WASHINGTON – A Minnesotan will serve as a front-line ambassador for the GOP as it takes on one of its greatest challenges: Its shrinking share of votes in minority communities across the country.
Hoeun Hach is one of 31 members of the Republican National Committee’s Asian Pacific American Advisory Council, one of three groups the RNC formed to “strengthen ties with minority communities and expand engagement efforts across the country.”
Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus said the committee will be more serious than ever about its outreach to minority voters. “I want to ensure the Republican Party is building sincere relationships in every community across the country, and our advisory councils will help make that a reality,” he said.
That could be difficult. Exit polling from the November 2012 election showed that members of the younger and rapidly growing Asian-American community favored Obama over Republican nominee Mitt Romney by about three-to-one.
Hach is well known in Minnesota’s Cambodian community. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton appointed him to the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans in January. Now, as a member of the RNC council, the Cambodian immigrant will serve alongside former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and several current and former members of Congress. The RNC also launched African-American and Hispanic advisory councils that include U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina. No Minnesotans were appointed to those panels.
Republicans are angling to make inroads as Asian-American and Pacific Islanders make up a larger share of the electorate in Minnesota and elsewhere. The two groups cover a lot of territory, with roots in nearly 50 countries and ethnic groups. In 2012 they were the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. By 2035, Minnesota’s Asian-American/ Pacific Islander population is projected to reach 391,000, or roughly six percent of the state’s population, said State Demographer Susan Brower.
Though they are traditionally the least tied to party affiliation of any racial or ethnic group, change could be afoot, a recently released report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress finds. The study concluded that Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are more progressive than ever, a potential boon for Democrats for years to come.
President Obama last week said he intends to appoint 14 people to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, among them Air Force Lt. Col. Ravi Chaudhary, a Fridley native.
“This is a major challenge for me, to convey the [Republican] party message to Asian-Americans,” Hach said.
To counteract the shift, the RNC launched a social media ad campaign in Minnesota and several other states in March. The campaign, “Create Your American Dream,” features a diverse group of Americans discussing why they are Republicans. It hits on themes of smaller government, military might and school choice.
Hach immigrated to the U.S. in 1981, earned his citizenship in 1987 and made Minnesota his home in the early 1990s. Now married and the father of two, Hach lives in Oakdale and is the director of the International Khmer Assembly, a fraternal organization founded by first-generation survivors of the Cambodian genocide.
He will begin his GOP recruitment efforts by connecting with Cambodian citizens in Minnesota, the state with the fifth-highest concentration of Cambodian-American residents.
“The goal is to ensure the party is building great relationships in each and every single community across this country,” said Jason Chung, communications director for the Asian Pacific American Advisory Council.
“It’s not just in Minnesota,” Chung said.