Calif. GOP Aims to Capitalize on Affirmative Action Plan's Failure

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 03:42 PM

By Courtney Coren

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Political fallout continues in California even though a measure to bring back affirmative action in the Golden State has been tabled, and Republicans are taking advantage of it.

The debate has caused tensions between Asian-Americans, Latinos and African-Americans, leaving the Democratic Party in Sacramento divided as party members try to shift debate to other issues they can unite behind, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Republicans in the state see an opportunity to capitalize on the issue and are keeping attention focused on it in hopes they can peel off a segment of the Democrats' coveted minority voting bloc.

Lawmakers in the state Senate underestimated the backlash from the Asian-American community when they passed a measure in January to overturn the ban on affirmative action. The measure would have needed to be approved by voters. Asian-Americans were particularly worried the measure would reduce the number of their children being accepted to University of California schools.

California voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996, prohibiting public higher education institutions in the state from considering race, ethnicity, or sex in hiring, contracting or admissions.

In 2003, the University of California issued a report showing that since the affirmative action ban there had been a "substantial decline" in the number of blacks, Latinos and American Indians admitted to California schools.

In 2013, Asian-Americans made up 30 percent of the University of California's total enrollment, while the group composes only about 14 percent of the state's population, the Times reports.

As news of the affirmative action measure surfaced, Asian-Americans, primarily in the Chinese community, began putting pressure on Democratic Asian-American lawmakers in Sacramento.

Several state legislators in the Assembly also said they would oppose the measure as it stood, leaving Latino lawmakers feeling discouraged.

Weeks later, the author of the measure, Sen. Ed Hernandez, decided to withdraw it, saying he had received a substantial number of negative comments on his Facebook page.

"I hadn't thought that would be a constituency that would have a concern," Hernandez said, the Times reports.

The Asian community has traditionally supported affirmative action, and some say those who opposed the measure represented just a small portion of the population.

However, Republicans are saying that it may be time for the 42 percent of Asian-Americans in the Golden State that are registered or lean Democrat to reconsider their party affiliation.

Former Democratic Lt. Gov. S.B. Woo of Delaware, who is now an independent, has created the 80-20 Initiative and used his email list to encourage those in the Asian community to put pressure on lawmakers to oppose the measure. He is now using it to encourage Asians to register as Republicans.

He told The Times that he's not trying to boost the Republican Party as much as he is trying to boost Asian-Americans as a valuable voting bloc.

"We're playing one party against another," Woo said. "It's in the best tradition of democracy."

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