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Filipinos for Garcetti: Ethnic political organizing in contemporary Los Angeles


By George Villanueva

One of the realities of wining political campaigns for Mayor in contemporary cities like Los Angeles is the need to secure the support of multi-ethnic community votes. This very topic was discussed in a recent research seminar panel* titled Filipinos for Garcetti: A Political Communication Retrospective of the 2013 L.A. Mayoral Election held at the USC Annnenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Similar to other political action organizing groups such as Latinos for Garcetti, the Filipinos for Garcetti effort was made up of members of the Filipino-American ethnic group that organized community support, fundraisers, and votes for Eric Garcetti’s successful bid to become the 42nd Mayor of Los Angeles. 


Filipinos and the growing API community in Los Angeles 

The engagement of Filipinos in local elections is sensible as they are part of the growing Asian Pacific Islander (API) community in the City of Los Angeles. The API community has experienced a 20% growth from 2000-2010. Filipinos make up the largest ethnic group in the API community in the City of Los Angeles and the second- largest in the County of Los Angeles.



Even though successful electoral campaigns need a multiethnic coalition in the city, the panel focused on how important it was to also focus on particular ethnic communities such as Filipinos.  One reason was that even though Filipinos generally speak English because of their American colonial past, Filipinos generally felt more at ease and gave more access to other Filipinos who encouraged them to get involved in the campaign.  A second reason was that Filipinos and Filipino-Americans who became organizing and fundraising leaders were able to gain a greater sense of collective efficacy by realizing that they can have an impact on local civic and political life as an ethnic community.



The political impact of Filipinos for Garcetti 

Lastly, the panel discussed the important question of what impact the Filipinos for Garcetti effort delivered to the Filipino-American community. A significant impact was the political representation in the Mayoral administration that was gained by the community. Close to a dozen Filipino staff have been hired into the administration and close to a dozen Filipinos have been appointed by the Mayor to several city commissions that serve as local decision-making bodies for city business such as transportation, planning, libraries, and human relations. Political representation remains vital because of the level and comfort of access that Filipinos feel to city government when they see their own community members in local government positions.

The ultimate test for ethnic communities such as Filipinos who become involved in local election political organizing is whether or not the City of Los Angeles starts to see members of these ethnic communities elected to local office. Of the major elected offices in the City of Los Angeles there are zero officials from any API community. It would be remiss of Filipinos and other ethnic groups within the API community if they did not harness their growing population and civic activity to bring API’s into elected office in the City of Los Angeles.

*Panelists: Ryan Carpio, L.A. Mayor’s Office of City Services; Joseph Bernardo, L.A. Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs; and Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal, L.A. City Commissioner, Building and Safety


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