For the first time Tagalog language is used in USA Election materials

Candidates actively court Filipino-American vote

Underscoring the growing Filipino-American power in the ballot box in Nevada, candidates from both political parties are actively seeking the support of the fastest-growing Asian ethnic group in the state.

At the launching Friday, Oct. 5, of the Filipino-American Heritage Month, some candidates or their representatives, were on hand for the event at Seafood City in Las Vegas.

View slideshow: Filipino-american Heritage Month

With patriotic red, white and blue balloon decorations, the popular mall on Parkway Boulevard, a favorite of Filipino-Americans, took the air of a barrio fiesta back in the Philippines as politicians, dressed in traditional Filipino costumes, met potential voters.

"As the granddaughter of immigrants who came to this country penniless in search of a better life, I'm proud to honor all the cultures and nationalities that come together to make Nevada a stronger state," said Shelley Berkley, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.

"Filipino Americans have a long and rich history in Nevada, and as a longstanding friend to the Filipino American community," said Berkley, who is facing a close and competitive race against Republican Dean Heller.

Heller recently has earned a endorsement of a group of Filipino veterans who are seeking veterans benefits from the United States after allegedly working for the U.S. Army, either in the regular force or as guerrilla fighters against the Japanese during World War II.

Heller has filed a bill that will give those veterans a second look or an opportunity to submit more documents after they were denied recognition in their first efforts to do so.

At least five such veterans live in Las Vegas, according to some advocates in the Filipino-American community.

Presently a member of the U.S. Congress as a representative, Berkley has consistently supported the Filipino veterans' fight for recognition and benefits through the Filipino Veterans Equity Act and other legislation in the past.

"I will continue to fight so that the benefits and recognition that all Filipino veterans deserve and earned after fighting for our country on the battlefields of the South Pacific so many years ago are realized," she said in a statement.

There are about 98,000 Filipino-Americans in Nevada, which is considered a swing state in the presidential election.

Democrats outnumber Republicans among Asian-Americans, 53 percent to 16 percent. But a large percentage, 31 percent, are either Independents, or refuse to identify their party affiliations.

At 25 percent, Filipino-Americans are the most Republican among Asian-Americans.

Filipino-Americans are also the largest Asian group in Las Vegas, estimated at about 30,000, but probably more following the 2010 census. Most are employed in the casinos or as healthcare workers.

A voter registration drive has been launched and scheduled to end Saturday, Oct. 6, the last day of registration.

For the first time in a federal election in Nevada, election materials are available in Tagalog, the dialect most Filipinos speak.

Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60 and on Facebook at facebook.com/BertEljera

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