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Asian Americans in politics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Asian Americans represent a growing share of the national population and of the electorate.[1] The lower political participation of Asian Americans has been raised as a concern.[2][3] In the 21st century, Asian Americans have become a key Democratic Party constituency.[4][5]


State and local government


Name Image Term Ethnicity State Party Offices held
George Ariyoshi
George Ariyoshi Portrait (cropped).jpg
1974-1986 Japanese-American Hawaii Democratic Served as the governor of Hawaii from 1974 to 1986. First American of Asian descent to be elected governor of a state of the United States.[6] He continues to hold the record as the longest-serving state governor in Hawaii.
Ben Cayetano
Ben Cayetano Portrait.jpg
1994-2002 Filipino-American Hawaii Democratic Served as the fifth governor of Hawaii from 1994 to 2002. First Filipino American to serve as a state governor in the United States.[7]
Gary Locke
Gary Locke official portrait.jpg
1997-2005 Chinese-American Washington Democratic Served as the governor of the state of Washington elected in 1996. First Chinese-American to be elected governor in United States history and the first Asian-American governor in the continental United States. Locke served as governor from 1997–2005.[8]
Bobby Jindal
Bobby Jindal August 2015.jpg
2008-2016 Indian-American Louisiana Republican Served in various executive positions in Louisiana and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services before being elected to the Congress in 2004, and finally winning the Louisiana gubernatorial elections in 2007 (thereby becoming the first non-white governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction), the first elected Indian-American governor in U.S. history,[9] as well as the second Asian-American governor to serve in the continental United States.
Nikki Haley
Nikki Haley official photo.jpg
2011-2017 Indian-American South Carolina Republican Served as the 116th Governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017. Haley previously represented Lexington County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2005 to 2010.[10] She is the first Sikh American governor in the United States,[11] first female governor of South Carolina,[11] second elected Indian-American governor in U.S. history,[12] as well as the third Asian-American governor to serve in the continental United States. Nikki Haley's election was not the only first for Asian Americans to occur during the 2010 election cycle.
David Ige
Governor David Ige.jpg
2014- Japanese-American Hawaii Democratic Serving as governor of Hawaii since 2014. First person of Okinawan descent to hold office in the U.S.[13]

State offices

Name Image Life Ethnicity State Party Offices held
Sean Reyes 1971- Filipino-American Utah Republican Attorney General of Utah
Kamala Harris
Senator Harris official senate portrait.jpg
1964- Indian-American California Democratic Harris, who is half Indian-American,[14] became the first female, first Jamaican American, and first Asian-American state attorney general in the United States.[15]
John Chiang
California State Treasurer John Chiang.jpg
1962- Taiwanese-American California Democratic Served as California State Treasurer from 2014 to 2019.
Betty Yee
Betty Yee official photo.jpg
1957- Chinese-American California Democratic Serving as California State Controller since 2015.
Hubert Vo
1956- Vietnamese-American Texas Democratic Serving in the Texas House since 2004. First Vietnamese American to be elected to the Texas Legislature.
Gene Wu
Gene Wu 2.jpg
1978- Chinese-American Texas Democratic Serving in the Texas House since 2012.

Local offices

Name Image Life Ethnicity State Party Offices held
Norman Mineta
Norman Mineta, official portrait, DOT.jpg
1931- Japanese-American California Democratic Served as mayor of San Jose, California, in 1971.[16]
Ed Lee
Mayor Ed Lee Headshot Closeup.jpg
1952-2017 Chinese-American California Democratic Served as first Asian-American mayor of San Francisco until his death in 2017.[17]
David Oh
Councilman David Oh 2011.jpg
1960- Korean-American Pennsylvania Republican Served as first Asian-American elected to political office in the City of Philadelphia in 2011. Oh is currently serving his first term as City Councilman At-Large, Minority Whip.[18]
Ravinder Bhalla
1974- Indian-American New Jersey Democratic Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey[19]


