Campaign 2006 was a good one overall for Asian Pacific Americans. Here is a quick overview of what happened:
The APA contingent in Congress grew. Sen. Daniel Akaka was re-elected in the Senate, as were members of Congress Honda, Jindal, Matsui and Wu. While Tammy Duckworth narrowly lost the chance to represent the people of Illinois’ 6th Congressional District, former Lt. Governor Mazie Hirono won Patsy Mink’s former seat.
More APAs became elected officials in more places than ever before. John Chiang became only the fourth APA to win a statewide position in California when he became the new State Controller. Meanwhile, we can now welcome new APA state legislators in states like Idaho (democrat Sue Chew), Ohio (democrat Jay Goyal), Kansas (democrat Raj Goyle), New Hampshire (republican Saghir Tahir) and Connecticut (democrat William Tong).
Our influence grew to the point where we were the deciding factor in the democratic takeover of the United States Senate. In turning Sen. Allen’s “macaca” slur into a call to action, Real Virginians for Webb (RVFW) members created an inclusive coalition that included minorities, immigrants and whites who did not sympathize with Allen’s barely hidden racism. RVFW members have started a new nationally focused grassroots group, Real Americans for Democracy, which could be a factor in the 2008 elections and beyond.
Structural changes that will improve the democratic process for APAs and all Americans were big winners in this election. Instant Runoff Voting helped an Asian American (Ed Jew) to prevail in the San Francisco Supervisor’s race, and IRV gained ground all over the country. IRV and ranked choice voting (a form of IRV) were supported by 69 percent of the voters in Oakland (CA), 65 percent in Minneapolis (MN), 56 percent in Davis (CA) and 53 percent in Pierce County (WA). Since IRV’s groundbreaking win in March 2002 in San Francisco, it has been on the ballot in eight cities and counties, with an 8-0 record.
One of the most positive developments in Campaign 2006 got very little coverage in the news media. Our Congress became more religiously diverse when the first Muslim (Keith Ellison of Minnesota) and first two Buddhists (Mazie Hirono of Hawai‘i and Hank Johnson of Georgia) were elected.
Another positive development that did not receive enough media coverage was that, while problems still remain, two years of work by Election Protection groups to expose the theft of the 2004 presidential election and the efforts of thousands of Election Protection volunteers at polling places all across America, stopped the republicans from stealing another election in Ohio and other states.
Minnesota state Senator Satveer Chaudhary’s opponent conceded the race to Chaudhary. He used the occasion to exhibit the worst kind of religious bigotry, urging Chaudhary, a Hindu, to convert to Christianity.
Likewise, newly elected Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota was treated to the worst of stereotyping when conservative host Glenn Beck started a CNN interview by saying: “I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.’ And I know you’re not. I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.”
In many races, principled candidates are refusing to concede until every vote is counted. Millions of votes are not counted in every election for a variety of reasons, and we all must demand that every vote be counted.
Finally, in Guam, legal challenges are proceeding that may force a runoff in the gubernatorial race. Meanwhile, observers on the ground on Election Day reported that the electricity went out at the place where the ballots were being counted after only an hour of counting had taken place. The backup generators could not be started, but somehow counting continued during this process and a reported democratic lead before the blackout changed to a republican lead afterward. While this incident demands an investigation, funds are urgently needed by both sides for legal and recount election expenses. Go to the websites of former Representative and democratic challenger Robert Underwood or republican Governor Felix Camacho for more details.