Posted on November 4, 2021

Wu, Pureval Mayoral Wins Mark Milestone for Asian Americans

Terry Tang, Associated Press, November 3, 2021

Asian Americans will serve as mayor in Boston and Cincinnati for the first time in both cities’ histories, signaling political progress for a population that has struggled for almost two years with a rise in anti-Asian hate.

Boston voters tapped City Councilor Michelle Wu, 36, on Tuesday to serve in the city’s top political office. In Cincinnati, Aftab Pureval, 39, easily defeated former Democratic Congressman David Mann.


When Pureval decided to leave his attorney job in 2015 to run for county clerk, it was some fellow Democrats who warned him against the idea. They felt he didn’t have a “good ballot name” that would appeal to the predominantly white votership in Hamilton County, Ohio.


Pureval, the son of a Tibetan mother and Indian father, must have knocked on enough doors. He went on to score a major upset, becoming the first Democrat in over 100 years to be elected clerk.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, Bruce Harrell, who is second-generation Japanese American and Black, was ahead of current City Council President M. Lorena González. {snip}

What’s extraordinary is how spread out the three cities are. High-profile mayors who are Asian American and Pacific Islander, also known as AAPI, have typically been elected in places with historically large Asian populations like California and Hawaii. These candidacies signal just how large the AAPI electorate has multiplied with more feeling empowered to be a voice in the political fray.


In another notable win Tuesday, Dearborn, Michigan, elected state lawmaker Abdullah Hammoud as the city’s first Arab American mayor. {snip} Dearborn, a city of over 100,000, has one of the largest Arab American populations in the nation.


James Lai, an ethnic studies professor at Santa Clara University whose specialties include Asian American and urban politics, said these mayoral races are a “beautiful” microcosm of how Asian Americans are a growing political force. Since the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 became law, Asian American communities have continued to emerge in regions like the Midwest and the Northeast.

“In fact, in the last 30 years, the fastest growing region for Asian Americans, according to the last three censuses, is the South region,” Lai said.

The Reflective Democracy Campaign, which looks at diversity in political leadership, recently released a study that found Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up over 6% of the U.S. population but less than 1% of elected offices.