When a coalition of ethnic media outlets invited Senator Patty Murray to a roundtable discussion recently, the Murray campaign initially expressed interest, but then said she wouldn't have time. The coalition felt disappointed and ignored, but didn't give up. They are now urging Murray's campaign office to reach out to the minority community through other means, like advertising.

And it's not just Murray. Ethnic media outlets are asking all candidates whether "every vote really counts," or whether those are just weasel words. "If it counts, then why aren't political candidates doing more to reach out to Washington's minority communities?" asked Julie Pham, Managing Editor of Seattle's Northwest Vietnamese News. Pham just published a study on the discrepancy in political campaign advertising in ethnic vs mainstream media.

Racial and ethnic minorities make up more than 20 percent of the 6.7 million Washingtonians, and a majority of them get their news from the ethnic media. And yet, Public Disclosure Commission records cited in Pham's study show that in 2009, ethnic media got 0.7 percent of the total political campaign advertising budget (a mere $25,000 out of $3.4 million).

"We wish that candidates would remember that minorities are also voters," said Annie Malik, business development director for the bilingual Seattle Chinese Times, which has a circulation of 10,000. Malik said that this year, her paper received zero campaign ads.

Both the Murray and the Dino Rossi campaign issued statements saying that although they couldn't provide specific details about their advertising strategy, they had reached out to minority communities in various ways. "The Murray campaign has already been in touch with a number of ethnic media outlets about advertising," wrote Murray campaign spokesperson Julie Edwards in an e-mail.

Of the 33 ethnic media organizations surveyed in Pham's study, 11 said they received no political campaign advertising. More than half received less than $500 in campaign ads in 2009.

"Both Democrats and Republicans and even minority candidates are guilty of not marketing to minority communities," Pham told The Stranger. "These figures show the extent to which political candidates grossly undervalue the role played by ethnic media in building bridges between local society and ethnic communities."

Perhaps politicians simply think that not enough minorities vote? Pham said that it's true that Asians, Hispanics, and blacks have lower voter registration than whites in Washington (by 20 to 25 percentage points), but argues that our state has a lot of potential to "mobilize minority voters."