FILIPINO American Democrats across California and Nevada came together for a “weekend of action” to get their communities registered to vote and to make a plan to cast their ballots leading up to the 2020 presidential election this November.
Speakers at the virtual event, spearheaded by the Pilipino American Los Angeles Democrats (PALAD) on Saturday, September 19, boasted the Filipino American electorate’s potential to help elect the Biden-Harris ticket, as well as other Democratic candidates down the ballot. But it starts with mobilizing the community and doubling down on efforts in the less than 50 days left, they said.
“It’s more clear than ever that we have to be relentless in our pursuit for justice, for equality, for democracy, and quite honestly, for what’s right,” said PALAD President Jessica Caloza in her opening remarks as a tribute to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died the night before. “Every single person has a role to play in that so every day counts.”
The Nevada Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Democratic Caucus, Kaya DC and Filipino Americans for Biden-Harris also participated in Saturday’s kick-off.
Rep. TJ Cox, the first Fil-Am elected to Congress from California who is seeking reelection this November, shared how he and his colleagues passed a resolution condemning anti-Asian sentiment amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We know that this is a large, diverse land that welcomes people of every creed, color, ethnicity, background. Now, that’s what makes America truly great. But we’ve got a lot of work to do and there [are] no shortcuts about what we have to do — we have to make so many calls, we have to shoot so many tags, we have to knock on so many doors…” he said.
Cox, who is in one of the most contentious congressional races in the country, knows how every vote counts as he won by only 862 votes in 2018.
“It’s so critical to come back to stand up for the people, but also to continue to represent Filipino Americans in Congress,” he said.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta called November 3 “the most consequential election of our lifetimes” and is an opportunity for the Fil-Am population in California to flex its voting power.
“We’ve often talked about how we are the sleeping giant, where we haven’t risen to our full height yet. We don’t have all of our people who are eligible to vote in our community registered, and of those who are registered, we don’t come out as often and as forcefully as we should,” Bonta said, adding that the electorate can also make a difference in states like Nevada and Arizona.
He added, “On the day after the election, we don’t want to wish that we reached out to more people, that we called more people, that we texted more people, that we fought harder. We want to know we did that before the election… It’s an election season, not an election day.”
Daly City Vice Mayor Juslyn Manalo, who is California co-director for Fil-Ams for Biden-Harris, said that in addition to participating in phone and text banks, it starts with reaching out to family and friends.
“Who is elected will form what type of issues will be at the forefront locally, statewide and national. Let’s reach out to our inner circles, our families and remind them how important our vote is because our vote is our power,” Manalo said. “Vote like your life depends on it because it does.”
In addition to Fil-Am leaders, community allies such as Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and state Assemblymember Christy Smith, who is running for California’s 25th Congressional District, addressed attendees. The 25th district, which covers Santa Clarita and Palmdale and the northern part of the San Fernando Valley, has an 8% AAPI population. Of that, about 12,000 are Filipinos.
“But we all know the future of this country is more diverse than it is in this moment. So why would we want to leave to our own children a broken system where communities of color and richness and diversity can’t all be at the same table to make good decisions together about what the future of this country looks like?” Smith said.
Caloza said in the next seven weeks, PALAD will be leading get-out-the-vote efforts through mobilizing neighborhood teams, weekly phone banks, and other digital programs tapping into Fil-Am influencers to amplify certain messages and deadlines.
“Today’s focus is to get the community energized, motivated and to really understand what’s at stake. We definitely don’t want to wake up November 4 wishing we had done more,” Caloza said.