A key group mobilizes the AAPI community in Texas


In the past decade, Texas has seen extraordinary demographic changes that have transformed the voting electorate. One group that is fueling those changes, and is often overlooked and seldom discussed, is the Asian American constituency. The AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Victory Fund hopes that changes, and their $1 million investment in Texas to increase Asian American turnout in November could deliver 38 electoral votes to Joe Biden, flip several congressional seats, and change the balance of power in the Texas House.

According to Pew Research, Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the country. From 2012 to 2018, the number of eligible AAPI voters in Texas grew by a staggering 46 percent. They have also fueled changing trends in urban and suburban areas like Harris, Dallas, and Fort Bend County. The Asian American population in Collin County, which is shifting leftward, is now over 15 percent.

Last month the AAPI Victory Fund announced their seven-figure strategic investment in Texas, which includes the formation of the AAPI Texas Victory Committee, co-chaired by Sonal Shah, a former Obama White House Official and National Policy Director for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, and David H. Lee, AAPI Victory Fund Board member. 

This investment is geared towards increased turnout. The AAPI Victory Fund is particularly focusing on the opportunity to flip the Texas House. “This was an investment in the future of Texas,” said Varun Nikore, President of the AAPI Victory Fund, in an interview with the Texas Signal.

Nikore also spoke about the tactical decisions involved with building an infrastructure that would remain in place after the 2020 Election. “We can create a pan-AAPI organization,” said Nikore.

For Nikore, one of the biggest roadblocks with creating political empowerment for the AAPI community is that sub-ethnicities tend to become siloed. As he explained, there might be strategic outreach to Chinese-Americans, but nothing towards Korean-Americans or South Asian Americans, or vice versa.

In addition to focusing on state legislative races with high AAPI populations, the AAPI Victory Fund also recently announced an additional round of congressional endorsements: Lulu Seikaly (TX-03) and Donna Imam (TX-31). Seikaly is challenging one-term congressman Van Taylor in a district that has the highest percentage of college-educated constituents that still votes Republican. Iman is challenging long-term Congressman John Carter in a central Texas district that includes the northern Austin suburbs.

Earlier this year, AAPI Victory Fund endorsed several Texas Democratic congressional challengers including Gina Ortiz Jones (TX-23), Sri Preston Kulkarni (TX-22), and Sima Ladjevardian (TX-02). There has yet to be an Asian-American member of Congress from Texas.

By focusing across the state, Nikore acknowledges the opportunity that an increasing AAPI population can bring well beyond November. When the Texas legislature convenes early next year, redistricting will be a major battle.

Additionally, Nikore and the AAPI Victory Fund hope that a strong Democratic turnout in Texas has further ramifications for a presidential nomination calendar. “When you look at the long view of Texas, what we are trying to gain also is an opportunity for Texas to move up in the Democratic primary calendar,” said Nikore.

Earlier this year, Texas was a part of Super Tuesday, and former Vice President Joe Biden’s primary win was a major reason why he secured the Democratic presidential nomination. The day before Super Tuesday, Biden was in Dallas, and was endorsed by former presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

The current nomination calendar, with Iowa and New Hampshire as the first two voting states, is extremely unreflective of the country as a whole. As the largest battleground state, the AAPI Victory Fund’s major investment in Texas will have a monumental impact beyond November. If Texas were to move up the presidential nomination calendar, it would allow communities across the country to truly have a better representation in the Democratic party.

 (Disclosure: David H. Lee is also the President of the Texas Signal.)

Photo: KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP via Getty Images

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