Name Image Life Ethnicity State Party Offices held
Dalip Singh Saund
Dalip Singh Saund.jpg
1899-1973 Indian-American California Democratic Served from 1957-1963. First Asian-American voting member of the United States Congress. Saund, from Imperial and Riverside Counties, was the first South-Asian American, first Indian-American, first Sikh-American, and first member of a non-Abrahamic faith to be elected to Congress.[20]
Hiram Fong
Hiram Fong.jpg
1906-2004 Chinese-American Hawaii Republican Served from 1959-1977. First Chinese-American elected to Congress[20] and first Asian-American Senator.[21] Daniel Inouye (who served from 1959–2012) was the first Japanese American in the House and later the first in Senate. Spark Matsunaga was the second Japanese American to serve in the House (served 1971–77). Matsunaga and S. I. Hayakawa were the second and third Japanese Americans to serve in the Senate. Matsunaga served in the Senate between 1977 and 1990, while Hayakawa served in the Senate between 1977 and 1983.
Daniel Inouye
Daniel Inouye Official Photo 2009.jpg
1924-2012 Japanese-American Hawaii Democratic Served from 1959-2012. First Japanese-American in the US House Representatives (1959-1963) and later the first in the Senate (1963-2012).
Spark Matsunaga
Spark Matsunaga.jpg
1916-1990 Japanese-American Hawaii Democratic Served from 1971-1990. Second Japanese-American to serve in the US House Representatives (1971-1977) and later the second in the Senate (1977-1990).
S. I. Hayakawa
1906-1992 Japanese-American California Republican (1973–1992) Democratic (before 1973) Served from 1977-1983. Third Japanese-American to serve in the US Senate.
Norman Mineta
Norman Mineta, official portrait, DOT.jpg
1931- Japanese-American California Democratic Served from 1975–1995. Fourth Japanese-American to serve in the US House of Representatives.
Bob Matsui
Robert matsui.jpg
1941-2005 Japanese-American California Democratic Served from 1979-2005. Fifth Japanese-American to serve in the House.
Patsy Mink
1927-2002 Japanese-American Hawaii Democratic Served from 1965–1977 and again from 1990–2002. First female Asian-American and the first female Japanese-American elected to Congress.[20]
Daniel Kahikina Akaka
Daniel Akaka official photo.jpg
1924-2018 Native-Hawaiian Hawaii Democratic Served from 1990-2000. Appointed as U.S. Senator of Hawaii in 1990, and then subsequently re-elected for two terms in 1994 and 2000. First congressperson of Native-Hawaiian descent.[22]
Bobby Scott
1947- Filipino-American Virginia Democratic Serving since 1993. First US born member of Congress of Filipino descent.[23]
Jay Kim
Jay Kim.jpg
1939- Korean-American California Republican Served from 1993-1999. First Korean-American elected to Congress,[24] as well as the first Korean-American elected to a national office outside of Korea.[25] After he left office in 1999, there were no Korean Americans in Congress until the 2018 election of Andy Kim.
Andy Kim
Andy Kim, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg
1982- Korean-American New Jersey Democratic Serving since 2019. First congressperson of Asian descent to represent New Jersey.[26]
David Wu
David Wu portrait 2003.jpg
1955- Chinese-American Oregon Democratic Served from 1998-2011. First Chinese-American of Taiwanese descent elected to Congress.[27] Wu resigned in 2011,[28] which was followed by a brief absence of Taiwanese Americans in Congress until the election of Grace Meng in 2012.
Joseph Cao
1967- Vietnamese-American Louisiana Republican Served from 2009-2011. First Vietnamese-American elected to Congress;[20] since he left office in 2011 there were no Vietnamese Americans in Congress until the election of Stephanie Murphy.
Stephanie Murphy
Stephanie Murphy official photo.jpg
1978- Vietnamese-American Florida Democratic Serving since 2017. First female Vietnamese-American elected to Congress.
Steve Austria
Rep. Steve Austria.jpg
1958- Filipino-American Ohio Republican Served from 2009-2013. First Multiracial, Filipino-American elected to congress. First first-generation, Filipino elected to Congress.[29]
Charles Djou
Charles Djou.jpg
1970- Thai-American Hawaii Independent (2018–present) Republican (before 2018) Served from 2010-2011. First Thai-American elected to Congress;[30][31] he left Congress in 2011,[32] and no Thai American served in the Congress until Tammy Duckworth was elected in 2012.
Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth, official portrait, 115th Congress.jpg
1968- Thai-American Illinois Democratic Serving since 2013. First female Thai-American and first Thailand-born representative elected to Congress (US House of Representatives). Elected as a sentator in 2017.
Hansen Clarke
Hansen Clarke, Official Portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
1957- Bangladeshi-American Michigan Democratic Served from 2011-2013. First Bangladeshi-American to service in Congress.[33] Clarke lost his seat after being defeated in the 2012 primary, and[34] no Bangladeshi-Americans have served in Congress since.
Pramila Jayapal
Pramila Jayapal 115th Congress photo.jpg
1965- Indian-American Washington Democratic Serving since 2017. First female Indian-American elected to Congress from Washington.
Kamala Harris
Senator Harris official senate portrait.jpg
1964- Indian-American California Democratic Serving since 2017. First female Indian-American elected to Congress from California.
Grace Meng
Grace Meng Official Congressional Photo.jpg
1975- Chinese-American New York Democratic Serving since 2013. First female Asian-American and first Chinese-American of Taiwanese descent elected to Congress from New York.
Mark Takano
Mark Takano 113th Congress - full.jpg
1960- Japanese-American California Democratic (1983–present) Republican (Before 1983) Serving since 2013. First openly gay person of Asian descent elected to Congress.
Mazie Hirono
Mazie Hirono, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
1947- Japanese-American Hawaii Democratic Serving since 2007. Served in the US House of Representatives from 2007-2013. First elected female senator from Hawaii (2013), the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate, the first U.S. senator born in Japan, and the nation's first Buddhist senator.
Judy Chu
Judy Chu, official photo.jpg
1953- Chinese-American California Democratic Serving since 2009. First female Chinese-American elected to Congress.
Raja Krishnamoorthi
Raja Krishnamoorthi official photo.jpg
1973- Indian-American Illinois Democratic Serving since 2017. First Hindu of Indian descent elected to Congress.
Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi Gabbard, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
1981- Samoan-American Hawaii Democratic Serving since 2013. First Hindu and first Samoan-American elected to Congress.
Amata Coleman Radewagen
Aumua Amata Radewagen congressional photo.jpg
1947- Samoan-American American Samoa Republican Serving since 2015. First female to represent American Samoa in the US Congress.


