This article is about Asian Americans
The demographics of the south are changing and both Democrats and Republicans are taking note of a growing, diverse constituency.
Stephanie Cho remembers a time when she could walk the halls of the Georgia state capitol and see just two Asian Americans: the Republican state representative Byung J Pak and a member of his staff.
She had recently moved to Atlanta from Los Angeles, in 2013, and was “shocked” by how few Asian Americans were involved in Georgia politics. Campaigns, Cho said, made little effort to engage Asian American voters, despite their growing presence in the state, and political leaders did not seem to grasp the potential voting power of this electorate.
“When you think about California, what it was like 30 or 40 years ago, that’s Georgia,” said Cho, who is now the executive director of the civil rights advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta. “It’s on a trajectory of change.”
Though Asian Americans comprise only about 4% of Georgia’s population – a far smaller share than in places like California – they have emerged as an increasingly influential electoral force in this politically divided, southern swing state.
Historic turnout among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters – who make up the fastest-growing segment of Georgia’s electorate – helped Joe Biden become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1992. According to national exit polls, nearly two-thirds of Asian American and Pacific Islander voters cast their ballot for Biden.
By some estimates, voter participation among Asian Americans in Georgia nearly doubled from 2016 to 2020 – a testament, Cho said, to the years-long voter engagement and mobilization efforts led by a new generation of Asian American organizers and activists.
The next time she visits the state capitol, there will be six Asian Americans serving in the Georgia legislature, including five Democrats.
“When no one was looking, we really changed things in Georgia,” Cho said.
Now Democrats hope to replicate their success among Asian Americans in a pair of runoff elections on 5 January that will determine control of the US Senate. The campaigns for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock say they view the AAPI community as critical to winning their races. Both teams have hired AAPI constituency directors to lead multilingual and multicultural outreach programs, that includes campaign visits to AAPI-owned small businesses and advertising in ethnic media.