The four Indian-American Congressmen from the Democratic Party have been re-elected to the US House of Representatives and more than a dozen others won various other races across the country in the highly polarized 2018 midterm elections held on November 6th.
Dr. Ami Bera, a three-term Congressman, was re-elected for a record fourth consecutive term from the 7th Congressional District of California. Unlike the previous three elections, Bera did not have to wait for weeks for recounting of votes. He defeated Andrew Grant of the Republican Party by a 5% margin.
In the Silicon Valley, Indian-American Ro Khanna defeated Ron Cohen of the Republican Party with a massive 44 percentage point in the 17th Congressional District of California. “Tonight was a great night for our campaign and for Democrats across the country. I’m grateful to the voters of #CA17 for giving me the opportunity to continue to represent you in Congress. This has been the honor of my life,” Khanna said. “With Democrats in control of the House, we will push for economic and foreign policy populism,” he said.
In the 8th Congressional District of Illinois, Raja Krishnamoorthi was re-elected for the second term by a comfortable margin of more than 30 percentage points. He defeated his Indian American Republican opponent J D Diganvker.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the only Indian-American woman lawmaker in the House of Representatives, defeated her GOP rival Craig Keller by a massive 66 percentage points. “The American people voted to put the Democrats back in control of the US House of Representatives. Now, we are primed to restore the balance of power between the branches of government and push back even more strongly against the Trump administration’s deeply destructive policies. Our communities are sick and tired of the corruption and injustice,” Jayapal said in her victory speech in Seattle.
While nearly two dozen Indian American won elections to state and local bodies across the nation, several candidates seeking to be elected to the US Congress did not make it to the US Congress. For the first time, more than 100 Indian-Americans had entered the race in this mid-term elections, of which over 50 were on the ballot on Tuesday. Among them 12, including four incumbents, were running for the House and one for the Senate – a record in itself.
None of the more than half a dozen new Indian Americans candidates, many of whom caught national attention by giving tough fight to their opponents and outraising them in the fund raisers, could make it to the House of Representatives.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had high hopes in Aftab Pureval in Ohio, Sri Preston Kulkarni in Texas and Dr. Hiral Tipirneni in Arizona by including them in its “Red to Blue” list – and additional boosts had come from major endorsements and results of recent polls. Democratic Party activists had hoped for seven Indian-Americans in Congress.
The Indian American Impact Project and its affiliate the Indian American Impact Fund have been raising funds for the candidates and also getting out high profile party members like Sen. Kamala Devi Harris and former U.S. Ambassador to India Rich Verma. Volunteers and other supporters were on the ground in the districts in Ohio, Texas, and Arizona where Pureval, Kulkarni and Tipirneni were running.
Raj Goyle, co-founder of the Indian American Impact Project, and a former Kansas state legislator, had stated, “Between the high stakes atmosphere and the sheer numbers of candidates who ran for office, this is perhaps the most competitive election cycle we’ve seen in decades. He said that more than 100 Indian-American candidates were on the ballot throughout the year and more than half are on the Nov. 6 ballot. We will see many new elected officials who are fresh faces and represent the best of our community,” he had said.
The Impact Project’s executive director, Gautam Raghavan, an ex-senior Obama administration official, said, “For the first time in history, three Indian-Americans are on the DCCC ‘Red to Blue’ list. Just ask Congressman Ami Bera — that designation can be a game-changer. We were happy when Aftab Pureval was named to the list earlier this year, and thrilled when Sri Kulkarni and Hiral Tipirneni were added earlier this month.”
“Impact Fund is proud to have contributed directly to these candidates, help them raise funds, raise their visibility nationally, and arrange for community leaders like Senator Kamala Harris and Ambassador Rich Verma to hit the campaign trail for them,” Raghavan said.
On Oct. 12, Sen. Kamala Devi Harris (D-Calif.) traveled to Arizona to keynote a joint event for Tipirneni and Malik,and continued to send emails encouraging supporters and donors on their behalf.
“I believe in these two talented Indian-American women,” she said. “I need these women in Congress with me. My constituents in California, and Indian Americans across the country, need these women in Congress. What happens in these races on Election Day will affect not only Arizona, but the entire nation.”
