The nation's fast-growing Asian American and Pacific Islander population needs to find its voice, organizers of a new super PAC focused on voter registration and turnout in battleground states said Thursday.
The political action committee, AAPI Victory Fund, will focus on six states that are pivotal in 2016 elections and are also home to rapidly growing Asian American and Pacific Islander populations: Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.
"There is this moment, which has occurred because of history, where in six states we could be the margin of difference," the group's chairman, Shekar Narasimhan, said Thursday. "It is time for the community to mobilize and develop a common agenda and a common purpose."
Narasimhan is co-chairman of the Democratic National Committee's Indo-American Council.
Chris Lu said, deputy secretary of Labor, said the Asian American and Pacific Islander community's political presence doesn't match its population or its influence in technology and business. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are less likely to register to vote or to turn out on election day, he said.
"Now is our moment," Lu said. "For far too long, Asian Americans have sat on the sidelines in politics. We know the number of people that are naturalizing, the numbers that are voting, is increasing -- but we need to do more."
Thursday's announcement was held at the National Press Club in Washington. A second launch is scheduled in Silicon Valley on Jan. 30.
Dilawar Syed, a Californian who is the group's vice chairman, is president of North America operations for Freshdesk, a provider of customer support services. He also served on President Obama's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders.
Syed, who has been involved in local politics for a decade, said recent rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates -- notably Donald Trump's call to bar Muslims from entering the United States -- made him realize it was necessary for the Asian American community to organize.
"We have heard some horrible things this election season," Syed said. "There is a frankly shocking narrative of division, absolute hate and total bigotry. It is un-American. It is plain wrong. It's time for us to step up as a community and make sure that we remain who we are."
Both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee have begun reaching out to Asian American and Pacific Islanders, as have several presidential campaigns.
AAPI Victory Fund plans to hold off on endorsing a candidate until after the major parties pick their nominee. Syed said the group's leaders haven't decided whether the super PAC will give money directly to candidates and run advertisements on their behalf, as other Asian American and Pacific Islander-focused PACs do.
For the record
3:28 p.m.: An earlier version of this post reported that super PACs may make direct contributions to political campaigns. Such donations are forbidden.
"The focus is really on voter registration and participation," Syed said. "We'll go from there."
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