Filipino Americans on the Rise in Calif. Politics

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Filipino American representation overdue in California Legislature: Trailblazers such as Royal Morales, Cas Tolentino, Al Mendosa, Alice Bulos, Rodel Rodis, Dennis Normandy, Alex Esclamado and Mona Lisa Yuchengco, all shared the passion of fighting for Filipino American political recognition.

Tessie Guillermo, Mona Pasquil, Kevin Acebo, Irene Bueno, Vida Benavides, Gloria Caoile and fellow AsianWeek columnist Emil Guillermo, continued the legacy by establishing identities within the current national, state and local API political landscape.However, beyond California local politics and in spite of their high demographic numbers, I can only recall one Filipina American congressional candidate, Gloria Megina Ochoa, and four Filipino American Assembly candidates: Larry Asera, Henry Manayan, Christopher Cabaldon and Arlie Ricasa.

Why have there been no victories for Filipino Americans at the state and federal levels in California so far? Some have explained that Filipino Americans lack the financial resources other API ethnic groups provide for their candidates. Others point to a lack of a viable political network for Filipino American candidates to use at the state or national level. But Cabaldon and Ricasa, who both lost their first attempts for state office, are undeterred and vow to break the barrier for Filipino Americans this time around.

Cabaldon has 12 years of experience on the West Sacramento City Council, gaining national recognition as mayor of West Sacramento for his successful efforts in stimulating economic development, and enhancing the reputation and quality of life for the city and region of Yolo County. His career as an education consultant in the California Legislature and achievements as mayor have made him one of the most touted young talents in API politics today.

His opponent, Mariko Yamada, has been a popular Yolo County supervisor since 2003. Their race has caused some splits among the local API community, but Cabaldon currently leads his opponent in money and endorsements.
Ricas is the immediate former president of the Sweetwater Union High School District Board and has been a trustee since 1998.  She is the senior ranking Filipino American elected official in San Diego County.  As former president of the San Diego County School Boards Association and an active civic leader, Ricasa was recognized as one of the “Twenty Outstanding Filipino Americans” in the U.S. and Canada.

Ricasa is a graduate of the California API Legislative Caucus Institute Capitol Academy, which provides the best and brightest local API elected officials with a three-day Capitol experience, exposing them to all facets of being a state legislator.

Hopefully, the year 2008 will be the year for Filipino Americans to break the glass ceiling in the state Capitol.

Pollie Awards recognition for Ron Wong:  Ron Wong’s departure as chief deputy appointment secretary to Gov. Gray Davis provided him the opportunity to form his own company: Imprenta Communications Group, which specializes in targeting ethnic voters through direct mail, advertising and field campaigns.

This year, ICG received six Pollie Awards (the Oscars of the American Association of Political Consultants) in a variety of categories, including bilingual/multilingual and foreign-language newspaper advertising.

ICG has been recognized for redefining and setting the standard for political campaigns targeting API voters.  “It’s not about simply translating pieces; it’s about truly understanding the voters, what moves them and how to get them to act.  Delivering ethnic voters will only become more important as diverse communities will make the difference between winning and losing on Election Day,” Wong said.

The community is proud to have one of its own make its mark in an industry that was once void of API professionals.

Votes and money equal power:  The Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association is spearheading an ambitious permanent absentee voter registration drive targeting voters in the Alameda and Santa Clara areas. Heavyweights behind this effort including program Chair Dr. Albert Wang, Hsing Kung, Sandy Chau, Johnnie Giles, Julian Chang and C.C. Yin of the finance committee. Ron Wong of ICG and Bill Wong of Bill Wong Consulting serve as consultants to the project.

Money, money, money:  Two API icons, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and former Washington Gov. Gary Locke, came to California last month to announce the creation of a new PAC called America’s Opportunity Fund. The goal of this new national fund is to support progressive candidates who are sensitive to the issues of people of color and ethnic minorities at the federal level in pivotal races, and to encourage communities of color to more fully participate in the electoral process. It looks like Asians are taking the lead in developing a powerful national multi-coalition PAC.

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