PHILADELPHIA — Stephanie Murphy's family escaped Vietnam on a boat, eventually making it to the United States with aid from an American Navy ship.
Now, the 37-year-old businesswoman and defense expert is running for a House seat in Florida as a Democrat. Murphy said she would be proud to become the first Vietnamese-American woman in Congress, but even prouder that her election would mark another step toward lawmakers reflecting the diversity of the U.S. population.
"I think whether it's in the halls of Congress or a boardroom, we need to reflect the diversity of this nation," Murphy told CNBC at the Democratic National Convention.
The American voting population is also slowly shifting to match the country's demographics. The Asian-American population has grown particularly fast, boosting its sway as a voting bloc. That growing demographic has shifted to the left in recent presidential elections and may stay there for the foreseeable future.
Asian-American Democratic officials see advantages to those trends in 2016, especially with Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee. His jabs at immigrants and pledge to discard the Affordable Care Act clash with the priorities of Asian-American voters as they become a larger part of the electorate, lawmakers said at the Democratic National Convention.
"We see a trend with Republicans where they've become more and more extreme and where there's increasingly xenophobic kind of rhetoric, and certainly that's exemplified in Trump," Rep. Judy Chu of California, chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, told CNBC.
But Republican Party spokesman Ninio Fetalvo said GOP efforts to actively engage Asian-American voters after the 2012 election have started to pay off.
Exit polls showed Asian-Americans were almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats in the 2014 midterms. However, it remains to be seen if those gains will hold up in the presidential election, where turnout is much higher.
Trump's rhetoric on immigrants will not hurt the GOP because he appeals to Asian-Americans on other issues like jobs and national security, Fetalvo said.
"I think it's really important to know this is why Asian-Americans are looking for change and looking to Donald Trump," he said. "I don't think you can necessarily say that immigration is an issue for all Asian-Americans across the country."