, and Gil Cisneros, a former Frito-Lay executive who won $225 million in the California State Lottery. Of the four hotly contested Orange County districts, CD 39 has the highest Asian population at 31.6%.
At last report, Republican Young Kim holds a slight lead despite being outspent by Cisneros. With four weeks left before the election, the race is still considered a toss up. Several Asian candidates vied in the primary and the enthusiasm generated then plus Cisneros’ Asian American outreach efforts may bear fruit. Cisneros’ Communication Director Nic Jorda described the targeted messaging in The California Sunday Magazine. “Every campaign has mailers. We have been intentional about translating them, getting Tagalog and Vietnamese translations, Chinese and Korean translations that we can distribute and give to people,” said Jordan. “For social media, the Korean American community uses KakaoTalk. Our Korean staffer has an account.”
East Wind ezine will also feature an article by veteran labor and community activist Mark Masaoka on his experience as a volunteer for the Cisneros campaign.
Volunteers from the greater Los Angeles area can augment the robust efforts underway to get out the vote. Vote by mail ballots are reaching voters now, so making the case for a Democratic House majority must be done ASAP. To volunteer go to CisnerosforCongress.com and https://swingleft.org/district/CA-39.
California CD 45 (Irvine, Tustin, Orange). UC Irvine law professor and consumer protection attorney Katie Porter currently holds a slight lead over two-term Republican Rep. Mimi Walters. Porter, a progressive who is proudly a protégé of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, hopes to ride the anti-Trump Blue wave to victory. Hillary Clinton won this district by 5% in 2016. A Roll Call poll showed that Trump was viewed unfavorably by 54 % of those questioned.
The district is 21% Asian American and the candidacy of Korean American law professor Dave Min in the primary could make Asian American voters a factor in this race. Min has endorsed Katie Porter.
California CD 48 (Huntington Beach). Even though Republicans enjoy a 10 percentage point registration advantage, Democrat Harley Rouda, a businessman and attorney, has pushed 30 year incumbent Dana Rohrabacher into a tied race. Rohrabacher supports Trump on every issue from the border wall to Russia to climate change. Hillary Clinton won this district in 2016 by 1.7%, but Rohrabacher won his reelection by 16 points.
The district is 17.5% Asian and Latinos comprise 21.5% of the district. Since the race is tied, voter persuasion and turnout of these groups might be the difference between victory and defeat for the Democrats.
California CD 49 (San Clemente, Oceanside). Both parties targeted this race after Rep. Darrell Issa (R) retired after serving seven terms. Democrat Mike Levin, an attorney and environmental activist, currently holds a 10 point lead over Republican Diane Harkey, a former state assembly member in this seaside district which is 62% white, 25% Latino, and 7% Asian. Hillary Clinton beat Trump here in 2016 by 7.5%.
Congressional District 6 (northern suburbs of Atlanta). This district was the focus of national attention as the most expensive campaign in House history in 2017 with $55 million spent after GOP Rep. Tom Price vacated the seat to join the Trump Administration. Republican Karen Handel, the former Georgia Secretary of State, won the seat narrowly over Democrat Jon Ossoff. Now she faces a formidable challenge from first-time politician Lucy McBath, who is an African American mother whose teen-age son was shot to death in a parking lot by a white man for “playing music too loud.” Despite her grief, she became a leader in the national movement against gun violence. The latest polls show her just two points behind Handel.
Asian Americans comprise 11.24% of the district and are actively being wooed by the McBath campaign along with African American voters (15% of the district) and Latinos (12.26% of the district). Georgia Democrats – Asian American Pacific Islander Coordinated Campaign is reaching out to Asian voters who are clustered in Dunwoody, Chamblee, Johns Creek and Alpharetta with phone banking and door knocking.
Lucy McBath. Photo from Get Religion magazine.
Trump carried this district in 2016 with less than 2 percentage points. Recent polls indicate that 53% of people rate Trump as unfavorable.
Congressional District 7 (northeast Atlanta suburbs, Duluth). This district is a majority minority district – 22% African American, 14% Asian, 19% Latino – and it voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016. The changing demographics create new opportunities for Democrats to unseat GOP Rep. Rob Woodall, who was elected in 2010. Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, a Georgia State University professor who ran the Georgia Senate’s budget office, currently holds a slight lead over Woodall.
Jake Best, Communications Director for the Bourdeaux campaign, told me that they are working closely with the AAPI Coordinated Campaign and have in-language fliers in several Asian languages as well as a presence on Kakao Talk, the Korean language messaging and chat service. Bourdeaux also does personal outreach at Asian community events such as the Chinese mid-Autumn Festival, Japan Fest, and the upcoming Korean festival.
