‘Samosa Caucus’ Expands To Five After US Midterm Election

The United States House ‘Samosa Caucus’ gained a new member after the Mid term election held on November 8, 2022 as Shri Thanedar, a Democrat, won a seat in Detroit, Michigan. The four Indian-American incumbents — Ami Bera and Ro Khanna (California), Pramila Jayapal (Washington state), and Raja Krishnamoorthi (Illinois) — have been re-elected to the the US House of Representatives.

Thanedar’s victory was sure on Tuesday night, as he amassed 72 percent of the votes, while his opponent Republican Martell Bivings received 23 percent of the votes polled.

The millionaire entrepreneur, who grew up in poverty in Belgaum, poured $10 million into his race. The Detroit Free Press noted that it would be the first time since 1955 that the majority Black city would not have a Black representative in the House.

Republican Ritesh Tandon, who ran against Ro Khanna in California, and Democrat Sandeep Srivastava in Texas have lost. Rishi Kuma, who is running against a fellow Democrat under California’s system is also trailing.

India’s “son-in-law” J.D. Vance, who is married to Usha Chilukuri, has won the Senate seat from Ohio. He is a Republican allied with former President Donald Trump.

An entrepreneur and self-made millionaire, Democrat Thanedar, 67, who was born in Belgaum in India, beat a Republican rival in Detroit in Michigan state. Thanedar, who is now a Michigan state legislator, ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic party nomination for Governor in 2018.

He came to the US in 1979 and got his PhD in chemistry and an MBA. He took out loans to buy a company he worked for, Chemir, and built it from a $150,000 company to one with a revenue of $14 million before selling it for $26 million, according to his LinkedIn page.

He next started Avomeen Analytical Services, a chemical testing laboratory. He sold the majority stakes in it in 2016 and, according to his campaign bio, retired to get involved in public service to answer “the call to fight for social, racial and economic justice”.

Running in a constituency that covers a chunk of a city that is overwhelmingly African-American, Thanedar stressed in his campaign that he grew up in poverty in a family of ten in India and worked in odd jobs to support his family after his father retired.

“I’ll never forget what it’s like to live in poverty, and I’ll never stop working to lift Detroit families out of it,” he wrote on his campaign site. Thanedar is the seventh Indian-American to be ever elected to the House.

In Santa Clara County, Democrat Anna Eshoo, who has served in the House since 1993, held a respectable lead on election night against her challenger Rishi Kumar, a fellow Democrat. The race had not been called on Nov. 9 morning. With 49 percent of votes counted, Eshoo was leading by 58 percent.  This is also Eshoo and Kumar’s second face-off.

Picture : TheUNN

Another closely-watched House race, in Southern California, Dr. Asif Mahmood, a Democrat, is said to have lost to Republican incumbent Young Kim. Mahmood, a pulmonologist, earned the endorsement of Vice President Kamala Harris. “I am proud to endorse Dr. Asif Mahmood, who is part of an accomplished slate of Californians up and down the ballot who are committed to, along with our Administration, deliver results on behalf of working families, confronting the climate crisis, lowering health care costs, and other critical priorities,” wrote Harris. “The stakes are high this year and I am confident Dr. Asif Mahmood will stand up for the values we hold dear.”

Chennai-born Jayapal, 57, who was first elected in 2016 from Washington State, is the senior whip of the Democratic Party in the House and the chair of the influential leftist Congressional Progressive Caucus. She has been a strong critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

In Washington state, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat, thrashed her Republican challenger Cliff Moon, garnering 85 percent of all votes counted on election night. Jayapal is the first Indian American woman in the House, and chair of the House Progressive Caucus. She has served in Congress since 2017.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart to voters in #WA07 for re-electing me with such a huge margin to serve another term in the House! I am humbled, honored & I promise I will keep fighting for our freedoms, for our families & for opportunity for everyone to thrive,” tweeted Jayapal on election night.

Rep. Ro Khanna, who serves Fremont and portions of the Silicon Valley, handily beat off Republican challenger Ritesh Tandon. The race was called for Khanna on election night. With 42 percent of the vote counted, the Democrat who has served in Congress since 2017, held 70 percent of votes counted. Tandon had amassed 28, 212 votes at that point. Khanna and Tandon also faced off in 2020.

Khanna, 46, is also a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Fox News reported that he is exploring a presidential run in 2024. He is close to Bernie Sanders, the leftist Senator who has unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Politico reported that top leaders from Sander’s camp have urged him to seek the Democratic Party nomination if President Joe Biden does not run again. A second-generation Indian American, he was born in Philadelphia and has a law degree from Yale University.

In Illinois, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat, fended off Republican challenger Chris Dargis. With 93 percent of votes counted, Krishnamoorthi gained 112, 884 votes, 56 percent. Krishnamoorthi has held his seat since 2017. The incumbent was born in New Delhi, and immigrated to the US with his parents when he was just three months old.

Krishnamoorthi, 49, who was born in New Delhi is politically a centrist and was a technology entrepreneur. He has worked with former President Barack Obama’s campaigns for Senator and President. A second-generation Indian American born in Elks Groce, California, Bera, 57, is a doctor.

Rep. Ami Bera, a Democrat who represents portions of Sacramento in California’s District 6, is predicted to win. But his battle to fend off Republican challenger Tamika Hamilton has not yet been called decisively. Early Nov. 9 morning, with 26 percent of votes counted, Bera had amassed 56 percent of the vote, while Hamilton garnered 44 percent.

Bera has served in Congress since 2013. His races have often been nailbiters, with a decisive victory coming in several days after election night. The former physician serves as chair of the powerful House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia.

The growing influence of the Indian community in US politics was evident from its victories across various levels of government. Aruna Miller, the Andhra Pradesh-born daughter of immigrants, was elected as the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, the second highest office in a crucial state adjoining the US capital of Washington DC.

Indian-Americans also did well in state races: In Illinois, 23-year old Nabeela Syed is set to become the youngest legislator in the state general assembly, and, in Pennsylvania, emergency physician Arvind Venkat is on his way to becoming a member of the state legislature.

A senior Indian-American political activist, who is with the Democratic Party but did not wish to be named, said, “We are playing an active role at three levels — as leaders, as donors, and as an active demographic bloc seen as a swing constituency. But while there may have been some shift towards Republicans in some states where the party is already dominant, Democrats, as the results show, have remained the natural home for the community’s political aspirations. The community’s values on social justice, equality and representation align with Democrats. All big Indian-American winners are Democrats.”

The midterms, which saw an especially diverse ballot this time, were also good for others of South Asian origin. Nabilah Islam, born to Bangladeshi immigrant parents, was elected to the Georgia State Senate, while Sarhana Shrestha of a Nepalese-origin, won a seat to the New York state legislature from upstate New York. Texas state legislature is going to have its first two Muslim representatives: Pakistani-American Salman Bhojani and physician Dr. Suleiman Lalani.

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