As the California Republican Party struggles to find a winning formula, it is abundantly clear that we are omitting something – attracting Asian Pacific American voters, 11% of registered voters. Finally, the RNC is putting its time and money into California AP communities.
Have the recent defeats of Meg Whitman and Governor Mitt Romney evoked enough pain for the party to consider fundamental changes? Specifically, is the party capable of attracting, recruiting and promoting APAs into the leadership and core of the California Republican Party?
Republican political consultants should have learned that the dinosaurs that ‘ran’ the Whitman and Romney electoral disasters are to be avoided like cancerous pathogens. Romney/Whitman politicos willfully and knowledgeably ignored APA voters. [See my piece in the Washington Examiner, Michael Barone's response to it, and the Wall Street Journal – all warning Romney, Inc., Aug. 2012] In California, 11% of voters are of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage and in battleground Nevada and Virginia APA voter blocs are 5% and 3%, respectively. With rapid APA citizenship and assimilation you can be sure these percentages will be higher in 2016.
The influence of this growing segment of the US population is too substantive to ignore. Just days after the Romney loss in November, I called National Republican Chairman Reince Priebus. Before, I could speak; Reince quickly acknowledged that he and the RNC got the message: To ignore Asian Pacific American voters is to court disaster.
Chairman Preibus promised he would make strategic partnerships and grow the GOP with all minority communities.
Preibus continues to keep his promise. He has put significant emphasis and resources in engaging non-white voters. He’s expanding the GOP presence in Hispanic and African American communities and he’s definitely engaged with the APA communities. Chairman Priebus has provided many of us the opportunity to share our thoughts on this important demographic group to Republican leadership. I had the pleasure along with CA Board of Equalization Vice-Chair Michelle Steel, consultant Stephen Fong and Hawaii GOP Chairman David Chang to present an analysis of this key voting bloc at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in January. We offered a bold proposal for the RNC to change its analysis, attitude, and approach toward attracting APA voters. [email me if you would like a copy of the power point]
The RNC took our bold approach a few steps further in the RNC Growth and Opportunity Project report and announced the national party would be hiringfull time engagement staff for minority communities some 18 months before the next national election. Much like the President’s re-election ground game — Preibus pledged to raise the necessary funds to provide a robust and ethnically diverse campaign staff in key battleground states for the 2014 election cycle and beyond. Gone are the days of approaching minority voters 30 days before Election Day.
Preibus’ commitment to expanding the role of Asian Pacific Americans in the Republican Party to maximize the communities’ potential for our party was indicative of his first hire, Stephen Fong, to serve as the National Field Director for APA Initiatives. In addition, he brought Jason Chung on board to serve as Communications Director for the APA media. These two senior-level hires will develop a national strategy to reach these constituencies. No easy task, but one that is worthwhile, not only for the growth and health of the GOP, but also for the well-being of APA communities’ participation in our civil process.
Note the benefits that the GOP could accrue. Even Schwarzenegger’s 2006 reelection victory garnered 62% of the Asian American vote. Another example, last year Fong and I created the Nevada Plan. We realized that despite the millions pouring into Nevada via Romney and the RNC, no effort for the APA vote would take place. We raised the $50,000 needed to fund 2 mailers in English and four native languages promoting Romney, and engaged a bilingual telephone bank to call the same voters. That effort made a significant difference. Romney attracted only 26 % of the national APA vote, per the New York Times; in Nevada, exit polls show that Romney garnered an astonishing 47% of the state’s APA voters.
While California is not yet a battleground state, it provides fertile ground for the GOP. After all, in addition to the governorship of the world’s sixth largest economy, 6 to 10 of the state’s Congressional seats are usually in play each cycle. Because Chairman Priebus recognizes the value of California and the growing APA population, he hired Roger Minami as State Director of Asian Pacific American Initiatives for California, the first such hire by the RNC in any state in the nation. Roger brings with him a wealth of experience from his time in the Bush Administration and on campaigns over the last couple of decades.
Continuing that trend, the CA Republican Party brought on two field representatives for the communities. They are Denny Lau and Vickie Tran, both who bring grassroots experience from a competitive state senate campaign and the University of California/Riverside College Republicans.
Denny is assigned to Orange County and the Inland Empire, where he will work closely with our many local Republican candidates. Vickie is working in the Sacramento region, especially within former Republican Congressman Dan Lungren’s district. With a 14% APA population, our ability to effectively engage local APA voters will be essential to taking back this seat.
Both Vickie and Denny have monumental tasks ahead of them, as does the GOP.
Even months after his re-election, the Obama campaign continues to employ hundreds of field workers pushing his left-wing agenda on communities across our nation. The President’s campaign has proven that through intensive ground-level engagement with voters, even the safest of Republican districts can be put into play by the left.
In the face of this adversity, and our infuriating losses across California, the time has passed for useless rhetoric and empty promises. Many people have written off the CA GOP. But our state party is looking to make a concerted, step-by-step comeback — if we can match action with our rhetoric. We need to develop a tangible, bona fide, presence in all of our local communities. We need to engage voters we haven’t engaged enough before. These hires are a historic step for the next leg of ourparty’s journey.
To become a majority party, California Republicans have to embark on a march that will be long and arduous. One thing is certain, the Republican APA boots on the ground are in California.