Benito Legarda and Pablo Ocampo, joined the House in 1907 as Resident Commissioners,[35] becoming the first Asian Americans to serve in the Congress, albeit as non-voting members.[20][20]

Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii was the President pro tempore of the United States Senate and the highest-ranking Asian American in congressional history.
Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii was the President pro tempore of the United States Senate and the highest-ranking Asian American in congressional history.

In 2010, Inouye was sworn in as President Pro Tempore making him the highest-ranking Asian American politician in American history.


There are presently 14 Asian Pacific Americans in the House and 3 in the Senate, in the 116th United States Congress.[36][37][38] The following marks the total number of Asian Americans in the U.S. Congress since 1957: 36 representatives and 9 senators. Representatives include those from Japanese, Taiwanese, Filipino, Thai, Indian, Samoan, and Vietnamese American backgrounds.

Representatives Colleen Hanabusa, Doris Matsui, Mark Takano, and Senator Mazie Hirono are Japanese American.

Representative Judy Chu is Chinese American.

Representatives Grace Meng and Ted Lieu are Taiwanese Americans.

Representative Bobby Scott is Filipino American.

Representative TJ Cox is Chinese and Filipino American.

Senator Tammy Duckworth is Thai American.

Representatives Ami Bera, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, and Senator Kamala Harris are Indian American.[36]

Representative Tulsi Gabbard and Amata Coleman Radewagen are Samoan American.

Representative Stephanie Murphy is Vietnamese American.

Representative Andy Kim is Korean American.

Note that Scott and Harris both are multiracial; Scott is one-fourth Filipino and three-fourths African American, while Harris is one-half Indian and one-half Jamaican.


Norman Mineta, first Asian American cabinet member
Norman Mineta, first Asian American cabinet member

Norman Mineta became the first Asian American Cabinet member when he was appointed secretary of commerce by President Bill Clinton in 2000. He then served as secretary of transportation from 2001 to 2002.[39] Also in the George W. Bush Administration, Elaine Chao became the first, and thus far only, Asian-American woman to serve as a Cabinet secretary when she became the secretary of labor in 2001, serving until 2009.[40] She has also served as secretary of transportation in the current administration since 2017.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Eric Shinseki to the position of secretary of veterans affairs, which he held until 2014. Shinseki was the first Asian American to hold this position. Steven Chu, the first Asian American to hold the position of secretary of energy, served from 2009-2013. Additionally under Obama, Gary Locke served as secretary of commerce from 2009 to 2011.

In 2009, President Donald Trump appointed Nikki Haley the first Indian American to serve in a permanent Cabinet-level position when she was confirmed to the position of ambassador to the United Nations in 2017. She held the position until 2018.

Presidential and vice-presidential candidates

In 1964, Hiram Fong, a Republican, became the first Asian-American candidate for president.[41][42]

In 1972, Patsy Mink became the first Asian-American Democratic candidate for president, and the first Japanese-American candidate for president.[43]

In 2015, Bobby Jindal, a Republican, became the first Indian-American candidate for president.[44][45]

In 2017, Andrew Yang became the first Asian-American male Democratic candidate for president.[46][47]

In 2020, Kamala Harris became the first Asian-American major party candidate for vice president.[48]

Voting trends and party affiliation

From the 1940s to the 1990s most Asian Americans were anti-communist refugees who had fled mainland China, North Korea or Vietnam, and were strongly anti-Communist. Many had ties to conservative organizations.[49][50] In recent years, more liberal Asian-American groups such as newer Chinese and Indian immigrants have greatly changed the Asian-American political demographics, as well as a larger proportion of younger Asian Americans, many of whom have completed college degrees.[51]

