- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in Arizona are seeking to stake a bigger claim in the state’s political scene.

The state Legislature this week hosted the first ever Asian-American and Pacific Island Advocacy Day, part of a wider effort to get the Asian community more involved in Arizona politics. About 20 people met with Sen. Kimberly Yee, the only Asian-American in the statehouse and the first ever Asian-American woman elected to the office.

“It’s important that the Asian-American community get involved in the legislative process,” Yee told the Arizona Republic (https://bit.ly/1n2gWoX). “I’m hoping to encourage them to begin to have a voice.”

During the Wednesday event, the group received a presentation from Yee on how bills become law. They also met with other lawmakers and registered to comment on proposed bills.

Activists in Arizona’s Asian community say they have historically been an afterthought for political candidates and state party officials pursuing black and Hispanic voters. At the same time, Asian voters in Arizona are not the group typically seen at political rallies down at the state Capitol. In contrast, African-Americans have had an annual legislative day since 2002. Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day has been going on for more than 20 years.

“We are quiet, diverse and dispersed,” said Layal Rabat, manager of Phoenix-based Asian Pacific Community in Action. “We haven’t been approached as a voting bloc, and we are hoping to change that. We want to be wooed, too.”

According to U.S. Census data, the fastest-growing Asian populations in the U.S. are in Arizona and Nevada. In Arizona, Asian and Pacific Islanders make up about 3.6 percent of the population. Compare that to Latinos, who make up 30.5 percent.

Lloyd Asato, executive director of the Asian Pacific Community in Action, said Asian voters are still a group worth being courted by candidates.

“I know 4 percent is easy to overlook,” Asato said. “But in a lot of districts, that’s the margin of victory.”

The legislative day is just the first step in an effort lasting over the next year, Asato said.

“It’s about building that base and that engagement,” he said.


Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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