When Dr. Michelle Au mounted her first run for office in Georgia, a political operative said she shouldn’t “waste too much of her time” reaching out to Asian American voters. “Asian people don’t vote,” she was told.

Au — elected as a state senator in 2020 and then, after new district lines were drawn, as state representative in 2022 — knows that this is not only inaccurate, but a dangerous miscalculation for anyone who wants to win races in Georgia.

For Au, a Democrat who represents key suburbs northeast of Atlanta, it’s no coincidence that so many of the votes up for grabs in 2024 are in her district — and from the many immigrant and first-generation Asian American voters who live there. She has worked to reach them, running as the proud child of parents and grandparents who immigrated from China in the 1960s. She’s also run as a public health advocate, as a mom whose children attended Fulton County public schools, a practicing physician who isn’t afraid to talk in plain language about the effect that gun violence is having on American families.

“When I talk to people who are not from the state, what is presumed about Georgia is that this is a purple state that is very Black and White. And I don’t mean that in a polarized way — I mean in terms of the types of voters that people talk about in Georgia: Black voters and White voters,” said Au, who also chairs the Georgia legislature’s first AAPI caucus. People are surprised by how many Asian-American voters are in Georgia and that it has the largest AAPI legislative caucus in the continental United States.

As of 2020, Georgia is a majority minority state, and Asian-American voters are its fastest-growing bloc. Many don’t have strong partisan loyalties, which makes them a demographic that both political parties are now spending real money to reach and to persuade. That’s why Au said that to talk about winning races in Georgia, you have to talk about — and to — Asian-American voters.

Au has spoken out for firearm restrictions, including sponsoring a bill that would require that people securely store their guns to prevent children from gaining access to them. It was the first bill on gun restrictions heard in committee by the Republican-led Georgia General Assembly in 10 years. The hearing was held two years to the day after the March 16, 2021, shootings at a series of spas in Acworth, Georgia, that specifically targeted the Asian community. While Au’s bill didn’t pass, one that created a $300 tax credit for safe storage devices or gun safety lessons did.

Read the full article about AAPI voters by Jennifer Gerson at The19th.