Asian-American politicians try to rally voting bloc

One-third of population, S.F. Asians usually account for one-fourth of city voters

With Election Day just three weeks away, an unprecedented coalition of Asian-American politicians gathered for a press conference Monday to remind Asian-Americans in The City of their potential power at the ballot box and encourage them to vote for Asian-American candidates.

Of the 52 candidates running for city office, more than one-fourth are of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage. Although some are competing in races for school board or city supervisor, all 14 of the Asian-American candidates attended the “get out the vote” rally.

Supervisor Fiona Ma, who is vacating her District 4 seat to run for the state Assembly, said that if voters in that Sunset-area district didn’t choose an Asian-American candidate, “there will be no Asians on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing the Asian community — this will be a tremendous travesty and a bad message here in San Francisco.”

Ma encouraged Asian-American voters to use The City’s Rank-Choice Voting system to back up their first vote with a second Asian-American candidate.

“I’m glad to see so many more candidates running. The problem is with so many Asians running, the chances of having one succeed goes down,” Ma said after the event.

Asian-Americans, includingPacific Islanders, count for more than one-third of San Francisco’s population and a similar percentage of The City’s registered voters. However, they’ve made up less than one-fourth of voters in recent elections, according to San Francisco political analyst David Latterman.

“People are always asking, ‘does my vote count?’ In the Asian community the answer is yes,” said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who is running unopposed for re-election. “We’re approaching 40 percent. If we get people out to vote, we’d have a tremendous amount of political power.”

Caucasian residents make up about 56 percent of The City’s population, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau figures, but constituted about two-thirds of those who voted in recent elections, according to Latterman, who said it’s not unusual for groups of constituents to fall into “identify voting.”

“Everyone decries identify voting, but most people do it,” Latterman said. “We see it in the Asian community, we see it in the gay community, we see it in the African-American community.”

African-American and Hispanic residents, who make up approximately 8 percent and 14 percent of The City’s population respectively, have lower percentages representing those ethnic populations on Election Day, he said.

School board candidate Jane Kim said non-Asian candidates often ignore Asian-American voters.

“People still know that Asian-Americans are not coming out to vote in the numbers they could be, so they’re still discounting their vote,” Kim said.

One day “in the not too distant future,” San Francisco voters will elect an Asian-American mayor, predicted San Francisco political consultant Eric Jaye.

“The Asian-American voting block is power at this point because of its potential,” Jaye said. “They are not the leading single group among voters, although that’s changing with time.”

beslinger@examiner.comBay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

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