A record three women of Indian origin are in race for the first time in the US, seeking to enter the US Senate/Congress. Pramila Jayapal is running for House of Representatives from the state of Washington. Kamala Harris is running to enter the Senate from California. While Harris and Jayapal are Democrats, Lathika Mary Thomas is running for the House on a Republican ticket from Florida. This is the first time a woman of Indian origin has come thus far to fight a seat for US Congress from the state of Florida.
Congressman Dalip Singh Saund, a Democrat from California was the first ever Indian American elected in 1956 and the first Asian-American to serve on Capitol Hill. Since then, there have been only two others who made to the US Congress.
Ami Bera from California is the only Indian-American Congressman in the current Congress. He is among the three Indian-Americans elected to the Congress ever. While Ami Bera serves in the Congress, Boby Jindal, who was the second Indian American to be elected to the US Congress, later on became the Governor of the state of Louisiana and had an unsuccessful run to be the Republican nominee for US President.
In 2010, Nikki Haley (R-SC) made history by being elected the first female Indian-American governor in the United States. She is regarded as a rising star by those inside and outside the Republican Party
In the past two decades, several Indian-Americans have been making political inroads, from city councils to state capitols. “We certainly are looking at how to get Indian-Americans more engaged in politics,” said Bera, a Sacramento County physician and currently the sole Indian-American in Congress. “They should think about running for office.”
Harris, the twice-elected state attorney general is widely considered the front-runner in the California Senate race. Harris, whose mother is Indian-American and whose father is Jamaican-American, would be the first Asian or black American elected to the Senate from California.
She’s running in a presidential election year, which means higher voter turnout overall and more Democrats coming to the polls. Her candidacy showcases the diversity within the Asian-American community and has generated a lot of excitement.
If elected, Harris would be the second black woman in Senate after Carul Mosley Braun in 1992 and the first Indian-American in the Senate. Harris, who has been endorsed by US President Barack Obama is currently the California Attorney-General.
Jayapal, who earned an endorsement from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, would be the first Indian-American woman in Congress, if she wins the elections in November. According to latest polls, both Jayapal and Harris are expected to win their respective elections. Jayapal says she is running for Congress because “because our system is rigged for corporations and the wealthy, but we can fight back. The time has come to tackle this inequality: we need to raise the minimum wage, expand Social Security and Medicare and ensure debt-free college for young people across America.”
Like Jayapal, Latika Mary Thomas if elected to the US House of Representatives seat from Florida would be the first Indian-American woman in the Congress.
Lathika Mary Thomas is running for US Congress from the Second Congressional District in Florida. If elected, Mary would make history as the first Indian-Malayalee American woman elected to Congress. Mary was born in Charleston, South Carolina to physician parents who arrived in America in 1972. Mary’s dad Dr. Tom Thomas is from Alleppey and mom Dr. Annie Thomas is from Palai, both in Kerala state, India.
Mary is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Law. She also holds a Masters of Law from the University of Miami and a Bachelors degree from the University of South Florida. Mary was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to immigrant parents who arrived in America from India in 1972 with their educations and the hope of living the American dream. The Thomas family eventually settled in Pinellas County, where they started a successful small business.
She introduced herself as the daughter of legal immigrants from India, a wife, mom and Christian. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, who relocated with her family to Florida as a child, is hoping to become the first Indian-American elected to Congress from the state, something she said “would truly be an historic event.”
In addition to these three women, there are several other Indian American women candidates who are in race to win elections in various parts of the country, and create history of sorts. It’s also very much on the cards that more Indian American women will win elections this year than their male counterparts.
There are several incumbent Indian American politicians at present: Aruna Miller (D-MD) has served in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2011. Kshama Sawant was elected to the Seattle City Council in 2013. In Iowa, Swati Dandekar (D-IA) was a member of the state legislature for several years before being appointed to the Iowa Utilities Board by Governor Terry Branstad. Anu Natarajan served on the Fremont City Council for more than a decade before becoming the city’s vice-mayor. Reshma Saujani served as New York City’s Deputy Public Advocate before founding the popular technology non-profit Girls Who Code. In Manhatttan’s 65th Assembly District, Jenifer Rajkumar is running for New York State Assembly.
Asian-Americans, which include Indian-Americans, are the fastest growing demographic group in the U.S., according to Pew Research Center.Nearly 600,000 of the country’s 3.1 million Indian-Americans live in California, and the state boasts a number of notable elected officials. Besides Bera, who was born in Los Angeles to immigrant parents, they include Californian Attorney General Kamala Harris, who could become the first Indian-American elected to the U.S. Senate.
Though Americans of Indian descent account for only 0.1 percent of the U.S. population, they are the most affluent and best educated of any immigrant group in the country, according to Pew. They lean strongly toward Democrats, yet two Republican governors, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina, are of Indian descent.
A Pew Research Center report last year found that 65 percent of Indian-Americans identified as Democrats or leaned toward the party, the highest level of affiliation among Asian-American groups. Asian-Americans as a whole overwhelmingly voted for President Barack Obama in 2012, even outpacing Latinos.