East in the West- Asians Count in the US Elections

Here’s yet another post on the recent US elections.  It may seem a long time has already passed since November 6, 2012, but I wanted to write about the notable increase in AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) presence in US government after this election.

For me, what was more important was not that Barack Obama has been elected to a second term, but that the US Congress will be more diverse than ever, and more female than ever (1 in 5 women in the Senate will be female, for example!).  Though there is still a long way to go for minorities and women, I am excited about the latest changes in government in the US.

The newest AAPI additions include:

Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) made history as the first Asian immigrant, first Buddhist, and first Asian American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. She will also be the first woman senator to represent the state of Hawaii.

She joins fellow Hawaiian, Daniel Inouye.

And some other “firsts in the House of Representatives:

Grace Meng, a member of the New York State Assembly, will be the first Asian American member of Congress elected to represent the state of New York.  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to vote for her, and I have to admit, that while some of her social views are a bit left for me, I believed her presence as an Asian American woman would speak loud and was important enough for me to vote for her.

Tammy Duckworth from Illinois is the first Thai American woman and woman veteran injured in combat to serve in Congress. She lost her legs in Iraq when her helicopter was shot down, and has overseen veterans’ affairs at the state and federal levels.

Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii is the first Hindu American and first Pacific Islander woman to serve in Congress. Born in American Samoa, she is company commander with the Hawaii Army National Guard, a former Honolulu City Council member, and the youngest person to serve as a state representative in Hawaii.

Mark Takano, a member of the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees, is the first openly gay candidate of color to win a congressional seat. Takano, whose parents were interned during World War II, ran for Congress in 1992 and lost by only 519 votes.

A fifth House candidate, Dr. Ami Bera from Elk Grove in Sacramento County, is currently holding the lead in a close race that has yet to be decided. As of November 13th, these ballots are still being counted!  On election night, Bera led by just 184 votes, and as of the last count I could find, is up 3,824 votes.  There are still about 40,000 ballots to count apparently!  Go Dr. Bera!

These new Congresspersons join: Bobby Scott (an African American whose grandfather was Filipino), Mike Honda, Doris Matsui, Steve Austria (who is half Filipino), Judy Chu, and Colleen Hanabusa.

The Asian constituency continues to edge up in importance to, rising from 2% last go to 3% this year.  They were also big Obama supporters, with 73% of the Asian vote going to him this year.


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