In the days after the election, inner-city schoolteacher Mark Takano flew to Washington, picked up his laptop, office key, voting ID and posed for photos with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi—all part of the orientation drill for an incoming member of the 113th Congress.
Going from a bipartisan reception to touring the marbled halls of the Capitol, a thought swirled through Takano’s head.
“The thrill of being elected to higher office comes with a responsibility to represent the least of us,” he said. “I feel a real need to work toward equality and dignity for all people.”
Takano, 51, born and raised in Riverside, is the first openly gay Asian American elected to Congress and part of the new wave of Asian politicians savoring election day success.
Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is the first American Samoan in Congress, Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) will be the first Asian American woman in the U.S. Senate, and Democrats Tammy Duckworth and Grace Meng become the first Asian Americans to represent Illinois and New York, respectively, in Congress.
With Dr. Ami Bera’s victory over GOP veteran Dan Lungren in California’s 7th District, there will be a dozen Asian Americans in Congress when they are sworn in Jan. 3, a high-water mark, forming the largest caucus of Asian American and Pacific Islander members in any single congressional session, according to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.
Even with election triumphs, Bhojwani said Latinos and Asians—who make up a combined 22% of the nation’s population—should do far better than they do. Numerically, there should be 31 Asians in Congress, instead of 12, and 86 Latinos instead of the current 31, she said.