Midterm Election Brings Historic Wins For Hmong American Candidates
By Aarohi Narain
With seven Hmong American candidates from Minnesota winning political seats this midterm election, the community witnessed landmark victories worth celebrating.
This year, Minnesota’s midterm election was momentous for many reasons. Nearly 2.6 million Minnesotans voted by absentee ballot or in person at the polls on Tuesday, November 6 – approximately 64% of eligible voters in the state. While the average nationwide voter turnout came in at 48%, Minnesota saw the largest total number of people to vote in a midterm election in its history, and the highest percentage of voters to participate in a midterm since 2002.
Although Minnesota tended to mirror nationwide electoral shifts – with rural parts of the state remaining staunchly Republican, and DFL-endorsed candidates winning out in major urban areas in the capital – the state did earn the dubious honor of being the only one in the entire country to have different parties controlling its two legislative chambers. The DFL managed to seize control of the state House, but the Republicans will continue to lead the state Senate. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, it is the first time that only one state across the nation has held this distinction since 1914, marking more than a century.
Midterm voters also inaugurated a series of remarkable firsts, effectively diversifying local and statewide political offices in one fell swoop. With the first former refugee sent to Congress, first openly gay U.S. House member from Minnesota, first Muslim elected to a statewide office in Minnesota, and the first Native American elected lieutenant governor nationwide, the state brought home notable wins against all odds. On a national scale, Minnesota truly made history.
But it was arguably the Hmong American community that witnessed landmark victories unlike any other. In Minnesota, where Hmong residents form a little over 1 percent of the overall state population, Hmong American candidates swept the polls. Through a tough election season where immigration was frequently deployed as a major campaign issue, nine out of 11 candidates advanced through the primary, and seven eventually won political seats.
Six candidates ran for state representative, namely Samantha Vang, Tou Xiong, Fue Lee, Kaohly Her, Jay Xiong, and Yele Mis-Yang. In addition, two candidates, Adam Yang and Paul Yang, ran for Ramsey County judge, while Blong Yang ran for Hennepin County commissioner.
As the election results were declared later on Tuesday, Samantha Vang (State Representative District 40B; DFL), Tou Xiong (State Representative District 53A; DFL), Fue Lee (State Representative District 59A; DFL), Kaohly Her (State Representative District 64A; DFL), Jay Xiong (State Representative District 67B; DFL), Adam Yang (Second District, Court 11 for Ramsey County; nonpartisan), and Paul Yang (Second District, Court 20 for Ramsey County; nonpartisan) were all successfully elected. They came with strong platforms emphasizing values such as economic growth, education, and inclusivity, and won the hearts of Minnesotan voters – both from the Hmong and Asian-American communities and beyond.
16 years ago when Senator Mee Moua became the very first Hmong legislator in the whole nation, and was followed months later by Representative Cy Thao, it was difficult to imagine mainstream politics with many candidates of Hmong descent.
Yet, with the recent election, things have been shaken up – Hmong-American candidates have shown their mettle. Across the country, 11 of the 15 Hmong Americans who were on the ballot in California, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin fought to win coveted seats and succeeded with impressive margins. Within the state and all over the United States, the next generation of Hmong-Americans is replete with outspoken change-makers eager to have an impact and bring prosperity – not only to the Hmong community, but to people of color and immigrants writ large.
“We are swing voters, and we are one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation,” said Vang, who is the youngest of the candidates, in an interview with MPR. “I think that we deserve more than to be tokenized. We should have a say in politics.”
Indeed, Hmong-Americans are set to claim their rightful seats at the table in the realm of politics, and to finally make their voices heard.