US elections result in historic gains for Indian-Americans

Kamala Harris is 1st first US Senator of Indian Origin; Krishnamurthi, Jaapal, Khanna, Bera win Congressional seats

The coming of age of the Indian American community is evident all over with the tiny less than 1% of the US population leading in several areas of American life. With the record number of Indian Americans holding high jobs in the Obama administration, many more are even trying to take an active role in the politics of the country by

trying to get elected to public offices across the nation. They are the most affluent and best educated of any immigrant group in the country, according to Pew. They include doctors, engineers, tech entrepreneurs and educators, and form a rich donor base.

Now, many more Indian Americans are entering politics and seeking elected offices, cementing their place at the table of decision makers. The elections held on November 8th this year has sent One US Senator and three Indian Americans to the US Congress. Kamala Harris’ win Tuesday night makes her the first Indian American to serve in the U.S. Senate. She will also be just the second black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, and the first black senator from California.

No Indian-American had been elected to the Senate before, while there have been three from the community elected to the House of Representatives – Daily Singh Saund, Bobby Jindal and Ami Bera. Raja Krishnamoorthi on Tuesday night became the first Indian-American elected to Congress this election cycle, winning from Illinois. While

there were other four Indian-Americans in the fray for the House – Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, Peter Jacobs and Ami Bera, three of them were elected to the US House of Representatives, while Peter Jacob lost his maiden bid from New Jersey.

Harris’ race and ethnicity were never a focal point of the contest, which she was projected to win handily. Many people focused more on the possibility that California might have elected the first Latina to the Senate if Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Orange) had won. Harris’ mother, Dr. Shyamala Harris, emigrated from India. Her father, Donald Harris, emigrated from Jamaica.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris defeated Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) in Tuesday’s election for California’s open seat in the U.S. Senate, making her the first black woman elected to the upper chamber in more than two decades.

Harris will replace outgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who announced her retirement in 2014 after serving more than two decades in the Senate.

Rep. Ami Bera won from District 7 in the state of California with a 51% margin in a bitterly fought election, in a historic third race for re-election. Amerish Babulal “Ami” Bera is an American physician who has been the U.S. Representative for California’s 7th congressional district since 2013. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Bera won his 2014 election by a margin of just 1,475 votes winning 50.4 percent to his opponent’s 49.6 percent. Bera’s relatively independent streak in Congress compared to many other Democrats could be attributed to this narrow win. According to Ballotpedia, a non-partisan candidate tracking website, Bera’s voting ranking by different organizations show he “may break with the Democratic Party line more than his fellow members.”

In California’s Bay Area’s marquee congressional race, Fremont Democrat Ro Khanna was holding a strong early lead in his bid to oust Rep. Mike Honda from the South Bay seat the incumbent has owned for the past 16 years. With 18 percent of precincts reporting, Khanna led his fellow Democrat 58 percent to 42 percent in the bid for the

17th Congressional District seat. “I know it’s a deeply divided national election and it’s easy to become cynical these days, but let us remember our democracy is the most open political system in the world,” Khanna told a raucous crowd at the Royal Palace Banquet Hall in Fremont.

Krishnamoorthi’s 8th District in Illinois is heavily Democratic which makes his win among the most certain Nov. 8. Recently, he got a boost from President Obama who asked voters in a video to take advantage of early voting and support his “good friend Raja Krishnamoorthi.”

Krishnamoorthi has received the endorsements of major newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Raised in Peoria, Illinois, he earned his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in mechanical engineering from Princeton University and graduated with honors from Harvard Law School.

He was Illinois’s Deputy Treasurer, and in 2006, was appointed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to serve as Special Assistant Attorney General in her Public Integrity Unit. He also served as a member of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, where he was chairman of the Audit Committee.

Khanna, who served as deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Commerce Department during the Obama administration, has written a book about boosting the country’s exports, and teaches at Stanford University, got a boost this October when former President Jimmy Carter gave him a strong endorsement. He has also been able to get some big names in Silicon Valley behind him, according to news reports. Yet he has a tough job defeating a veteran lawmaker in Honda despite an ongoing Congressional ethics probe.

Khanna’s District covers the heart of Silicon Valley and encompasses portions of both Santa Clara County and Alameda County including the cities of Fremont, Newark, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara, North San Jose, and Milpitas.

In another western state of Washington, Pramila Jayapal defeated Brady Walkinshaw Tuesday in Washington’s super-liberal 7th Congressional District. By winning the seat occupied since 1988 by retiring U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, Jayapal becomes the first Indian-American woman elected to Congress.

The 52-year-old state senator — an immigrant-rights activist who scored an endorsement from Bernie Sanders last spring — captured 57 percent of the vote, as of early Wednesday, in the Seattle-area clash featuring two Democrats. The battle between Jayapal and Walkinshaw, a 32-year-old state representative, was the only competitive congressional contest in Washington.

Jayapal, a life-long activist committed to immigrant rights and women’s issues, with experience on Wall Street as well, is pitted against fellow progressive Democrat Brady Pinero Walkinshaw in Washington’s District 7. She has built a multi-ethnic coalition with hundreds of volunteers going door-to-door and has raised $2.23 million

as of Sept. 30, according to the Federal Election Commission. Walkinshaw reported collecting $1.46 million. Though Walkinshaw and Jayapal were the top two winners in the August caucuses, the Indian-American won 42 percent of the vote to Walkinshaw’s 21 percent in a 9-way race.

Jayapal is a long-time Bernie Sanders supporter when the Vermont Senator was running for Democratic nominee against Hillary Clinton. She has toed the party line to rally behind Clinton in the run up to Nov. 8.

In the state of New Jersey, Peter Jacob, another Indian American running from New Jersey’s District 7 conceded with capturing only 43% of the total votes cast in the Garden state. Jacob, 30, a Masters in Social Work and strong Bernie Sanders supporters, had gained some traction over the last six months. He attracted attention in

June for elbowing his way to the Democratic nomination against the establishment choice. He continues to sound like a plausible alternative in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, to the comfortably ensconced Republican incumbent Leonard Lance.

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