Bourdeaux’s campaign is also bolstered by the endorsement of David Kim, a Korean American businessman, who lost to Bourdeaux in the Democratic primary. Kim’s campaign energized Asian American voters and his participation in the Bourdeaux campaign strengthens her ability to turn out the Asian vote.
Georgia House Representative Sam Park is also running for re-election in that district. His campaign also pulls in Asian voters.
Bourdeaux is a strong advocate for health care reform, universal pre-school, and women’s rights.
Democrats in CD 6 and 7 are hoping that the hotly contested Georgia Governor’s race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp will also increase Democratic turnout. Abrams is arousing enthusiasm among women and minority voters, enough to push this once “leans Republican” race into a toss up according to Cook’s Political Report. For more information about Stacey Abrams and Asian American voters, see this East Wind ezine article: https://eastwindezine.com/asian-americans-yall-turn-georgia-blue-vote-stacey-abrams-for-governor/
Stacey Abrams with Asian American supporters, May 17, 2018. Photo by Donna Wong.
Illinois – Congressional District 6 (Chicago suburbs, Elgin). Asian Americans comprise 8% of this white suburban district, which has been held by Republican Peter Roskam since 2007. Long a Republican enclave, the district’s voters favored Hillary Clinton for President in 2016 by 7 percentage points. Thus, Roskam’s race against Democrat Sean Casten, a clean energy executive, has moved into the “toss up” category.
Michigan – Congressional District 11 (northwest Detroit suburbs). The retirement of GOP Rep. David Trott has created a close race between Republican Lena Epstein, owner of Vesco Oil Corporation and co-chair of Donald Trump’s 2016 Michigan campaign, and Haley Stevens, chief of staff of President Obama’s Auto Task Force in the U.S. Treasury Dept.
Asian Americans played a role in the primary election as Democrat Sunell Gupta, who owns a mobile health company with his brother CNN Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, raised over $500,000 in his 3rd place finish in the Democratic primary. Asian Americans represent 8% of the district’s population. The impressive turnout of Democratic voters in the primary bode well for Stevens who currently leads in the polls.
New Jersey – Congressional District 7 (western New Jersey towns). This wealthy suburban district is home to many commuters to New York and Philadelphia. Asian Americans are 11% of the district. Incumbent GOP Rep. Leonard Lance was elected in 2009. He faces a stiff challenge from Democrat Tom Malinowski, who was Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in the Obama administration. Malinowski holds a small lead over Lance as we enter the final weeks of the campaign.
TexasCongressional District 7 (west and southwest Houston). People of color make up half of this district’s population (African American 13%, Asian Americans 10%, and Latinos 32%. Hillary Clinton won this district in 2016. Rated as a “toss up” district, the Democrat Lizzie Fletcher, an attorney, is challenging GOP incumbent John Culberson, who was elected in 2001.
Fletcher is reaching out to all the minority communities within the district and has recruited many volunteers. The changing demographics of the district buoy hopes for a shift towards the Democrats, but polls have shown the lead traded back and forth. Heavy Democratic turnout will be needed if Fletcher is to prevail.
Congressional District 22 (South-Central Houston suburbs). GOP incumbent Rep. Pete Olson is being pressed by Democrat challenger Sri Preston Kulkarni, a South Asian who was born in Louisiana and grew up in the Houston area. Kulkarni worked for 14 years as a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department, and he speaks English, Spanish, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Hebrew.
Sri Preston Kulkarni. Photo by Kulkarni for Congress.
The district has become a majority-minority district (14% African American, 20% Asian, and 25% Latino). Indian Americans are the largest Asian group in the district and Kulkarni has volunteers doing outreach in Hindi Tamil, Urdu, Telugu, Marthi and Gujarati. The campaign also has volunteers who speak Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese. His campaign ignited the enthusiasm of Asian voters driving up turnout in the primary election and switching Asian voters from Republican to Democrat.
Kulkarni’s grassroots organizing will be put to the test in these final weeks as Olson dips into his deep financial pockets to inundate the district with ads.
Congressional District 23 (western San Antonio, southwest TX). This district has gone back and forth between Republicans and Democrats and is considered a swing district in 2018. Hillary Clinton won this district by 3 percentage points in 2016.
GOP incumbent Will Hurd, who was elected in 2014 by one percentage point, is being challenged by Democrat Gina Ortiz-Jones, who is a Filipina American former US Air Force intelligence officer. She also served in the Obama administration in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Ortiz-Jones is also openly gay.
Gina Ortiz Jones. Photo by Gina Ortiz Jones for Congress.
The district is primarily Latino (68%) and Asian Americans are only 2% of the population.