Indian-American of Tibetan descent Aftab Pureval, 35, lost to GOP incumbent Steve Chabot. He was the first Democrat to get elected as the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in more than 100 years. Indian-American woman Anita Malik lost to her Republican incumbent in the sixth District of Arizona, while Hiral Tipirneni was defeated by GOP rival Debbie Lesko.
Indian-Americans picked up more seats in the State assemblies. The community sent its member Ram Villivalam for the first time to the Illinois Senate and also elected a Muslim Indian-American Mujtaba Mohammed to the North Carolina State Senate. Chicago-born Villivalam, elected unopposed, became the first Asian-American State Senator and the first South Asian-American member of Illinois General Assembly ever.
Former state department diplomat Sri Preston Kulkarni lost to his GOP incumbent Pete Olson from the 22nd Congressional District of Texas. A five-time incumbent, Rep Olson defeated his Indian-American Democratic challenger in the most heated 22nd Congressional District that the opposition had hoped to flip due to a large Asian-American population.
The 40-year-old relied heavily on his ability to connect with the district’s diverse population to give Democrats hope that he could pull off an upset in the district. About 20 per cent of the population in the district is of Asian heritage – more than any other district in Texas.
Sanjay Patel, who runs a successful consulting business, lost to Republican Congressman Bill Posey, who has been winning the eighth Congressional District of Florida continuously since 2009.
In the first Congressional District of Arkansas, Democratic Chintan Desai lost to Republican incumbent Rick Crawford, while Republican Harry Arora lost to incumbent Jim Himes in the fourth Congressional District of Connecticut.
Shiva Ayyadurai, a successful entrepreneur, who fought the Massachusetts Senate race as an independent, came a distant third. Democratic leader Elizabeth Warren registered a comprehensive win over her Republican rival Geoff Diehl to re-enter the US Senate.
Democratic Nima Kulkarni defeated Joshua Neubert from the GOP to make her maiden entry into the Kentucky Assembly from State District 40. A practicing and recognized lawyer, she owns Indus Law Firm specialising in immigration, employment and business law.
Mujtaba Mohammed entered the North Carolina State Senate from the Senate District 38. A former staff attorney at the Council for Children’s Rights and assistant public defender, Mohammed defeated Richard Rivette.
Incumbent Jay Chaudhuri, an accomplished entrepreneur, was re-elected to North Carolina Senate from the State Senate District 15. Republican Niraj Atani, 27, registered his third consecutive electoral victory from Ohio House 42nd District. He is the youngest Indian-American elected official in the US. He is also the second Indian-American state elected official in Ohio history, and the first Indian-American Republican.
“Representing the community in which I was born and raised is an incredible honor. I work hard every day to make it achievable for all Ohioans to have the opportunity to make their American Dream a reality,” Atani said in a statement.
In Washington State, Manka Dhingra and Vandana Slatter were re-elected for the State Senate. Among others re-elected at the State level are Sabi Kumar in Tennessee and Ash Kalra (California).
Sayu Bhojwani, the executive director of New American Leaders and author of “People Like Us: The New Wave of Candidates Knocking at Democracy’s Door,” stated, “Indian-American women across the country are donating money, writing texts and postcards, making calls and knocking on doors. We, Indian American women are leading the way in this groundbreaking election,” she said. “We have only begun to witness the power and energy we have together.”
The emergence of a large number of young Indian-Americans candidates reflects the growing desire of this small ethnic community comprising just one per cent of the US population of 325 million people in the greatest democracy in the world.
“It is time we come to recognize fully the contributions of the Indian-American community. Indian-Americans are tremendously important and we hope they would be increasingly visible not only in the government, but also in all parts of American life,” said Maya Kassandra Soetoro-Ng, maternal half-sister of President Obama, adding that President Obama was very proud of the community. “It is certainly a reflection of how important India is and how important Indian-Americans are to the fabric of the nation. I would just like to celebrate all of the contribution artistic, political and so much more of the community.”
To quote former Congressman and Co-Chair of the Congressional India Caucus, Joe Crowley, “I think it is wonderful for the Indian-American community. It is coming of age, politically for them.”