Who are Asians voting for?

By Ryan Pangilinan
Northwest Asian Weekly

Democrats versus Republicans is one of those age-old battles, like the Yankees versus the Red Sox or Jedi versus Sith. In the Pacific Northwest, the Dem vs. GOP clash looms ominously over the state, with finger-pointing and lawsuits marring the current gubernatorial race between incumbent Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire and GOP challenger Dino Rossi.

But this kind of back-and-forth isn’t anything that’s particularly different from what’s playing out in the headlines in the heated conflict for the presidential office between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama. The battleground for these two races is the questionable middle class, which begs the question, will any of these candidates do anything for Asian Americans?

“Governor Gregoire’s administration is one of the most talented and diverse in our state’s history. We are proud that so many communities – including Asian Pacific Americans – are represented in the highest level of her administration and in her campaign,” said Melissa Topacio Long.

Long is the youth and AAPI outreach director for the state Democrats and like several visible Asian Americans, including the House Majority Whip Sharon Tomiko Santos (D–Seattle) and Rep. Bob Hasegawa (D–Seattle), she’s aligned herself publicly with the governor. “In Washington state, the API community makes up 5.4 percent of registered voters,” continued Long. “Leaders of the API community recognize and appreciate all that Gov. Gregoire has accomplished and are supporting her re-election. In fact, earlier this year Team Gregoire … (received) the endorsement of the Filipino American Political Action Group of Washington.”

Earlier in the month, Long hosted an event which gathered several Asian American Democrats, including Congressman Mike Honda (D–CA) and former governor, Gary Locke, to support Sen. Obama, in which she drew some similar parallels to Gov. Gregoire: “APIs support Sen. Obama because his values are closely aligned with those of the AAPI community.”

This sentiment is not just an isolated one. On the popular blog, www.AngryAsianMan.com, the site carries a blazing endorsement for Sen. Obama on its sidebar; in fact, the senator has spurned countless fan pages on several social networking Web sites.

When it came time to find API Washingtonians who are supporting the Republican Party, the numbers were scant. Aside from a quote from a Filipino American in a post written by Josh Feit, former political editor for “The Stranger” and current blogger for www.HorsesAss.org, requests for interviews with Asian American Republicans went unanswered.

Students who attend the University of Washington and Seattle Pacific University elected to either not answer phone calls or e-mails and the ones who did reply, said, “Sorry, I’m too busy right now.”

Finding APIs who support Dino Rossi was difficult. Finding APIs who are backing Sen. McCain wasn’t as hard, such as the Web site www.AsianAmericansForMcCain.org. Upon request, there was a reply from the site, agreeing to do an interview. This was before the second debate that aired on television on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

Following the debate, contacts from Asian American GOP supporters were hard to come by and, at press time, calls remain unanswered.
Traditionally, APIs have voted Democrat. “A recent survey of the Asian American electorate conducted by prominent Asian American researchers at distinguished universities found that 32 percent of Asian Americans identify with the Democratic Party versus 14 percent with the Republican Party,” said Long.

In recent years, APIs have been making their collective voices heard louder and louder – which has been exemplified in this publication – but interestingly, as in both the races for both the governor’s office and the presidency, as the Democrats’ public support is strengthened, the Republicans’ support seems to be falling by the wayside, with a series of unanswered voicemails and e-mails as the only telling existence of Asian American involvement with the elephants. ♦

Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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