Contenders for Reid Senate seat woo Asian voters

Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters are growing as a share of Nevada’s electorate. And political candidates battling for Harry Reid’s soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat hope to connect with them.

Democratic candidate Catherine Cortez Masto recently formed a coalition that will reach out to Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters in Nevada. U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., a Republican candidate, has courted the group as a congressman and worked to address its issues.

Since 2000, the share of potential Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters has increased from 4.3 percent to 10.6 percent among Nevadans who are citizens and at least 18 years old, census data show.

Cortez Masto’s AAPI coalition includes about two dozen people, including community advocates, business owners and others. One of them is Rozita Lee, who has been in Southern Nevada since 1978. At President Barack Obama’s appointment, Lee served on an advisory commission addressing Asian-American and Pacific Islander issues.

“We’re looking to increase the numbers of AAPI voters … because unless we have more numbers, we’re not going to be able to be heard,” she said, adding that voter registration among AAPI community members has increased.

“I personally feel a great loss that Senator Reid is not going to be in (office) after 2016,” Lee said. “He was really a great advocate for the AAPI community, and I see Catherine in the same mold as he was and I know that we can count on Catherine.”

Issues important to the AAPI community include health care, education and immigration. Specifically, Lee pointed to Cortez Masto’s work as Nevada attorney general in pushing for tougher state laws to combat sex trafficking.

Heck’s congressional district office has created an outreach coordinator position to focus on working with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community and hosts a semiannual lunch with Asian business leaders.

Heck has support from leaders in the local Asian Chamber of Commerce.

“Dr. Heck has taken the time to meet with and listen to the concerns of the AAPI community and he has taken that feedback to heart,” Ana Wood, an Asian Chamber of Commerce board member, said in a statement. “He cares about his constituents, follows up with our concerns, and comes through for them.”

For example, Heck co-sponsored the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act of 2015, which would exempt the sons and daughters of naturalized Filipino World War II veterans from worldwide or numerical limitations on immigrant visas. The bill is intended to make it easier for family members to reunite.

“While they represent many unique backgrounds and perspectives, the AAPI community is unified in their shared desire to have a better life than their parents and give their children even better opportunities than they had,” Heck said in a statement.

Contact Ben Botkin at or 702-387-2904. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1

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