Congressman Ami Bera, D-California, the only Indian-American on Capitol Hill is facing an roadblock from within the Democratic Party with the local activists not giving the District 7 representative, the majority needed for an unqualified endorsement.
Bera’s votes on issues such as Syria refugees and trade are coming under intense examination as local Democrats debate withholding endorsement from him in his re-election race against Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican. This Jan. 31 shortfall in support came on the heels of a rejection from his hometown activists at the Elk Grove-South County Democratic Club, opposed him as a choice for the Democratic ticket.
The Congressman who represents District 7, met activists at a regional endorsement party in Sacramento Jan. 31, where he secured only 61 percent of the vote instead of the 70 percent which would have put him over the top for being the nominee. Thirty nine percent opposed him.
Bera is campaigning for his third term in Congress to represent CD-7, a district comprised of portions of Sacramento, Elk Grove and Folsom. His chief opponent is Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican.
The backlash against Bera has come primarily from labor groups, who oppose the congressman’s vote supporting the Trans Pacific Authority bill, which gives the president “fast-track” latitude to create trade treaties with other countries without Congressional oversight. A total of 160 Democrats in the House voted against TPA in June 2015. The measure passed 218 to 208.
Many members of the Sikh American community in Sacramento also opposed Bera during the 2014 election cycle for his failure to recognize the 1984 anti-Sikh riots – after Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination – as “genocide.”
Community activists have also opposed Bera for his vote supporting HR 4038, which would prevent any refugee from Syria or Iraq from entering the U.S. until the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence certify that they are not dangerous.
Alex Gilliland, Bera’s communications director in Washington, D.C., explained to India-West that if Bera had received 70 percent or more of the vote, he would have automatically received the endorsement. “While he did not get 70 percent of the vote, he got over 50 percent so he moves forward in the endorsement process and is confident he’ll get the party’s endorsement on Feb. 28,” she said. Gilliland also said that Bera has not yet announced his position on the Trans Pacific Partnership; he is waiting for a key report which will be released in May, she said.
“Congressman Bera voted to remove labels from foreign meat, to ban state protections on genetically-modified food, and to condemn President Obama,” said Amar Shergill, a local attorney and delegate, in a press statement. “It is a sad truth that when Congressman Bera is under pressure, he votes with Republicans to benefit multinational corporations at the expense of local families. “We are very concerned that he is under the influence of those that care more about overseas investments than American jobs,” added Shergill.
Robert Longer, a California Democrat and union political director, has been a supporter of U.S. Rep. Ami Bera since Bera’s first election campaign. He’s walked door-to-door with Bera to drum up votes, and he hosted a fundraiser for Bera at his Elk Grove home. But disillusion began to set in in June, when the second-term Democratic congressman broke with his party to vote for a trade bill fiercely opposed by labor unions.
“It kind of opened up the door to a lot of scrutiny and looking at his record, which maybe some folks didn’t really do before that,” said Longer, the legislative-political director for Communications Workers of America Local 9421. “Once folks did, myself included, we saw a lot of things that we didn’t like.”
Bera, whose last two term victories have been won on extremely slim margins in one of the costliest races in the country, is now looking to get his endorsement at the state Democratic Party Convention scheduled for Feb. 28. Since he was elected four years ago, Bera has been a target for Republicans trying to gain a seat in a district that is about evenly split between the two parties. Republicans are gleeful about this setback.
Dissatisfaction with Bera’s vote for the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal with Asian countries led by President Obama, has upset labor groups; and his stand on limiting refugees from Iraq and Syria has put him on the wrong side of many Democrats.
Bera will step up his efforts aiming to get the okay at the state party convention where regional clubs and other local groups are not invited and voting is conducted through delegates and proxies.
Responding to the loss of support from within Democratic ranks, Bera had said during a visit to India late December that “My job is to serve my district and to address the issues that matter to residents. Washington is broken and I firmly believe that we must work together, across the aisle, to get things done and I will continue to do that.” If he wins the nomination, Bera will be running against Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.