Record number of Asian-American candidates file to run for Nevada legislature

Photo by Frank Alejandre

By Lorraine Longhi

March 8, 2024

When Erica Mosca was elected to the Legislature in 2022, she became the first Filipina legislator elected to serve in Nevada.

For Mosca, who was also the first person in her family to go to college, growing up low-income and working-class ultimately laid the foundation for her desire to go into politics.

“I think it was really a motivating thing,” she said. “The issues are the same issues that so many people face. We just want to make sure we have a seat at the table and visibility.”

Mosca was on hand Monday as Nevada Democratic candidates endorsed by the Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus—including a record number of Asian American and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander candidates—filed to run for office.

In total, seven AANHPI candidates filed to run for office Monday, the most in the caucus’ history, according to a caucus spokesperson. Among them were Mosca, Rochelle Nguyen, Cecelia Gonzalez, Brittney Miller and Duy Nguyen—who were running for re-election—and first-time candidates Sharifa Wahab and Hanadi Nadeem.

“Our goal is to stop saying that we’re the first,” Mosca told The Nevadan. “None of us want to be the first … we want to open the door so that now, it’s just part of the regular norm.”

Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said at a press conference Monday that “Nevada’s best days are ahead of us” and that Democrats will continue to ensure that its candidates bring unique perspectives and skills to the Legislature.

But Linda Ly, a valley native who grew up in east Las Vegas, said Mosca’s impact on her began in fifth grade—well before Mosca was elected to office—when she was Ly’s teacher at Goldfarb Elementary.

Mosca was the first Asian American teacher Ly had ever had, and as a result, Ly said she felt her voice in class was heard and understood.

Ly, who is Chinese and Cambodian, said that seeing Mosca in a leadership role opened pathways that she didn’t previously think were open to her.

Ly would later go on to join the first cohort of Leaders in Training, the after school nonprofit Mosca started in 2012 which works to support high school students in being the first in their families to go to and graduate from college.

“It made me feel that whatever pathway I decided to choose, that it would open that for other students who look like me as well,” Ly said. “For me, Erica was that definitive point in my life that I also wanted to be a role model for other AAPI students as well.”

The power of representation in politics

Asian Americans are the fastest growing voting demographic in the state, Mosca says. It’s a trend that is reflected nationally, with the number of eligible Asian American voters far outpacing the growth of other groups, according to Pew Research Center.

Despite that growth, Asian Americans are often not equitably represented in politics. In 2021, Axios reported that the total representation of Asians in Congress had reached a record high, but still only amounted to 3%.

As a result, those communities need to see themselves reflected in the Legislature, Mosca says.

Santiago Montenegro, a junior at East Career and Technical Academy, said he was surprised about the disproportionate lack of representation in politics given Nevada and Las Vegas’ diverse demographics.

“When I see someone like Assemblywoman Mosca, it definitely gives me encouragement to be someone in her position,” he said. “…making these big laws and decisions and representing the community, it’s better to have somebody who understands the issues that their people are going through and making those decisions for everyone.”

Having people of color allows for different and diverse perspectives that lead to more inclusive and effective policies that can meet the true needs in the area they’re elected, Ly said.

Diverse representation in politics can also inspire members of the AANHPI community to participate civically, pursue other leadership roles, and strive for excellence across different fields.

Mosca highlighted two pieces of legislation that she was proud to pass during the last legislative session: one that would allow college students to access their transcripts even if they owe fees to their higher education institution, and another that expands access for students to the College and Career Ready diploma.

That representation can also work to shatter harmful stereotypes about Asian Americans being the model minority, or a marginalized group with a higher perceived level of success or work ethic than other groups.

Growing up low-income, Ly said she faced challenges having parents who dealt with language barriers and weren’t able to help her with certain facets of high school or applying to college the way other families could.

“When I think about having an AAPI elected official, I think it helps to challenge different stereotypes,” Ly said. “It can also help counteract racism, discrimination and prejudice and show what AAPI officials have and contribute to society.”

Beyond the importance of having more diverse leaders in positions of power to encourage young kids to pursue similar goals, both Ly and Montenegro pointed to how Mosca’s presence in their life beyond politics had impacted them for the better.

“It made me feel that, if she could do it, I could do it,” Ly said.

  • Lorraine Longhi

    Lorraine Longhi is a reporter for The Nevadan and native of the southwest. A graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication, she spent eight years reporting in Arizona, including at The Arizona Republic and The Copper Courier, where she covered education, health care and state politics. She returned to Las Vegas, her hometown, last year as an education reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where she was later promoted to assistant city editor



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