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Now, Pureval says he’s shown that his track record is most important — and people have gotten past seeing his background as a negative, too.

“[Everybody] would tell me, ‘There’s no way a brown guy named Aftab is going to win a county-wide seat in Cincinnati,” Pureval said.

Just around 2 percent of elected city officials were Asian American as of 2020, according to the Reflective Democracy Campaign.

AAPI candidates running for high-profile local races is a “slightly newer dynamic,” said Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance, an organization focused on mobilizing and educating voters.

There are perceptions that AAPI candidates can’t run or win because they don’t have enough Asian Americans in their district, Mielke said, but the data shows that most current national and local AAPI leaders represent regions that are not majority-Asian.

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