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Democrats target Asian voters in crucial House districts

AAPI voter turnout aimed at House races in California, Texas and Georgia

ASPIRE PAC Chairwoman Grace Meng said Democratic outreach to Asian voters is "unprecedented."
ASPIRE PAC Chairwoman Grace Meng said Democratic outreach to Asian voters is "unprecedented." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats looking to defend and grow their majority are launching new efforts to engage Asian American and Pacific Islander voters, believing AAPI voters could make the difference in a number of hotly contested House districts in California, Texas and Georgia.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Thursday that it launched a “seven-figure” voter turnout effort this month, targeting AAPI voters through mail pieces as well as TV, digital and radio ads. DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos told reporters Thursday that the outreach would be in multiple languages, including English, Chinese and Korean.

New York Democratic Rep. Grace Meng said Democrats’ focus on AAPI voters is “unprecedented.” Meng chairs ASPIRE PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“AAPIs are the fastest-growing electorate and yet we’ve been largely passed off,” Meng said Thursday.

Bustos noted that Democrats’ success in Orange County, Calif., in 2018 proved Democrats “could play in these districts where the AAPI populations are going to make the difference.”

Democrats are defending four seats they flipped in 2018 in Orange County, with Reps. Harley Rouda and Gil Cisneros facing the most competitive contests. Both men are facing GOP opponents who are Korean immigrants. Cisneros is locked in a rematch against former Assemblywoman Young Kim, while Rouda faces Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel.

“Let me be blunt: The AAPI vote for me is crucial,” said Rouda, who represents the 48th District. Eighteen percent of his district is Asian, according to the Census Bureau. Cisneros’ 39th District is 31 percent Asian.

Most districts where the Asian population is 10 percent or higher are solidly Democratic. But Democrats are looking to grow their majority by flipping a handful of GOP-held districts with significant Asian populations, including open seat races in Texas’ 22nd and 24th Districts, and Georgia’s 7th District.

“When we first started people told us, ‘Don’t bother with the Asian community because they don’t vote,’ ” said Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni, a former foreign service officer whose campaign has engaged with voters in 27 different languages in his race against former Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls in Texas’ 22nd District.

“Maybe they don’t vote because we don’t bother them,” Kulkarni said.

Michael Macagnone contributed to this report.

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