CAPA21 is descended from one of the country’s very first Asian Pacific American political action committees -the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans.
Our name, CAPA21, is not an acronym but an homage to the previous generation CAPA, which closed in July 2008 after two decades of advocating for AAPI issues in the political arena and helping elect numerous AAPIs, including Congressman Mike Honda and state Controller John Chiang, to state and federal offices.
The Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans started in 1988 as a result of a statewide coalition to defeat the confirmation that year of Dan Lungren as state Treasurer. Lungren, now a Republican Congressman, was a staunch opponent of redress for Japanese Americans unjustly incarcerated during World War II. His appointment to state Treasurer by Gov. George Deukmejian was rejected by the state Senate because of the coalition led by the founders of CAPA.
“Defeating Dan Lungren’s appointment as Treasurer was the first time that the AAPI community led a broad-based coalition in California to successfully block a statewide appointment of someone who clearly didn’t have the best interests of the AAPI community at heart,” said attorney Dale Minami, a co-founder and president of CAPA.
CAPA led the effort to raise funds and coordinated a statewide grassroots campaign of organizations representing women, seniors, educators, people of color, environmentalists, labor and health care.
Along with Minami, CAPA’s founding members and supporters included Maeley Tom, Georgette Imura, Bruce Chan, Jeanette Dong, Dale Shimasaki, Yvonne Lee, Jerry and Dorothy Enomoto, Tessie Guillermo, Bill Hirose, Kaz Maniwa, Curt Namba, Joanne Lowe and Jeff Ogata, Steve and Onilda Owyang, Don Tamaki, Dr. Craig Yamada, Dr. Monice Kwok, Dr. Lindy Kumagai, Dr. Richard Ikeda, Dr. Cliff Uyeda, Hoyt Zia, Leigh Anne Miyasato, Ron Takaki and Elaine Kim.
After the well-publicized defeat of Lungren’s nomination, these and many other AAPI leaders formed CAPA as one of the first Asian Pacific American political action committees in the country to continue empowering AAPI communities in politics through supporting progressive candidates responsive to AAPI issues. CAPA would eventually also participate in campaigns to educate the public, influence policy and combat discrimination.
Realizing that limited resources would limit CAPA’s participation in every local elective race or every issue that arose, the organization focused on statewide and national issues and candidates. There were occasional exceptions, such as CAPA’s support for Mike Honda’s first campaign in his run for the San Jose school board.
CAPA was truly a pioneering organization in the AAPI community, especially during a time when we had so few AAPIs in elected office, both in California and at the national level. Many of the AAPIs in elected office today achieved political success in part because of CAPA’s support.
Throughout the years, CAPA actively participated in the campaigns for President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Senator Barbara Boxer and a number of California gubernatorial, attorney general and treasurer campaigns.
CAPA was instrumental in recommending qualified AAPI candidates for appointment to serve in key staff positions in the Clinton administration, in the Gray Davis administration, and in the State Legislature. CAPA has also been active in recommending qualified AAPI attorneys to serve on the bench at the federal and state courts.
CAPA has taken positions on issues related to education, hate crimes, immigration, housing, English-only and civil rights. In 1997, CAPA filed a complaint against the Democratic and Republican Parties and the press for their discriminatory treatment and racially insensitive portrayals of Asian Pacific Americans during the voter scandals which rose to prominence that year.
In 2003, CAPA helped lead a statewide coalition of AAPIs in the unsuccessful effort to defeat the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. Polls showed that Asian Americans were the only ethnic group to vote against the recall.
In 2004, CAPA developed and managed AAPI websites as part of their support for Sen. Barbara Boxer’s re-election campaign and for other candidates.
CAPA’s last major involvement in a campaign was for John Chiang’s race for state Controller in 2006. In addition to helping raise funds for his campaign, CAPA strongly criticized software company Intuit for its million-dollar effort against Chiang whose support for a simplified tax filing process for low-income Californians was seen as a threat to sales of Intuit’s Quicken tax software. Chiang won his race, becoming California’s first AAPI elected to that office.