As we head into the final weeks of the campaign, the GOP incumbent holds an eight point lead in the polls and has twice as much money on hand as Ortiz-Jones. Nonetheless, Ortiz-Jones is campaigning hard on the issue of health care reform. She returned home to care for her mother who was undergoing treatment for colon cancer. For more information on Gina Ortiz-Jones, visit https://ginaortizjones.com/
Washington – Congressional District 8 (east of Seattle, King and Pierce counties). This district is 80% white and Asian Americans comprise 7% of the population. GOP incumbent Dave Reichert, who was elected in 2004, decided to retire, creating an open seat. Hillary Clinton carried this district in 2016 but there has never been a Democrat elected to Congress from this district.
Democrat Kim Schrier, who is a pediatrician and first-time candidate, is facing Republican Dino Rossi, a former state senator and real estate investor. The race is tied going into the final weeks, but Democrats are hopeful that a strong female turnout and that Schrier’s message around health care reform will be the decisive factors in victory on November 6.
Democrats have a stiff challenge in taking back the U.S. Senate. They must defend 26 seats and 10 those states were won by Trump in 2016. The Republicans only need to defend nine states and only one of those states was won by Hillary Clinton in 2016.
There four U.S. Senate races in which Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders could have an impact.
We’ll start with Nevada where Democrat Jacky Rosen, who represented the 3rd Congressional District, faces GOP incumbent Dean Heller, who was appointed in 2011. Heller holds a narrow lead as the campaign enters its final weeks.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are two of the fastest growing groups in Nevada and currently comprise 8% of the population. The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance has a Civic Engagement Fellow placed in Las Vegas indicating a long-term commitment to cultivating AAPI voter engagement especially among workers in the service industries in Las Vegas and Henderson County.
Hillary Clinton won Nevada in 2016 and voters also elected Democrat Catherine Cortez Mastos, the first Latino woman to serve in the U.S. Senate from Nevada.
Asian Americans in northern and southern California can aid the Rosen campaign by volunteering in Reno and Las Vegas. Contact the Rosen campaign here: https://www.rosenfornevada.com/
The Texas U.S. Senate race has become unexpectedly close with progressive Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who represents the 16th Congressional District, taking on GOP incumbent Ted Cruz, a Tea Party stalwart. Texas has become a majority minority state where Latinos are 37% of the population, African Americans 13%, and Asians 5%. However, the electorate is still predominantly Republican.
Democratic Senatorial Candidate Beto O’Rourke in Houston with Asian American supporters. Photo by O’Rourke for Senate.
Although Cruz leads in the polls by 9 percentage points, O’Rourke’s grassroots barnstorming and explicitly progressive message has elicited great enthusiasm nationally. O’Rourke received $23.3 millions in contributions from March to June, making his campaign the second highest in U.S. Senate races.
O’Rourke convened a town hall with Asian American supporters in Houston on June 15, 2018. Texas State Rep. Gene Wu has also been out on the campaign trail with Beto O’Rourke.
Asian American voters can also play an important role in Florida as Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent, fights off a challenge from GOP Governor Rick Scott, who has poured $20.7 million of his fortune to create a $31 million war chest. Asian Americans make up 3% of the state’s population, which is small but powerful if allied with the Latinos (26% of the state) and African Americans (17% of the state).
Minority turnout may also be boosted by the enthusiasm in the Florida governor’s race where African American progressive Democrat Andrew Gillum, who is mayor of Tallahassee, is campaigning hard against Republican Rep. Rob DeSantis, a Trump acolyte who has made thinly veiled racial disparagement of Gillum during the campaign. The governor’s race, like the U.S. Senate race, is considered a toss up in the final weeks of the campaign.
The final U.S. Senate race in which APAs could have an impact is New Jersey where Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez faces GOP former biopharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin. Asian Americans are nearly 10% of the state’s population.
Hugin has $8.1 million on hand for the final push versus Menendez’s $6 million. Menendez is hoping that Democrats who outnumber Republicans by 920,000 voters will turn out on November 6 for his re-election.
A final word
These mid-term elections may test its timeworn label as a low-turnout event. The rage people feel towards Trump and the rightwing needs to be translated into “boots on the ground” as voter contact reaches a fever pitch. The election will also illuminate how independent, non-affiliated voters feel about Trump and his cronyism, lies, and narcissism.
If the Democrats can prevail in taking back the House, progressives will still need to put some pressure on them to push back against Trump. If Democrats win the House, they will assume the chair of committees, which gives them the power to conduct investigations and subpoena witnesses, and thus shift the focus to the disastrous impact of Trump’s policies on the economy, immigration, consumer protection, and the environment.
Asian Pacific Americans have a lot at stake on November 6. Let’s go out and make our mark.
Eddie Wong is the editor and publisher of East Wind ezine.
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