The 2018 U.S. midterms saw the election of five Hmong candidates and one Laotian candidate to the Minnesota and the Ohioan state legislatures, respectively.
More than 6,000 seats were up for reelection as 87 of the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers held regularly-scheduled elections, according to Ballotpedia. Overall, five Hmong and two Laotian candidates made it onto the general election ballot across the country. All five Hmong candidates and one Laotian candidate are Democrats.
About 23 percent of the state legislative candidates nationwide are Southeast Asian. Twenty-three percent of that group are Laotian or Hmong, which means that only 5.3 percent of state legislative candidates on general election ballots are Laotian or Hmong.
In Minnesota, Democratic Farmer-Labor House District 59A incumbent Fue Lee won reelection, and DFL challengers Samantha Vang, Tou Xiong, Khaly Her, and Jay Xiong all emerged victorious on Nov. 6. The lone Laotian Republican candidate for a state legislative seat, Yele-Mis Yang, lost his bid for Minnesota House District 42B.
After weeks of ballot processing, Democrat Tina Maharath was finally declared the winner in Ohio’s State Senate District 3. Maharath is the first Laotian American to hold a state legislative seat in the U.S.
Despite lower numbers of Laotian and Hmong candidates pursuing state legislative office compared to other Asian American groups, the win rate of those that did seek election was impressive. Out of the six candidates that ran, five won – a win rate of 83.3 percent.
The 2018 wins for these six candidates is certainly cause for celebration. However, growth in representation will only occur if the newly-elected state legislators keep their seats in 2020 – and if new, viable candidates emerge to challenge incumbents in other districts.
Mai Nguyen Do and Bryan Thao Worra contributed to this report.