Election Eve Polling: Asian Americans helped fuel the 2018 Midterms’ “blue wave”

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Eight-year-old David Luu helps his mother Hui Zhang, a Cantonese speaker, read and complete her ballot at a polling center set up inside a community center in Chinatown in Los Angeles, California, 02 March 2004. (Photo credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images via Flickr @booknews)

One week after the 2018 Midterm Elections and with mail-in and provisional ballots finally being counted, pollsters are now realizing the true size of this year’s so-called “blue wave”: riding a surge of votes for Democratic candidates, the Democratic party now appears poised to pick up 35 to 40 seats in the House, and may have lost only 1 or 2 seats in the Senate. An American Decisions exit poll of Black, Latinx, and Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters further demonstrates how influential voters of color were in fueling that “blue wave”.

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Asian Americans poised to pick up seats in Congress after 2018 Midterm Election; but it could have been more

Republican Young Kim, who is the first Korean American woman elected to Congress. (Photo Credit: Thomas McKinless/CQ)

Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this post, it has become clear that Young Kim’s race has not yet been called due to a number of outstanding ballots still to be counted; however she leads by a 5-point margin in her race. This post will be updated if the outcome of her election changes.

The dust settled on Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 with a consequential power shift for Democrats: the House of Representatives flipped to a substantial Democratic majority after Democratic candidates were able to unseat or overcome Republican opponents in several states across the nation; and Democrats also picked up 7 governorships, rendering the new gubernatorial balance of power a near-even split with Republicans.

Tuesday night saw the election of several historic firsts, including the first Native women to be elected to Congress, the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress, and the election of the first openly-gay state governor.

The Asian American community also saw its own historic firsts. Just shy of the number of Asian Americans or Pacific Islander (AAPI) candidates who competed for a congressional or gubernatorial seat in 2016, 26 AAPI candidates were vying in a federal or gubernatorial race on Tuesday night. All AAPIs running as incumbents, including thirteen members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) were re-elected — most by sweeping margins. In particular, Hawaii’s Senator Mazie Hirono — who has dominated headlines recently for her fiery commentary during the Kavanaugh hearings — won more than 70% of the votes in her district, which serve as a clear mandate for more prominent feminist rhetoric on the Hill after more than a year of headlines dominated by the erosion of women’s rights.

In California’s 39th District which represents California’s northern Orange County — a county that is 21% Asian American — Republican Young Kim became the first Korean American woman elected to Congress. The Asian American community is also poised to potentially pick up two other seats in Congress: Democrat Andy Kim leads by a narrow margin for New Jersey’s 3rd District, and Kim has declared himself the winner over Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur. Meanwhile, in Texas, Gina Ortiz Jones trails by less than 700 votes behind Republican incumbent Will Hurd to represent the 23rd District. Texas has unofficially called the election for Hurd, but Ortiz Jones — who, if elected, would be the first Filipinx American woman to serve in Congress — is likely to demand a recount.
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The Lessons the Democratic Party Must Learn About Asian American Voters to Win in 2020

Kamala Harris (middle) pictured at a campaign event. (Photo credit: Ebony)

For over a decade, political strategists have contemplated tactics for winning over the Asian American electorate. Routinely noted as one of the fastest-growing electorates in the country, Asian Americans currently make up about 5% of the electorate and is projected to double to over 12 million voters by 2040. Because Asian Americans are geographically concentrated in a few states, their impact on state and local elections in these states is even higher: in California, for example, Asian American voters wield profound influence in the heavily-Asian American Orange County. In swing states like Virginia, the Asian American electorate is large enough to swing narrow elections; indeed, Senator Hillary Clinton narrowly won the state in 2016 by a margin smaller than the number of Asian American voters in the state.

Going forward, Democrats need to include Asian American voters as part of its core base, and as part of its fundamental electoral strategy.

As the Democratic party sets its sights on the presidential election in 2020 — and the first opportunity for voters to unseat President Trump at the ballot box — The New York Times reports that several early voices have emerged as potential candidates to take the Democratic presidential nomination. They include Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris as well as former Vice President Joe Biden.

The speculation around these rumored candidacies is fierce; but all of these candidates must implement the following lessons as they advance towards the 2020 election season, particularly when it comes to courting the “sleeping giant” of Asian American voters.

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Asian Americans Run for Something: Tara Sreekrishnan | Candidate for CA Cupertino, City Council

Tara Sreekrishnan

This year, a record number of Asian Americans are running for public office at the local, state, and national level. Reappropriate has partnered with Run for Something — a non-profit launched in 2017 to support grassroots campaigns to elect progressive candidates — to profile these progressive Asian American candidates for higher office. Check back at Reappropriate throughout 2018 to learn more about these candidates and find out how you can get more involved in their campaigns.

What is your full name?
Tara Sreekrishnan

What office are you seeking?
CA Cupertino City Council

When is the election date?
November 6, 2018

What is your party registration (if any)?
Democrat

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Asian Americans Run for Something: Ben Ku | Candidate for GA Gwinnett County Commissioner, District 2

Ben Ku, Candidate for Georgia Gwinnett County Commissioner, District 2

This year, a record number of Asian Americans are running for public office at the local, state, and national level. Reappropriate has partnered with Run for Something — a non-profit launched in 2017 to support grassroots campaigns to elect progressive candidates — to profile these progressive Asian American candidates for higher office. Check back at Reappropriate throughout 2018 to learn more about these candidates and find out how you can get more involved in their campaigns.

What is your full name?
Ben Ku

What office are you seeking?
Georgia Gwinnett County Commissioner, District 2

When is the election date?
I am facing an opponent in the Democratic primary opponent, which will be held on May 22. If I win the primary election, I will face a Republican incumbent opponent in the general election on November 6.

What is your party registration (if any)?
Democrat

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