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Asian-Americans take higher profile in congressional races

The 2012 campaign cycle marks the highest number of viable Asian-American candidates ever – and not just on the West Coast. Their success could help Democrats regain ground in the House.

Tammy Duckworth, then-assistant secretary of the US Department of Veterans Affairs arrives at the World War II Memorial in Washington for a ceremony honoring World War II veterans who fought in the Pacific on March 11, 2010. A former helicopter pilot and the first female double amputee in the Iraq War, she ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the US House of Representatives in 2006 and is running again in Illinois's 8th congressional district in 2012.

Cliff Owen/AP/File

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A record number of Asian-American candidates are running for the US House and Senate this fall, and they have a message: It’s time for a seat at the table that reflects their numbers in American society.

Just 5.8 percent of the US population is Asian, but only 12 out of 535 members of Congress, or 2 percent, claim Asian heritage, two in the Senate and 10 in the House. Now the numbers may be starting to catch up. Including Pacific Islanders, 30 Asian-American candidates launched congressional bids this cycle, compared with 10 in 2010 and eight in 2008, according to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies in Washington.

“This is a real opportunity for our community,” says Gloria Chan, president and CEO of APAICS. “It really showcases our political power right now.”

While six Asian-Americans were defeated in their primaries, 12 other contenders – 10 Democrats and two Republicans – will advance to the general election.  Three running competitively for seats in New York and Illinois are poised to become their state’s first Asian-American US representatives. This campaign cycle features the greatest number of viable Asian-American candidates in history, says David Wasserman, House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington.


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