2 Asian-Americans elected to US Senate; 4 in Congress
PRODUKTIBO - Joseph Lariosa (The Philippine Star) - November 12, 2016 - 11:28pm

CHICAGO – Two Asian-Americans will become new United States senators while four others – three ladies and a gentleman also of Asian descent – are going to become new members of the US House of Representatives.

Paul Tiao, co-founder and acting executive director of Asian American Action Fund, described this as one of the biggest hauls in a presidential election with “tremendous national impact” that turned the new world order upside down with the upset win by controversial Donald Trump as president.

In last Tuesday’s elections, Asian-Americans also lost one of their bets – veteran US Rep. Mike Honda – who was defeated by another Asian-American, Rohit Khanna, a lawyer whose parents immigrated from India.

Japanese-American Honda has been representing since 2001 California’s 17th congressional district known as Silicon Valley, the only Asian American majority district in the US.

Kamala Harris, endorsed and described by President Obama as the “best looking attorney general,” was elected last Tuesday as the first Indian-American and second African-American female to serve the US Senate from California, defeating Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

Harris, the first female, first Asian-American, first African-American and first Indian-American attorney general of California, will replace outgoing Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Two-time US Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a native of Bangkok, Thailand and decorated war veteran, is the other Asian-American who will be sworn in as US senator from Illinois on Jan. 3, 2017, putting the Senate in the state under the control of Democrats.

Duckworth was born in Bangkok to a Thai mother of Chinese descent, and her father was a Vietnam War veteran. She has been in the House since 2013 and previously worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The 8th Illinois congressional district being vacated by senator-elect Duckworth is going to be occupied by another Asian-American, Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Indian-American businessman born in New Delhi, India. His family moved to New York when he was three months old, so that his father could attend graduate school. They lived in public housing and used food stamps. In 1980, The Krishnamoorthi family moved to Peoria, Illinois. His father became professor at Bradley University. Krishnamoorthi attended Princeton University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He received a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School.

Rescued at sea

Stephanie Murphy, a 37-year-old professor and consultant born in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, defeated incumbent Republican John Mica in last Tuesday’s elections, becoming the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to the US Congress.

Murphy, who was a six-month-old refugee when her family boat ran out of fuel at sea and then rescued by the US Navy, will represent Florida’s 7th congressional district.

Washington state Sen. Pramila Jayapal, born in India but immigrated to the US when she was 16, defeated fellow Democrat Brady Walkinshaw for Washington’s 7th District being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim McDermott (D) to become the first Indian-American woman to hold a seat in the US House.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which spawned hate crimes and discrimination against Arab, Muslim and South Asian Americans, Jayapal founded an organization called Hate Free Zone, later rebranded as OneAmerica. 

Under her leadership, OneAmerica became a major advocacy organization for immigrants and refugees living in the US. Jayapal has also helped more than 20,000 new Americans register to vote, and in 2013, she was dubbed a White House “Champion of Change.”

A fourth generation American of Japanese ancestry, Hawaii state Sen. Colleen Wakako Hanabusa won the special election for US House of Representatives in Hawaii’s 1st congressional district to fill the remaining term of Rep. Mark Takai, who announced last May that he would not seek re-election for health reasons. Takai died on July 20.

Incumbent junior US House member Amerish Babulal Bera, an American doctor, born in Los Angeles, California and whose father is from Gujarat, India, survived a tough challenge from Republican Scott Jones, sheriff of Sacramento County, to keep his 7th congressional seat in California.

Son of immigrants from India, Tibet

Another Asian-American elected was Aftab Pureval, who beat incumbent Republican Tracy Winkler for Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in Ohio. Pureval is the son of immigrants from India and Tibet.

The Asian-American Action Fund also provided “tremendous AAPI campaign support” to Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto, who was elected as the first Latina in the US Senate.

Tiao said there are record 12 Asian Pacific American sitting members of the House of Representatives, and five of the seven new APA members are women. He thanked APA progressive political community for leading the effort to elect these members of Congress.

Tiao also thanked them for campaign contributors to these candidates, knocking on doors and making calls, even texting likely voters and making their presence known on blogs and Facebook.

Out of the seven candidates Obama endorsed for the US Senate, four won – Kamala Harris (Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Maggi Hassan (N.H.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), according to ballotpedia.org.

Five of the six incumbents in the US House of Representatives Obama endorsed also won.

This was also the first time that Obama endorsed candidates through television ads and by campaigning for them.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with