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Orange County Pacific Islander Asian American Midterm Voters

Expanding efforts to mobilize Asian American and Pacific Islander voters for midterm elections, national political group targets three close congressional races in Orange County and looks to small businesses to build support for Democrats .

Justice Unites Us, a super PAC led by Democrats AAPI, will focus on trying to overthrow the OC-centric interior seats of Republican Representatives Young Kim and Michelle Steel while protecting Democratic Representative Katie Porter in a mostly coastal district.

As part of its multimillion-dollar nationwide effort, the organization plans to tap into small business hubs — grocery stores, dry cleaners, convenience stores — to help raise voter awareness.

Organizers will meet with owners to explain why they are trying to rally the AAPI community to vote and ask if they are willing to help the cause, Justice Unites Us said. They will ask owners to submit documentation about the election – printed in several languages ​​or in the language most used in the neighborhood – and to use their influence with loyal customers to inform them about the races.

The super PAC’s approach is one that immigrant communities might be more receptive to, said Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from Torrance who is honorary co-chair of Justice Unites Us.

Lieu, who is Taiwanese American, highlighted his own upbringing, which included helping his family with their small business. They sold gifts and jewelry at flea markets until they were able to run six gift shops. He recounted how many people came in or passed when he and his brother were guarding one of the stores after school.

For Asian American residents of Orange County and elsewhere, “maybe the best way to get their information is to go talk to someone they know or have a conversation in a local small business with the owner they know,” Lieu said. “They’re talking to another friend at a local small business who has a bunch of flyers for Jay Chen for Congress. They take one and they see it in their language.

Chen, a businessman, lieutenant commander of the Naval Reserve and administrator of Mt. San Antonio College, challenges Steel in the new 45th congressional district, which includes the Asian American centers of Westminster, Cerritos and Artesia. Pulmonologist Dr. Asif Mahmood competes with Kim in the 40th District, which includes Rancho Santa Margarita and Aliso Viejo.

The Republican National Committee is also providing updates on what motivates AAPI voters, with outreach activities such as setting up tables at gas stations to ask residents about their concerns. The committee’s presence in Orange County, where it opened an AAPI community center last year, is its strongest in the state because of its “robust team,” the California RNC spokeswoman said. , Hallie Balch.

Both major parties have traditionally ignored these demographics until recently, when Orange County races became more competitive and officials realized the size and growth of this diverse population, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of politics. public at UC Riverside.

According to the Pew Research Center, Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the United States. In Orange County, home to one of the nation’s largest Asian American communities, more than a fifth of the population is AAPI, according to the US Census.

Minh Nguyen, executive director of Justice Unites Us, noted the diversity of Orange County’s AAPI population and said, “If our voters unite, we can not only help Democrats win two targeted races, but potentially help our party keep control of the House. .”

In addition to partnering with businesses, PAC will also focus on traditional door-to-door and phone banking campaigns in its target areas, including Orange County.

The county has long been a dark red conservative stronghold, but it has turned increasingly purple in recent years. In March, 37% of registered voters in the county were Democrats, compared to about 33% registered as Republicans, according to the nonpartisan California Target Book, a subscription service detailing political campaign information.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has committed a seven-figure nationwide investment to help mobilize AAPI voters a year ahead of the midterms. He plans to work with community leaders on awareness, conduct research into the needs of various fields, and dispel misinformation on social media.

Justice Unites Us — which under political action committee rules is not allowed to coordinate with campaigns — is also launching its targeted outreach in key U.S. Senate races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada and in Georgia.

Significant investment and a focus on AAPI voters helped Democrats narrowly sweep all seven of OC’s congressional districts in 2018, Ramakrishnan said.

In 2020, Kim and Steel helped Republicans repel the Blue Wave and retake two competitive congressional districts in Orange County. The women also made history as two of the first three Korean American women elected to the United States House of Representatives.

The following year, the RNC took advantage of the momentum and opened an Asia-Pacific American Community Center in the tiny Saigon of Westminster.

The facility, which is also used as an RNC field office, has been used by residents to hold dance lessons, share meals together and play games, in addition to telephone banking, Balch said.

The RNC has also expanded the languages ​​offered in outreach materials to include Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese as well as Hindi and Spanish. This weekend, the RNC will host its first class at the center for those working on citizenship, providing the kind of civics questions that appear on the naturalization test, Balch said. Participants will also receive help with English skills, she added.

“We have some of the most active volunteers leaving this office,” she said. “The ground game is really strong. There are people knocking on doors every day, phone banking several times a week, and door launches that always happen on weekends.

As campaigns begin to gear up, Ramakrishnan predicts AAPI voters could once again help swing red districts to blue, largely fueled by worries about hate crimes.

He is intrigued to see how the approach used by Justice Unites Us will play out with county businesses.

“These ethnic businesses have traditionally not published partisan literature,” Ramakrishnan said. “It will be interesting to see if some of these posts are more partisan posts – to what extent these ethnic business owners will allow them because they don’t necessarily want to alienate their customer base either. So I think they will have to be creative about how to engage these people.

Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.