During the 1990s and 2000s, Asian American voting behavior shifted from moderate support for the Republican Party to stronger support for the Democratic Party.[52] In the 1992 presidential election Republican George H. W. Bush received 55% of the Asian-American vote compared to 31% for Democrat Bill Clinton. Asian Americans voted Republican and were the only racial group more conservative than whites in the 1990s, according to surveys.[49] By the 2004 election, Democrat John Kerry won 56% of the Asian American vote, with Chinese and Indian Americans tending to support Kerry, and Vietnamese and Filipino Americans tending to support George Bush.[53] Japanese-Americans leaned toward Kerry, while Korean-Americans leaned toward Bush.[53] Democrat Barack Obama won 62% of the Asian American vote in the 2008 presidential election,[54] with the margin increasing during the 2012 presidential election, where Asian Americans voted to re-elect Obama by 73%.[55] In the 2014 midterm elections, based on exit polls, 50% of Asian Americans voted Republican, while 49% voted Democrat; this swing toward voting for Republicans was a shift from the strong Democratic vote in 2012, and had not reached 50% since 1996.[56] The 2016 National Asian American Survey, conducted before the 2016 presidential election, found that 55% of Asian American registered voters supported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and only 14% supported Republican candidate Donald Trump.[57]

Despite their growing trend of voting for Democrats in national elections, Asian Americans have tended to identify as independents and have not developed strong ties to political parties as a group.[58] Due to the smaller size of the groups population, in comparison to the population as a whole, it has been difficult to get an adequate sampling to forecast voter outcomes for Asian Americans.[59] In 2008, polls indicated that 35% considered themselves non-partisan, 32% Democrats, 19% independents, and 14% Republicans.[60] The 2012 National Asian American Survey found that 51% considered themselves non-partisan, 33% Democrats, 14% Republicans, and 2% Other;[61][62] Hmong, Indian, and Korean Americans strongly identified as Democrats, and Filipino and Vietnamese Americans most strongly identified as Republicans.[62] In 2013, according to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Chinese Americans were the least likely Asian American ethnicity to have a party affiliation, with only one third belonging to a party.[63] The 2016 National Asian American Survey found that 41% of Asian Americans identified as non-partisan, 41% as Democrats (a modest increase from 2008 and 2012), and 16% as Republicans.[57]

Neither the Republican nor Democratic parties have financed significant efforts to the registration of Asian Americans, however much more attention has been focused on contributions from Asian Americans,[64] having once been referred to as potential "Republican Jews".[65] As recently as 2006, the outreach efforts of America's two major political parties have been unbalanced, with the Democratic Party devoting more resources in attracting Asian Americans.[66] In 2016, a majority of Asian-Americans possessed the same political views on racial profiling, education, social security, and immigration reform as the Democratic Party; the efforts to attract Asian-Americans has produced a proportionally significant growth in Democratic affiliation by Asian-Americans from 2012 to 2016 by 12 percent.[67] In 2016, Vietnamese and Filipinos were the least likely Asian Americans to support the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, with Vietnamese the most likely to back the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.[68] Political affiliation aside, Asian Americans have trended to become more politically active as a whole, with 2008 seeing an increase of voter participation by 4% to a 49% voting rate.[69] In 2017, it was reported by the Washington Post that Asian Americans born outside of the United States trended to be more conservative, and more likely to identify as Republicans, while those who were born in the United States, who were generally younger, were more likely to identify being a Democrat.[70]

See also


  1. ^ Office, US Census Bureau Public Information. "Facts for Features: Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month: May 2012 – Facts for Features & Special Editions – Newsroom – U.S. Census Bureau". Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  2. ^ "The Rise of Asian Americans". Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. 19 June 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  3. ^ Trounson, Rebecca (18 June 2012). "Fueled by immigration, Asians are fastest-growing U.S. group". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  4. ^ Ramakrishnan, Karthick. "How Asian Americans Became Democrats". The American Prospect. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  5. ^ Zhou, Li. "Trump could be turning Asian Americans into reliable Democratic voters". Vox. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  6. ^ Niiya, Brian; Japanese American National Museum (1993). Japanese American history: an A-to-Z reference from 1868 to the present. VNR AG. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-8160-2680-7.
  7. ^ CYNTHIA DE CASTR (18 November 2008). "Benjamin Jerome 'Ben' Cayetano: 1st US FilAm State Governor". Asian Journal. Archived from the original on 24 March 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  8. ^ "Governor Locke". Washington State Office of the Governor. 2004. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  9. ^ Jan Moller (21 October 2007). "1st Indian-American governor in U.S. vows 'fresh start' for La". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  10. ^ Belles of the South Audrey/Asian Women's Magazine – April/May '06 Archived 12 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b "Haley Becomes South Carolina's 1st Woman Governor". Associated Press. 2 November 2010. Archived from the original on 25 January 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
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  27. ^ Braden Smith (6 April 2010). "Online exclusive: Congressman Wu visits campus for 'Pizza & Politics'". The Linfield Review. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
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Further reading

External links

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