Flexing their political muscles: Latinos and Asian Americans in California Congressional races

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

Families across the nation were  glued to their televisions last night watching the second presidential debate. Both candidates laid out their plans on jobs, immigration reforms and other issues in a town hall forum. At times, it got pretty heated. But in the process, many of us got a clearer picture of what each candidate stands for. It will be up to the American people come November 6 to decide who is better fit to serve as the nation’s leader.

Here in California, on a much smaller scale, voters will have to make some tough decisions when it comes to the Congressional races. Thanks in part to newly drawn districts and the top two primary system, voters will see some changes on their ballots. 

One positive change through the eyes of their respective communities is the number of Latino and Asian Americans running for office.

“This marks a particular milestone on the record number of Lations and Asian Americans running for office.  It’s a popular conversation, right now,” said Sayu Bhojwani, Founding Director, New American Leaders Project.

NALP recently released a report titled “From the Community to the Capitol,” examing each state’s Congressional races and their candidates.

How does California rank? The Golden State came out on top when you compare the number of Latino or Asian American candidates versus the actual number of people in both ethnic groups.

“The demographics, alone, are not responsible for many individuals running for office—redistricting has created opportunities; non-profit organizations have invested a lot of time and effort in the naturalization and registration, so it’s kind of right for this moment for seeing more folks running.”

According to the report, out of 53 Congressional districts, 20 have either a Latino or Asian American candidate.  Broken down even more, 7 Asian Americans and 13 Latinos.

“Caliofornia leads the way for several reasons. What’s important about some of the districts in California is we have candidates from different parties but same ethnicities running against each other,” said Bhojwani.

“The state also has more immigrant communities that are more politically mature, more communities that have longer history here than some other parts of the country. Both Latino and Asian American communities are stepping up to the final frontier, if ou will, of representation. Immigrant candidates are creating the kind of competition and interest we want to see, that motivates participation and that they will not be taken for granted as a bloc.”

Most of us are quite aware, in California, Latino voters compose over 25 percent of the electorate.  It’s 15 percent for the Asian American community—both are political forces to be reckoned with—as they will play important roles at every level of the election from municipalities, to school boards to the U.S. Senate.

“We have a long ways to go in achieving full representation, in terms of getting elected officials in office who are really authentic about their immigration experience and willing to serve the needs of the immigrant community, relative to the total demographic of that state.  Our organization is keeping a close eye on this year’s election.

Remember, your voice can only be heard if you register to vote. The deadline is October 22. In California, you can do so at your fingertips, thanks to on-line registration. Exercise your right!


Cheryl Getuiza

All stories by: Cheryl Getuiza