Coalition Hopes to Draw Asian-American Voters to GOP

Friday, 16 May 2014 12:28 PM

By Andrea Billups

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Image: Coalition Hopes to Draw Asian-American Voters to GOP
Thomas Britt, left, and John Ying, leaders of the Asian Republican Coalition.
A new coalition geared at drawing more Asian-Americans to the Republican Party has earned support from key GOP members of Congress who applaud its stronger outreach to the nation's increasingly diverse electorate.

The Asian Republican Coalition (ARC), which kicked off earlier this month at a gathering at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., is led by corporate attorney Thomas Britt, who lived in Hong Kong for two decades, and Asian-American business executive John Ying, who serves as chairman.

"The Asian-American community as a whole [has] commonly shared values around education, entrepreneurialism, the support of small and medium-size business — that all sounded to us like those were Republican Party values," Britt told Newsmax. "We viewed the formation of the ARC as an opportunity to reacquaint the Asian-American community with the commonly shared values that they have as a community and that the Republican Party also shares."

Britt said Republicans should pay closer attention to Asian-American voters, who mark "the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. right now."

"We thought this was a real opportunity to perhaps move the electoral needle in some important ways where elections could actually be directly affected if the Asian-American community were tended to a little more closely and made aware of those common values," Britt said.

The broader U.S.-Asia relationship is also worth nurturing, he said.

"I think that given the increasing prominence of the business, financial, and geopolitical relationships between the U.S. and Asia over the past 20 years, many people are much more engaged with Asia than they were 20 years ago," Britt observed. "They might be working with a company that has a significant commercial relationship with Asia, or may have their own son or daughter serving in the military who has spent time in that part of the world. So it's not just an issue with respect to ethnicity and bloodlines, it's also an issue for people like me who appreciate showing broadly the importance of the U.S. relationship with Asia."

The number of Asian-American Republican voters has declined in the past 20 years. In the 1992 presidential election, 64 percent of Asian-American voters cast votes for the Republican candidate, George H.W. Bush, in a race won by Democrat Bill Clinton. In 2004, that percentage dropped to 44 percent voting for George W. Bush, and in 2012, it fell off further to 26 percent as Barack Obama earned his second term, capturing nearly two-thirds of Asian-Americans.

Winning those voters back to the GOP is crucial, said Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus.

"There's no question the Asian-American vote can be a game-changer for the GOP," Jacobus told Newsmax.

"We saw this recently in California where the Asian-Americans — including Democrats — were able to defeat an affirmative action bill at the state level," she said. "Asian-Americans have high college admission levels based on hard work and merit, qualities the GOP would like to see celebrated and expanded throughout the entire population.

"On key issues with shared values, the Asian-American community can help the GOP and vice versa."

The ARC has already earned support from the Republican National Committee, which has been working hard for a more diverse outreach.

"The conservative values we share with the Asian-American communities are deeply important to the growth of the Republican Party. I support ARC's mission to increase representation and promote the diverse interests and views of all Asian-Americans," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.

Having party leadership aboard as the ARC moves ahead is key, Jacobus noted.

"That the RNC is putting resources into working with Asian-Americans to highlight and strengthen key issues where there are common values can make a huge difference, even if in the short term the election results are in very low single digits," she said. "That is where close elections are won or lost."

So far, support for the group's efforts has poured in from key members of Congress. Among those sending words of encouragement are GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, Dean Heller of Nevada, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Rubio said: "Americans of Asian descent have embodied the American dream and continue to do so in the 21st century. I appreciate the Asian Republican Coalition's work to make sure our shared commitment to free enterprise, limited government, and traditional values continues driving the Asian-American community's success."

Other Republicans writing in support include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, who pointed to his state's strong Asian constituency.

"[Our] Asian-American community is the largest in the nation and it is imperative their voice is heard in Washington and Sacramento," he said. "I am excited to join the Asian Republican Coalition in its work to provide outreach and a continued dialogue about the needs of the Asian-American community to realize the American dream."

Ying said such strong support was welcome as his coalition kicks off its work: "We're extremely pleased with the reception we've received from members on Capitol Hill. The support we're already getting is validation that our organization is needed."

Britt said the ARC will focus on grass-roots outreach that is both comprehensive and inclusive.

"We are very much trying to be the big tent and bring people back to the Republican Party who might have drifted away because of a lack of attention," he said. "Our focus is not purely on Asian-Americans. It's an organization open to all Americans, including Asian-Americans who have some interest in our Asia and China relationship.

"We hope and believe this is going to be a much broader-based effort."

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