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Asian American political groups announce Democratic presidential candidate forum

Two groups said they planned to host the event focused on Asian American and Pacific Islander issues Sept. 8.
Poll workers attach a sign as they set up a voting station at Laguna Beach City Hall in Laguna Beach in Orange County California, before the polls open on Nov. 6, 2018.Robyn Beck / AFP - Getty Images file

Asian American political groups plan to host a forum in Orange County, California, for Democratic presidential candidates this September, the groups announced Thursday.

AAPI Victory Fund, a super PAC, and Asian Americans Rising, a PAC, said they plan to host the forum Sept. 8. Participants have not yet been announced, but the Orange County Register reported that an organizer said several “top-tier” candidates have pledged to appear.

The forum would highlight Asian American and Pacific Islander issues, a statement said.

“The diversity and breadth of the 2020 Presidential democratic field and our community’s desire to engage has surpassed our expectations,” Shekar Narasimhan, chair and founder of AAPI Victory Fund, said in a statement. “We felt it was important to hold this groundbreaking forum with Democratic candidates, to test if they believe the AAPI vote is worth investing in, and also to ensure that our community has the information needed to participate in the primaries and the general election.”

Three Asian Americans and Pacific Islander candidates— Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and Andrew Yang — are running for president, organizers noted. In total, there are at least 17 Democratic candidates running for president as of the beginning of April, with almost half a dozen others expected to announce soon.

California has the largest total Asian American and Pacific Islander population in the United States, with more than 5.6 million according to 2017 Census Bureau estimates. The group has found growing political power: In the 2018 primary, at least a dozen Asian Americans ran for office, and the state saw its first-ever gubernatorial debate focused on Asian American issues.

Orange County — once considered a GOP stronghold — has found particular prominence. About 20 percent of the county’s population is Asian American or Pacific Islander, according to census estimates, with large populations of people of Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Japanese descent.

According to the 2016 NBC News exit poll, 65 percent of Asian American voters placed ballots for Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election. In the 2018 midterm elections, 77 percent of Asian American voters voted for Democrats.

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