The number of Asian-Americans in the Legislature tripled in the Nov. 6 election, and the bloc of six members has formed the Minnesota Asian Pacific Caucus.

"We can be a force to be reckoned with," said Rep.-elect Samantha Vang, a Brooklyn Center Democrat whose parents were Hmong refugees.

"This is a milestone for the Hmong community, the wider South Pacific community and people of color," she said.

Discussions about collaborating on key issues such as access to quality education began even before the election.

The newcomers include future Reps. Tou Xiong of Maplewood, Kaohly Her of St. Paul and Jay Xiong of St. Paul. They are all Democrats.

They will join state Sen. Foung Hawj, D-St. Paul, who was elected in 2012, and state Rep. Fue Lee, a Democrat from Minneapolis. He was first elected in 2016 and was recently chosen to be assistant majority leader.

"We have arrived," Jay Xiong wrote on his campaign website after his election victory. "We changed a narrative and chart a new chapter for all our communities."

Minnesota's population includes almost 256,000 people of Asian descent, according to the most recent American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Vang said that the election also energized a newly engaged group of voters of Asian descent whose voices will continue to be heard.

Judy Keen