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Op-Ed: My AAPI community felt abandoned by the Democratic Party in 2022. Representation and promises kept can fix that.

Dec. 15, 2023 By Austin Franklin Cheng

If recent elections are any indication, the Democratic Party in New York has long banked on the AAPI vote without delivering on its promises to support and deliver for our community. And as a result of this frustrating oversight, there has been a decline in AAPI support for Democrats, with the AAPI vote dropping from 68% for President Biden in 2020 to 54% in 2020, and with significant segments of our community voting for Lee Zeldin and Curtis Sliwa in their recent runs for statewide office. This trend isn’t just about losing votes; it’s a significant indication of a growing disconnect within the Democratic party.

The AAPI community in New York isn’t just an electoral segment or a box to check on the campaign trail; it’s a dynamic force capable of significantly influencing the city’s and state’s political future. The Democratic Party has a vital opportunity to reforge its bond with AAPI
voters– evolving from passive reliance to proactive engagement and understanding. Or the Democratic Party will keep losing us.

As the only AAPI candidate running in the Democratic primary for NY-3’s Congressional seat, I have been committed to bringing this overlooked voice into the forefront of our political conversation. In September, I convened a roundtable of AAPI community leaders, and it
became clearer than ever to me that we are not a monolithic group; our community’s diversity in culture, language, and experience demands a nuanced and informed approach from the Democratic establishment. This can only be achieved through consistent engagement, open
dialogue, and promises kept. My campaign is a collective stride toward ensuring that AAPI voices in New York are not just acknowledged, but influential in shaping the policies that affect us.

Photo courtesy of Austin Cheng’s campaign

My own story is deeply interwoven with New York’s diverse narrative. Born in Queens and raised on Long Island, my journey has been shaped by my immigrant parents’ perseverance and commitment to the American Dream. They worked to the bone and made many sacrifices so that they could give their kids a better life– and their hard work paid off. They found their American Dream in New York, and passed it onto me and my sister.

The recent spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in New York has deeply affected our community, raising serious concerns about safety and belonging. Addressing this issue demands more than routine policy responses; it requires a heartfelt commitment to making every AAPI New Yorker feel safe and valued by crafting policy and practical action plans with our community leaders, not as afterthoughts but as thought leaders of what will and will not work in our neighborhoods.

Supporting AAPI candidates at all levels of Government also plays a crucial role in rebuilding this trust. Representation sends a powerful message, particularly to the younger generation, about their role in the American political landscape and encourages greater civic involvement.

Diverse leadership that represents our diverse city will ensure the nuances of our voices are holistically represented in the halls of power.

Despite making up approximately 17% of the district and representing the fastest-growing demographic, AAPI residents of NY3 are routinely ignored and taken for granted by their representatives, a troubling trend that must be stopped. While allyship from all Democratic representatives is crucial, there can be no replacement for electing AAPI candidates who can bridge the growing divide between my community and our party.

Together, we can have the chance to craft a new, more inclusive chapter in our state’s political history, ensuring that every voice is heard and every vote genuinely earned. The future success of the Democratic Party depends on it.

Austin Cheng today announced he is suspending his campaign and endorsing Democratic nominee for NY-3 Tom Suozzi. He will continue the fight for AAPI representation in the Democratic Party in support of Suozzi’s campaign.

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