By JEFF HUTTON
Hola Iowa correspondent
New leadership, same mission.
The Asian and Latino Coalition (ALC), a registered Iowa political action committee has undergone some recent changes, but officials say they are still focused on engaging, informing and empowering the state’s Asian and Latino communities about politics and the political process.
Amanda Lovan was recently elected as the new chairwoman of the coalition, along with new vice chairman Jesus Lopez, secretary Alex Phrasany, treasurer Brandon Bennett and four new members to the organization’s board.
New faces, even some new ideas, but Lovan said the ALC remains true to its mission.
“We are very focused on political empowerment and the civic participation of Latinos and Asians in Iowa,” she said, pointing out the ALC is active in recruiting and supporting minority members to seek political office at all levels, while also helping members become more involved in politics, whether it was during the recent Iowa Caucuses or with local, state and national elections.
The coalition, since its inception in 2015, has grown into a powerful political player, promoting civic participation by the Asian and Latino communities in the state, as well as all those who have good ideas about making society better for anyone who calls Iowa home.
The group’s endorsement of Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign late last year made national news. Harris, however, ended her campaign prior to the caucuses.
“We were very happy to endorse Kamala Harris. We were upset to see her drop out,” Lovan said, adding that the ALC has no plans to endorse a different candidate, but will be supporting whichever candidate earns the Democratic Party’s nomination following the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee later this year.
Endorsement or not, however, Lovan said the coalition is very much focused on Iowa politics.
The group is sponsoring a legislative breakfast at the Iowa State Capitol from 7-9 a.m. on March 17, hoping to meet with a variety of state senators and representatives, including many who are allies with the group like Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad of Des Moines and others.
The ALC also will be meeting with U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne from Iowa’s Third Congressional District to have a substantive discussion with the congresswoman.
Lovan said the coalition was concerned with comments Axne made during a national interview with CNN last year talking about the need to secure America’s borders.
“We’re having a meet and greet with her on April 13 because several people were wondering what she meant by securing the border. Does that mean she was OK with ‘building the wall.’ So we arranged this meeting so we can have a more personal conversation with her about immigration and some other questions we want to ask.”
Immigration is obviously a big issue for the coalition, its members and the thousands of minority members in the state who have raised their voices in protest and outrage at the current administration’s stance on its attempts at securing America’s borders and turning away immigrants.
Lovan said outreach to elected officials like those in the statehouse and in Washington, D.C., is just a small part of the ALC’s efforts.
Upcoming events, like partnering with social justice organizations such as Creative Visions and Urban Dreams, the NAACP and others, are hosting block parties for different candidates in all corners of the state, are also on the agenda.
There’s also the work in recruiting and aiding more Latino and Asian Iowans to seek local office, be it school board, city council or a countywide position.
“Right now, we have a few people running or potentially running for office,” Lovan said. “We are helping with canvassing, making calls, getting out the vote. We are working toward bigger voter turnout so that we can elect more Asian and Latino candidates.”
And the ALC can lay claim to some success with the addition of a number of minority candidates who have have won school board, city council and countywide elections across Iowa in recent election cycles.
But there’s plenty of work left.
Lovan pointed out that there is no Latino or Asian representation in the state senate or Iowa House of Representatives currently. And racism is still an issue for many in the state.
“So we are a Democratic PAC, that in and of itself means we are aligned with a party that is welcoming. And there are many in Iowa who are choosing to uplift their communities . Things are getting better,” she said …
“But it is an uphill battle. We still see discrimination every day, schools, grocery stores or in your office. We want to make sure we are creating a space where people can address their concerns.”
And Lovan adds the ALC believes that with more minority elected officials, more engagement with the public, those fears and misperceptions about Latinos and Asians will dissipate.
More “get out the vote” efforts, as well as promoting and partnering with other organizations in helping minority populations navigate the upcoming 2020 Census is also at the forefront.
“We want to make sure our communities are counted,” said Lovan.
But perhaps even more important than just counting people, the ALC wants to make sure Latino and Asian voices are being heard.