The primaries held last week, May 15th in the states of Oregon and Pennsylvania have brought to the front some Indian Americans after they won primaries to state and national offices. Voters in Multnomah County, Oregon, have elected the first South Asian-American to serve in public office in the state. Susheela Jayapal, 55, whose younger sister is Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), bested three rivals to win the nonpartisan seat on the county’s Board of Commissioners in Portland.
Despite it being a four-way Democratic primary, Jayapal made a clean sweep with more than 57 percent of the vote, dispensing with the need to have a runoff election between top two vote-getters on Nov. 6.
An avowed progressive like her sister, Susheela Jayapal’s campaign emphasized issues found in her sister’s campaign too: housing affordability and the prevention of homelessness. Following her victory, she told Oregon Live that her top priorities would be affordable housing, homelessness and working towards creating an ombudsman’s office.
“What I really see and respond to is the effect on communities that have been fractured by these types of displacement. I think we are all worse off when that happens to one of our communities,” she said. Susheela Jayapal succeeds Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith.
“Congratulations to my sis-ter,@SusheelaJayapal, who just became the first #SouthAsian American ever elected in Oregon! She ran an incredible race and won outright with 57% of the vote Multnomah County, she will be a strong progressive champion for you!” the Washington congresswoman tweeted.
Deepak Raj, co-founder of Impact and chair of the Impact Fund, called her “a source of great leadership and inspiration for our community.” Raj Goyle, co-founder of Impact and a former member of the Kansas House of Representatives said “from coast to coast, from County Commission to the U.S. Congress, talented Indian-American candidates are running for office and winning. Impact Fund is proud to stand with them.”
In other election news, Oregon state House of Representatives candidate Vineeta Lower didn’t have to sweat it out for the primary election in the 32nd District. The Indian American Republican candidate, who has a place in the November general election thanks to running unopposed in the primary, learned that Democrat Tiffiny Mitchell will be her opposition candidate.
Another Indian-American who ran for office in Oregon, was Republican Satya Chandragiri making a bid for State Representative from the 19th District. Chandragiri received 12.5 percent of the Republican vote compared to the 54.7 percent for the winner, Denyc Nicole Boles, and 32.7 percent by the runner-up Michael Hunter, according to results posted on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website.
“Growing up in India and the U.S., my mother had Schizophrenia and father served in Air Force, but we remained a close knit family,” says Chandragiri on his election website. He went on to become a physician and a psychiatrist, public servant, and small business owner. “I often say of my early life that: I was born in India but made in the USA.”
In the state of Pennsylvania, another Indian-American Inderjit Bains, who ran on a Republican ticket for the State House of Representatives from the 164th District, was elected unopposed, which means he will run against the Democratic candidate and incumbent State Rep. Margo Davidson in November. State District 164 heavily favors Democrats with some 4,182 Democrats showing up at the polls to vote for Davidson and only 1,055 Republicans voting for Bains.
After the primary, Bains thanked “everyone who came out and exercised their right to vote. I will be working harder to earn your support and vote. We need to have our voices heard in Harrisburg!”
Pennsylvania also saw Bangladeshi-American Nina Ahmad run for Lieutenant Governor in the Democratic primary. She made an impressive showing coming 2nd in a five-way race, securing 23.46 percent of the votes. Incumbent Mike Stack got fewer votes than Ahmad (16.77 percent). The winner in that Democratic primary was Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, who got 38.17 percent. Nina Ahmad said, she wanted to “restore integrity to the office and to be the progressive voice that Pennsylvania needs to take on Donald Trump.”