By: Shekar Narasimhan, Chair and Founder, AAPI Victory Fund
AAPIs today are not only the fastest growing demographic, but now, we are also the fastest growing political force. The 2018 election cycle featured more AAPIs running for Congress than ever before. Our voting power turned the tide in many red-to-blue districts, including in Orange County where were able to flip the previously “unwinnable” red county to blue. A remarkable 77% of AAPIs voted for Democrats in 2018, even higher than in the 2016 Presidential cycle.
Since our founding in 2016 as the first ever AAPI focused Super PAC, we invested in identifying and mobilizing AAPI voters in red to blue states, endorsing AAPI candidates as well as engaging our voters and districts with high AAPI populations. We also focused on building AAPI infrastructure in the community. These deliberate actions along with our AAPI partner organizations and progressive partners have resulted in the highest level of engagement in history. We have truly been pleased with the impact our community has made.
In 2019, we started the year with three AAPI Democratic presidential candidates on the debate stage. This diversity and representation are unprecedented.
In May, during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we held our second annual AAPI Summit. The event featured Washington politicos, community leaders, and Hollywood stars. The event included briefings from the Democratic campaigns and a fireside chat between Maulik Pancholy and former Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris P. Lu. But importantly, the event had hands on training and tools to build infrastructure for political advocacy organizations across the nation. We invest in our annual event to ensure our strength and ability to change elections going forward.
In September, we created the first ever AAPI Democratic Presidential Forum, which the Victory Fund held in Orange County, CA. Before a crowd of thousands, presidential candidates Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang talked with our AAPI moderators MSNBC anchor Richard Lui, Pulitzer Prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen and Spectrum News 1 producer Esther Lee.
And just this past November, we celebrated a generational victory in Virginia, and given that redistricting was at stake, this will allow more fair maps than we’ve had in over a decade. As a result of our get out the vote efforts with the AAPI community. Democrats were able to retake both the House of Delegates and Senate and will be in control of the state government for the first time since 1994. This victory, something that was built on our victory in 2017 for securing all Virginia state-wide offices.
Also in November, we had our AAPI Presidential Roundtable, which connected AAPI community leaders with presidential candidates Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Bernie Sanders. We worked with AAPI powerhouse members Congresswoman Judy Chu and Congresswoman Grace Meng to organize this event.
As 2020 looms in the horizon, we are excited to take a greater part in the national conversation and be a more integral in the Democratic electoral equation. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done, but AAPIs are more engaged than ever, and AAPI Victory Fund is committed to continuing our work for 2020 victories. We have a proven campaign and engagement model which helped to flip state legislatures, like we did in Washington state in 2017 and Virginia in 2019. AAPIs are moving past just being the margin of victory but constituting a greater percentage of states’ constituencies — 15 percent in California. Candidates are finally recognizing the importance of AAPI engagement not only as an integral part of their electoral calculus, but also because we are advocating for ourselves. Our four-year effort in laying the groundwork has already paid generous dividends and now we’re going to drive folks to winning down and up the ballot in 2020!