Eighth Annual AAPI Candidate Forum: Opportunities for Local Democracy in a Tough Year

by Joseph Shoji Lachman (ACRS), Derek Lum (InterIm CDA), Velma Veloria (EEC), Tweetie Fatuesi (UTOPIA Seattle), and other AAPI Candidate Forum planning committee members


For many of us in the South Seattle area and in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, 2020 has been a tough year in unprecedented ways. Events such as wildfires, presidential election politics, and of course above all else, the outbreak of COVID-19, have undoubtedly transformed our lives. Many of our community members are experiencing discrimination and economic distress that we haven’t felt in decades, and countless small businesses and organizations are struggling to survive. These difficulties are only magnified further for AAPIs without many of the protections that come with American citizenship and English fluency.

Despite all this, those of us helping to organize the 8th Annual AAPI Candidate Forum in advance of the general election see the event as a bright spot in these uncertain times and an opportunity for our community members to see the power we have when we come together and organize. Sometimes the gridlock we see in Congress makes us question whether we can impact the systems that directly affect our lives, but there is so much more at stake on the ballot this year. And while we recognize that voting is not the only way to change our society, we feel it’s crucial that we help empower as many community members as possible to make informed choices when voting in the general election. 

This year, the AAPI Candidate Forum takes place online Wednesday Oct. 21, 5:30–7:30 p.m., and will feature one or both candidates from several races, including the following:

7th Congressional District Representative: Incumbent Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and challenger Craig Keller

9th Congressional District Representative: Incumbent Congressman Adam Smith

37th Legislative District, State Representative Position 1: Challenger John Stafford

37th Legislative District, State Representative Position 2: Kirsten Harris-Talley and Chukundi Salisbury (both running for an open seat)

Finally, we will also include a presentation on Referendum 90 — Sex Education in Public Schools Measure, an important opportunity for voters to protect legislation passed earlier this year which ensures that our youth in Washington will receive high quality, age-appropriate, medically accurate sexual health and affirmative consent education. 

We are looking forward to asking the candidates a variety of questions on issues that our communities have told us matter to them, such as access to housing, economic relief, healthcare, and addressing the rise in discrimination toward our communities. 

For some of us involved in the forum, we felt that we should share why this forum is important to us and the community members we work with on a daily basis. Here are just a few of these perspectives:

Joseph Lachman: “For ACRS and the communities we serve in over 40 languages, the annual AAPI Candidate Forum is a unique chance for community members to engage with campaigns on issues that matter to them and affect them directly. The forum provides a vital, nonpartisan format that recognizes the cultural and linguistic diversity of our communities and makes them see that they are a part of a strong local democracy.”

Derek Lum: “For InterIm CDA, the annual AAPI Candidate Forum is important because it is a chance for the immigrant, refugee, and low-income communities that we serve to learn about the important issues that affect their lives directly. Our communities often have a lower voter turnout rate than the rest of the city or county, so it is very important that a forum exists to address these important issues. For instance, many of us are from or serve immigrant communities. How will the candidates ensure every child receives a great and culturally competent education? Also, we are in the midst of a housing crisis. The median fair market price of a studio apartment is $1,627 in the general Seattle-Bellevue area. For a one bedroom apartment the median fair market price is $1,741 per month.”

Tweetie Fatuesi: “For UTOPIA Seattle, this Candidate Forum will allow our community members to learn which candidate is empathetic about the overall needs of our Pasifika and Queer and Trans Pacific Islanders (QTPI) communities. This forum also serves an effective way for our community members to uplift their lived experiences by interacting with policy makers to address the social, racial, and economic issues that we are facing.”

Velma Veloria (EEC): “A candidate forum is important because it centers the community while holding candidates accountable, before and after an election, to the promises they make to our communities. It is our chance, on our terms, to meet candidates, introduce them to issues and concerns that weigh heavily on communities, and to ensure that the political process is a two-way relationship. We can’t always wait for a candidate to think of our communities as important. Holding our own forum ensures that we own our own power in our vote, our community, and our assets.”

To sign up for the 8th Annual AAPI General Candidate Forum, complete and submit the registration form

The forum will also be streamed live and recorded on the AAPI Candidate Forum Facebook page

We urge every eligible adult citizen to make sure you are registered to vote and make sure your voter information is up to date by the October 26 deadline. Check your voter status here.

View the King County Voters’ Pamphlet online.

View the Washington State Voters’ Pamphlet online.

If you have questions about the 8th Annual AAPI Candidate Forum for the General Election, please contact Joseph Lachman at JosephL@acrs.org.


Featured image: 7th Annual AAPI Candidate Forum, October 2019 (photo: Teresa Ling).

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