The 2012 campaign cycle marks the highest number of viable Asian-
American candidates ever - and not just on the West Coast. Their
success could help Democrats regain ground in the House.
A record number of Asian-American candidates are running for the
US House and Senate this fall, and they have a message: It's time
for a seat at the table that reflects their numbers in American
Just 5.8 percent of the US population is Asian, but only 12 out
of 535 members of Congress, or 2 percent, claim Asian heritage, two
in the Senate and 10 in the House. Now the numbers may be starting
to catch up. Including Pacific Islanders, 30 Asian-American
candidates launched congressional bids this cycle, compared with 10
in 2010 and eight in 2008, according to the Asian Pacific American
Institute for Congressional Studies in Washington.
"This is a real opportunity for our community," says Gloria Chan,
president and CEO of APAICS. "It really showcases our political
power right now."
While six Asian-Americans were defeated in their primaries, 12
other contenders - 10 Democrats and two Republicans - will advance
to the general election. Three running competitively for seats in
New York and Illinois are poised to become their state's first Asian-
American US representatives. This campaign cycle features the
greatest number of viable Asian-American candidates in history, says
David Wasserman, House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political
Report in Washington.
Most are running as Democrats, and though Republicans will likely
retain their House majority, the victories of several Asian-
Americans could give the minority party a leg up, Mr. Wasserman
says. He points to districts like Illinois 8th, where Tammy
Duckworth is running, and California's 7th, where Ami Bera is
running, as key opportunities for Democrats to seize.
"Asian-American candidates certainly are critical for Democratic
hopes of gaining seats," he said.
For the past three-to-four decades, Asian-Americans have
increasingly participated in both the Democrat and Republican
parties, says Don Nakanishi, director of the Asian American Studies
Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. Population
growth, opportunities opened by civil rights movements, and the
election of other racial minorities are driving forces behind the
shift, he says.
Mr. Nakanishi, who founded the National Asian Pacific American
Political Almanac, says that last year's edition included more than
3,000 elected and major appointed Asian-American officials serving
at the state and federal level. The first almanac printed in 1976,
he says, largely contained candidates from West Coast states and had
a page count so small it could be easily stapled.
This political activism also reflects increased professional
success in fields like medicine and academia, says Manan Trivedi, an
Indian-American and a Democrat, running for the first time in
Pennsylvania's 6th district.
"It makes sense that the next step is to get involved in policy
and politics," Mr. Trivedi said, in a phone interview. "That's where
the rubber meets the road."
Many of the districts Asian-Americans are vying to represent do
not have Asian-American majorities, a trend some note as another
sign of progress. …