Lawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator

Members of Congress on Tuesday called on the Democratic National Committee to ensure that at least one of the party's presidential debates features an Asian American-Pacific Islander moderator.

In a letter to DNC Chairman Tom Perez, lawmakers writing on behalf of the ASPIRE PAC, which serves as the political arm of Asian American-Pacific Islander (AAPI) members of Congress, argued that having representation among the moderators would reflect the demographic's role in the 2020 elections.

"We believe that the DNC could take a big step forward in reaching these voters by ensuring that there is an AAPI moderator for at least one of the debates. We ask that you make this request to the networks that are competing to televise the debates," the lawmakers wrote.

"Next year, there will be 11 million eligible AAPI voters, which will account for 5% of the electorate. AAPIs increased their participation rate in the 2018 midterm elections by the largest amount of any racial group, and are poised to be the difference makers in key battleground states," the lawmakers wrote.

They further noted that three Asian American and Pacific Islanders are running for the Democratic presidential nomination: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who is of Indian and Jamaican descent; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

The letter was signed by Democratic Reps. Grace Meng (N.Y.), Judy Chu (Calif.), Ed Case (Hawaii), TJ Cox (Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Doris Matsui (Calif.), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.) and Mark Takano (Calif.), as well as Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).

Meng serves as chairwoman of the ASPIRE PAC, and as a DNC vice chairwoman.

"I am hopeful that this can happen and look forward to Chairman Perez responding to our request. I am confident that host networks will not have trouble finding qualified and talented AAPIs to include in their moderator panels," Meng said in a statement.

The DNC did not immediately return a request for comment.

The DNC has already committed to ensuring that at least one woman and one person of color serves as a moderator at each of its primary debates for the 2020 cycle.

"The DNC is committed to an inclusive and fair debate process," DNC senior adviser Mary Beth Cahill told Refinery29 in May. "That means that all 12 DNC-sanctioned debates will feature a diverse group of moderators and panelists including women and people of color, ensuring that the conversations reflect the concerns of all Americans."

The first two presidential debates, hosted by NBC News and CNN, featured female, Hispanic and African American moderators.

Moderators for the third presidential debate next month, which will be hosted by ABC News and Univision, have not yet been announced.