By Michaela Del Callar
On the eve of what is considered to be one of the tightest races for the presidency of the United States, the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. called on qualified Filipino-Americans to go out and exercise their right to choose their next leader.
The U.S. is host to the largest concentration of Filipinos outside the Philippines and Filipinos are the second largest ethnic group in America.
“Let us use these numbers and play a bigger role in shaping the political, economic and social discourse in this country,” Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. said in a statement from Washington.
Cuisia issued the statement hours before Americans begin trooping to polling precincts nationwide to decide whether to keep incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama in the White House or to have him replaced by his Republican challenger, Massachusetts Gov. Mick Romney.
The envoy likewise echoed Malacañang’s pronouncement that the Philippines will work with whoever wins the elections to further strengthen the relations between Manila and Washington.
Based on the 2010 U.S. Census, there are an estimated 3.5 million Filipinos based in the U.S., most of them in the West Coast, particularly in California.
A survey by the the National Asian American Survey (NAAS) show that among Asian-Americans, Filipino-Americans are the ones most likely to go out and vote, representing a significant voting population.
“We are counting on you to help make this happen by making sure that you take part in tomorrow’s electoral exercise,” Cuisia said as he rallied Filipino-Americans to support fellow Filipino-Americans who are running for other national and local positions.
At least two Filipino-Americans are running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. They are Dr. Marisha Agana, a Republican who is eyeing the seat for the 13th District of Ohio, and incumbent Democrat Rep. Robert Scott who is running for an 11th term as representative of the Third District of Virginia.
Fifteen other Filipino-Americans are vying for state legislative seats in California, Pennsylvania and Hawaii.
They are Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta (18th District); Chris Mateo (12th District) and Jennifer Ong (20th District), all Democrats who are aspiring for seats in the California State Assembly; Will Sylianteng (151st District), a Democrat seeking a seat in the Pennsylvania State House; Henry Aquino (38th District); Romy Cachola (30th District); Gilbert S. Keith-Agaran (9th District); Della Au Belatti (24th District); Rida Cabanilla-Arakawa (41st District); Marissa Capelouto (42nd District); Ty Cullen (39th District); Chris Manabat (40th District), all Democrats running for the Hawaii House of Representatives; Will Espero (19th District); Donna Mercado Kim (14th District); and Donovan de la Cruz (22nd District), also Democrats running for seats in Hawaii’s Senate.
Former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano, the first Filipino-American governor in the U.S., is a strong contender for mayor of Honolulu while Kymberly Marcos Pine, Joey Manahan and Ron Menor are aspiring for seats in Honolulu’s City Council.
Others seeking seats in Hawaii are: Greggor Ilagan (4th District) and Chelsea Yagong (1st District) for seats in the Hawaii County Council and Don Guzman for the Maui County Council.