The Asian American and Pacific Islander Candidates and Issues Forum took place October 1, 2015 at the ACRS building. • Courtesy Photo
The Asian American and Pacific Islander Candidates and Issues Forum took place October 1, 2015 at the ACRS building. • Courtesy Photo

Asian Pacific Islanders for Civic Empowerment (APACE) is dedicated to broadening democracy for Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIAs) in our state. Part of that work involves partnering with other organizations on voter education events, making sure elected officials hear our APIA voices on issues that matter, and getting out the vote for candidates who share our values.

Our APIA community in western Washington is a thriving entity, and APACE is lucky to be in a position to highlight and empower it in so many ways.

Because our “APIA community” is made up of so many language, ethnic, and religious communities, it might seem like our differences are too vast to unite us. But our shared history in both America and in Washington State has taught us that we can achieve more when we stand together.

We still need leaders and role models who look like our families and neighbors. That’s why, at our semi-annual reception for API Elected and Appointed Officials, held during APIA Heritage Month in May, we thank APIAs in public office for their service. It’s important that we recognize the struggle for representation, and that we honor those individuals who stepped up to speak up for marginalized communities. They were (and many still are) the only Asian or Pacific Islander on a school board, judicial bench, city council, or state commission.

But leadership can come from our seemingly ordinary stories, too. On issues ranging from redistricting to voting rights to income inequality, APACE works hard to ensure that APIA voices are included in these policy discussions. By testifying in public hearings from Seattle to Olympia on issues that affect us all, APIAs help shape our state and local laws.

APACE also works with other APIA organizations to bring candidates and ballot measure campaigns to our communities. At neighborhood forums or “meet-and-greet” gatherings, APIA organizations work together to make sure that translations or translated materials are available. In-language communication is a foundation of democracy-building, and one that we believe is crucial during election season—whether it’s from someone at your door, on the phone, or on a flyer.

This election year, APACE looked to the APIA diaspora across Western Washington and has endorsed candidates with proven track records of standing up for our diverse communities. We identified areas where there were large populations of APIAs, and looked at important races where APIAs could make a difference either as candidates or as voters.

In Seattle, Lloyd Hara (Port of Seattle Commissioner) and Bruce Harrell (Seattle City Council, District 2) have decades-long records of championing diversity and supporting APIA businesses. Both Hara and Harrell have strong local roots in Seattle’s APIA community.

Beyond Seattle, there are stellar APIA candidates who have regularly stood strong and advocated for our communities. In SeaTac, Mia Gregerson (SeaTac City Council, position 7) is a voice for policies like a $15 living wage, which helps build a strong economy. The Eastside, particularly Bellevue, has a thriving APIA population; Vandana Slatter (Bellevue City Council, Position 5) will be a voice for them if elected. In Pierce County, Bryan Yambe (Fife City Council, Position 1) is seeking re-election, and will continue to draw on his vast organizing and leadership experience to serve the residents of Fife.

Two candidates who are not APIA—Zack Hudgins (King County Elections Director) and Carol Gregory (State Representative, 30th Legislative District) have been strong allies for APIAs on issues like voting and education. Their allyship is important, and their experience shows they listen to —as well as understand—the issues APIA communities face.

By electing API leaders and those who will support our communities, and by holding elected officials accountable to the issues that matter, we can show that Asians and Pacific Islanders are a vital part of our democracy.

APACE is a 501c4 organization that works to empower the broad Asian and Pacific Islander community.

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