WASHINGTON — Tuesday’s election will send new Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) to the U.S. Congress, all of whom will be setting historic firsts when they are officially sworn in.
One new AAPI candidate was elected to serve in the U.S. Senate, four in the House of Representatives, and a fifth House candidate is currently in the lead with the race too close to call.
“Last night, the American people spoke, and they chose leaders that better reflect the diversity of our nation,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). “The 113th Congress will include more women and minorities than ever before, which means that the people making decisions for Americans will look more like America. I am thrilled to welcome our newly elected Asian American and Pacific Islander members, and I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to move our nation forward.”
Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), chair of CAPAC’s Education Task Force, won her Senate race and made history as the first Asian immigrant, first Buddhist, and first Asian American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. She will also be the first woman senator to represent the state of Hawaii.
The four new Asian American and Pacific Islander members elected to the House of Representatives have also broken historic barriers with their respective wins.
Grace Meng, a member of the New York State Assembly, will be the first Asian American member of Congress elected to represent the state of New York.
Tammy Duckworth from Illinois is the first Thai American woman and woman veteran injured in combat to serve in Congress. She lost her legs in Iraq when her helicopter was shot down, and has overseen veterans’ affairs at the state and federal levels.
Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii is the first Hindu American and first Pacific Islander woman to serve in Congress. Born in American Samoa, she is company commander with the Hawaii Army National Guard, a former Honolulu City Council member, and the youngest person to serve as a state representative in Hawaii.
Mark Takano, a member of the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees, is the first openly gay candidate of color to win a congressional seat. Takano, whose parents were interned during World War II, ran for Congress in 1992 and lost by only 519 votes.
A fifth House candidate, Dr. Ami Bera from Elk Grove in Sacramento County, is currently holding the lead in a close race that has yet to be decided.
“Today is a first for Congress,” said Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), past CAPAC chair. “The next Congress will see more Asian American and Pacific Islander members of Congress than ever before. As chair emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, this is everything I’ve worked to create and I’m thrilled to see Congress more diverse than the day I started. That goes for the more Hispanic American 113th Congress, the first openly gay senator in history, and the first Asian American woman in the Senate too. Congress is slowly, but surely, starting to better represent America.
“Today is also a voting first. Having traveled the country during this election, getting out the Asian American and Pacific Islander vote in swing states like Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia, I know that we witnessed the highest voter turnout ever among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We moved the dial of democracy forward and more minorities voted than ever before.”
In addition to welcoming the newly elected members, Chu also thanked departing CAPAC executive and associate members for their service.
“CAPAC thanks Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys), Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego), Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach), Rep. Pete Stark (D-Fremont) and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) for championing the issues of the AAPI community and of all Americans during their time in Congress,” said Chu. “Their presence and commitment to CAPAC’s mission will be greatly missed, and we hope to continue the great work that they have done in the next Congress.”
In addition to Chu and Honda, CAPAC members who were re-elected include Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) and Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii).
Founded in 1994, CAPAC is composed of members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the AAPI community. On the Web: http://capac-chu.house.gov/