Politically active Asian New Yorkers have often felt like they are playing catchup.
“We always say, if you do not come out and speak up and advocate for fair funding, no one’s going to do it on our behalf,” said City Council candidate Susan Lee.
But many have been out in increasing numbers: arranging demonstrations, registering voters and running for office.
What You Need To Know
- Asian American voters, historically, have been more difficult to organize because they speak different languages and span the political spectrum
- More centrist candidates and advocates have been galvanized by the specialized high school fight
- More left-leaning candidates and advocates have been spurred to action by tenant issues
- Some common ground is public safety, especially anti-Asian violence and rhetoric
In this month’s primaries, at least 16 of the 63 City Council contenders are of Asian descent. Three of them are running for the Republican ballot.
Organizing Asian American voters, historically, has been difficult in part because they are from different countries, they speak different languages and they span the political spectrum.
In western Queens, two left-leaning Democrats who emigrated from Korea as children are competing.
In southern Brooklyn, in the newly drawn “Asian opportunity” district, four of the five primary candidates are Asian American. The three Democratic candidates there all call themselves political moderates, but they have differing backgrounds: one emigrated from Hong Kong, another is American born and the third was raised in China.
Several centrist candidates and advocates say former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to do away with the test for specialized high schools galvanized them.
“When that happened, everybody, all the Asians, came out in force against it because we had one common thing and that was education,” said City Council candidate Stanley Ng.
Yiatin Chu of Asian Wave Alliance said parents began to realize “that the opportunities that they had wanted for their children were at odds with what the elected officials were deciding they wanted to do.”
Some say that more progressive candidates and advocates, meanwhile, have been spurred them to action by sustainable housing and language access.
“There’s definitely been a lot of emerging groups and a lot of political engagement happening on issues like tenant issues,” said Asher Ross of New York Immigration Coalition Action.
And however disparate the factions within the Asian American community, concerns over public safety are sometimes a common ground.
“We are getting more and more unified, especially the last three years,” said City Council member Julie Won, “with AAPI hate and the crimes and the violence that has gone on against us.”