Asian-American Voters Express Frustration Over Democratic Debate on Twitter

by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang /  / Updated 
Image: U.S. Democratic Presidential debate
Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee during the US Democratic Presidential candidates debate at Wynn Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 13 Oct. 2015. JOSH HANER / EPA

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community members and advocates watched Tuesday night's Democratic debate to see what, if anything, the candidates would say to or about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Among the attendees at Tuesday night's debate in Las Vegas was Congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton for the nomination.

"I left last night's debate even more energized and excited for Hillary Clinton's campaign than before,” Chu told NBC News, “She came out with the most passion on the issues that are on voters' minds right now, like gun control, and she stood strong to her convictions."

While in Nevada, Chu also met with AAPI community leaders who are working to register and organize AAPI voters. AAPIs currently make up nearly 10 percent of the total state population, with 130,000 eligible AAPI voters in Nevada. According to Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, the number of registered AAPI voters in Nevada increased 157 percent between 2004 and 2012.

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“As the fastest growing racial population in our country and one of our nation's fastest growing swing votes, the AAPI electorate will undoubtedly play a critical role in key states like Nevada, where the AAPI population has more than doubled over the past decade,” Chu said.

But many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were decidedly unimpressed with how little the debates addressed their concerns.

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Some debate viewers on Twitter reminded candidates—with data—that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are also concerned about issues like immigration, undocumented immigration, and voting rights.

Other watchers were unimpressed with the way that candidate Jim Webb brought his Asian-American wife’s race into the debate.

None of the candidates on stage Tuesday night addressed the AAPI community directly, though Clinton’s campaign tried to connect the dots on Twitter to show how the issues affected Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, even if they were not explicitly discussed.

The next Democratic debate will be held on November 14 in Iowa.

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