Monday, June 20, 2005

''Howard Dean meets with local APAs''

"Howard Dean, chair of the Democratic National Committee and a former presidential candidate, met with members of the state Democratic Party's Asian Pacific American Caucus at a private meeting on June 5 at the Center for Career Alternatives in Seattle. Dean was already in Seattle to rally support for the 2008 election. Frank Irigon, chair of the APA Caucus, set up the meeting so that the former Vermont governor could meet local Asian Americans, many of whom supported his bid for the presidency last year. Dean told the 30 or so there that the Democratic Party was in the process of clarifying its message so that Americans understand that it is a party of fairness and inclusiveness, one that is committed to individual rights and fiscal responsibility.
Republican spin, Dean believes, has spawned the impression that Republicans are pro-life, and therefore Democrats must be pro-abortion. In actuality, the party chair said, abortion rates were lower when the Democrats were in power.

Dean, who was elected national party chair in February, said he wants the national party to hire more people of color -- particularly those who can stay on for years at a time -- and work more closely with community and ethnic media, as well as the mainstream press. He also called on increased support for small businesses, since many small-business owners are APAs.
Dean also encouraged APAs to run for public office, including school-board positions. He said he would like to see people of color elected in every county and precinct in America.

Cindy Ryu, a Korean American candidate for the Shoreline City Council, told Dean that APAs were well organized in the last presidential campaign, but that they became frustrated when dealing with party representatives outside of the local community who felt they could call the shots. Dean replied that the new party structure replaces the "top-down approach" with one that allows information to flow both ways between the state and national leadership structures.
Dr. Gail Nomura, a University of Washington American ethnic studies professor, pointed out that the Asian contribution scandals from the Clinton-era campaigns have made APAs hesitant to become active in politics. Dean answered that he recognized that the illegal contributions had been made by only a few individuals and promised that he would acknowledge this in future solicitations of support from the APA community.

Many of those in attendance were impressed that the former governor took time to meet with APAs. "(Dean) said that the DNC would provide staff and materials to help us organize throughout the state. It's a major step toward assuring communities of color, including (Asian Pacific Americans), that we have the full support of the party organization," said Dolores Sibonga, a former Seattle City Council member. Dean also agreed to back a national summit of APAs. Yvonne Kinoshita Ward, an Auburn attorney who requested the DNC's support for the summit, said she was happy to hear it. "He recognized that the power of the API vote can be maximized only with a national coordinated effort from the ground up, not from the top down. He personally committed to the project after the forum, and we committed to do the groundwork." Irigon, who helped arrange the meeting, praised Dean as "both an intellect and a fighter. Both traits will serve the Democratic Party well in our fight to retake America. He is also sensitive to the needs of minorities and, in particular, our own Asian Pacific American community."

Even though she was pleased that Dean was willing to meet with APAs like this, one supporter at the meeting confessed that she was most grateful for the fact that he did not ask them for contributions to the Democratic Party."-from the article in the current Northwest Asian Weekly by Kiku Hayashi. Kiku was a Dean delegate from the 37th LD to the Washington State Democratic convention.

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