PAC Prods Democrats For Asian American/Pacific Islander Debate Moderator

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) heads the group of Asian American and Pacific Islander lawmakers making the request.

Several members of Congress are calling for Asian American/Pacific Islander representation on the stage in at least one of the debates among Democratic presidential contenders.

The Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Rising & Empowering (ASPIRE) political action committee sent a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez on Tuesday asking for assurance that at least one debate moderator would be of Asian American/Pacific Islander descent.

“Under your leadership, there are more Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) holding senior positions at the DNC than at any other time in the organization’s history,” the letter said. “An important way to further this commitment to our community would be to ensure that at least one of the DNC-sponsored presidential debates features an AAPI moderator.”

The letter asks Perez to “make the request to the networks that are competing to televise the primary debates.”

Rep. Grace Meng, chair of the Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Rising & Empowering (ASPIRE) political action committee.
Rep. Grace Meng, chair of the Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Rising & Empowering (ASPIRE) political action committee.
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Two rounds of debates have occurred, and each adhered to the DNC request that at least one woman and one person of color serve as moderators. The next round, set for mid-September, will be televised by ABC and Univision.

Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), who founded the committee in 2011, Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) are among the lawmakers who signed the letter to Perez. Meng, the committee’s current chair, told HuffPost that the DNC’s agreement on the moderator matter would help ensure that issues important to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community are discussed.

Such issues include “immigration, education, housing, health care, and assisting small businesses; topics that impact millions of other Americans, as well,” she said. “AAPIs deserve to hear how the positions of presidential candidates would impact their community.”

The letter noted that about 11 million Asian Americans will be eligible to vote in the 2020 election and that three members of the racial group are seeking the Democratic nod ― Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and businessman Andrew Yang.

An AAPI moderator would not only spotlight topics that the community grapples with, but also would be mindful of cultural sensitivities.

“AAPIs are not monolithic. We are not one big group. AAPIs are descendants of many countries and we subscribe to different cultures and ideologies,” Meng said. “It is important that these differences are known and understood, and having an AAPI moderator would ensure that they are.”

She also said it’s only appropriate that the debate stage “reflect the diverse population of our country.”

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