Dec 12, 2022 - News

Georgia's new AAPI caucus is one of the largest in the country

Sam Park

Georgia state Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville). Credit: Getty Images

When Georgia's General Assembly convenes in January for the 2023 legislative session, its first Asian American Pacific Islander caucus — one of the largest in the country — will get to work on tackling issues for a community that, until recent years, was long ignored by politicians.

Why it matters: AAPI voter turnout in Georgia increased by 84% between 2016 and 2020, more than any state in the country, according to AAPI Data.

  • Asian Americans are also the fastest-growing group of eligible voters in the country, growing by 9% in the last four years, Pew Research says.
  • Georgia's AAPI population is 4.6%, according to U.S. Census data.

Details: The caucus includes 11 voting members — nine Democrats and two Republicans — for the 2023 session and two emeritus members: former U.S. Attorney and state Rep. BJay Pak and former state Sen. Zahra Karinshak.

What they're saying: State Rep. Sam Park, who represents Lawrenceville and was the first Asian American Democrat elected to the legislature in 2016, told Axios the caucus was formed "to build a foundation to ensure that the Asian American community really does have a seat at the table and an opportunity to continue to ensure that their voices are heard."

  • The caucus will work to increase hate crime protections against Asian Americans, fight racial and ethnic stereotypes, increase civic participation and bolster access to language, education and other social services.

Yes, and: State Sen. Dr. Michelle Au, a Democrat of Johns Creek, said AAPI voters have long felt they were invisible and "tend to be treated in a way that minimizes their presence and their impact."

  • The Atlanta spa shootings on March 16, 2021, energized people in a way they may have not felt before, Au told Axios.
  • While AAPI voters are not a monolith and all caucus members don't agree on everything, there are core issues that they can find common ground on.
  • "Our strength is really in our numbers and not being able to be ignored in the way that sometimes people feel that we have been," she said.

Context: AAPI voters were crucial in the outcome of the 2022 runoff election, said Asian American Advocacy Fund Executive Director Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood.

Of note: The organization’s affiliate groups knocked on more than 84,000 doors, placed a little more than 336,000 phone calls, dispatched nearly 83,000 texts, and sent close to 486,000 pieces of mail for the runoff election, it said.

  • Mahmood told Axios she hopes that mobilization will translate into communities advocating for their rights at the Gold Dome.
  • "We're already hard at work because there are important policy issues that we know that we can gain momentum on next year," she said, adding a bill to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses in Georgia.

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