Upendra Chivukula, who is running as the Democratic candidate for New Jersey’s 7th district, is part of a new "Leadership Network" for Asian American candidates.
The network officially launched on Tuesday at a gala for the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies — or APAICS — at which President Barack Obama gave the keynote address.
In the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, six to eight Asian American/Pacific Islander candidates ran for Congress. This year — according to APAICS — the number has tripled to 25 challenger candidates, with one running for the Senate and at least two dozen contending for the House.
The new APAICS Leadership Network hopes to "unite AAPI elected and appointed officials, incumbents and challengers from across the political spectrum," according to a release from the group, which also explains that the network "will provide direct support and training to AAPI policymakers and candidates."
Chivukula, who lives in Franklin Township, Somerset County, has represented the 17th district in the NJ Assembly since 2002. Chivukula is challenging incumbent , a Republican, for the 7th Congressional district seat. Lance is a favorite in the race in the 7th district, which, through redistricting, has come to include more heavily Republican areas. The district currently covers large portions of Union, Morris, Hunterdon and Somerset counties, parts of Warren County, and Millburn in Essex County.
In Union County, the 7th Congressional district includes Berkeley Heights, Clark, Cranford, Garwood, Kenilworth, Mountainside, New Providence, a portion of Scotch Plains, Springfield, Summit, a portion of Union, Westfield and Winfield.
Obama's address, given at APAICS's 18th annual awards gala dinner at the Ritz Carlton in Washington, was an opportunity for the President to court the Asian vote. Although Asians represent 6 percent of the U.S. population, the 2010 U.S. Census shows that they are the fastest growing major race group in the country.
"For me, coming here feels a little bit like home," said Obama, according to Reuters. The President was born in Hawaii, growing up there and in Indonesia. "This is a community that helped to make me who I am today. It's a community that helped make America the country that it is today."