Lee lauds power of Asian vote

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee may be poised to take on a larger political role on the national stage, as the Democratic National Committee’s top official visited him Wednesday asking for help getting out the Asian-American vote for President Barack Obama.

Lee, the first Asian-American mayor of San Francisco, launched the Bay Area campaign for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders for Obama at an event in Chinatown with DNC chairwoman U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and vice chair U.S. Rep. Mike Honda.

Democrats likely have little concern about California in November, but Wasserman Schultz said Asian-Americans could provide a crucial edge in swing states.

Lee told reporters that he would support the Obama campaign in visits to other states and encourage others he knows to take “leadership roles” nationally in the campaign.

The Obama campaign said voter registration among Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders is lower than any other racial or ethic group. Lee noted that political participation was particularly low among recent immigrants.

“Unless they’re engaged, and really talk about what they can gain from participating,” Lee said. “Then, people turn out in record numbers. We did that in my own campaign.”

The mayor noted the huge growth in the country’s Asian population in the past decade, and said small businesses have benefited from Obama’s payroll tax cuts and residents have benefited from health care reform.

“We know how important it is, and how important our president has been, to our livelihood here in San Francisco,” Lee said.

Lee said Obama has told U.S. mayors that they have an important role in the country’s economic recovery, particularly with health care and education, and “he’s been providing an excellent framework for that to happen.”

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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