California Dems choose first South Asian-American to head Progressive Caucus

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Amar Shergill became the first ever South Asian to lead a caucus in the history of the California Democratic Party (CDP) when he was elected chair of the state Progressive Caucus.

Amar Shergill speaking at the California State Progressive Caucus meeting where he was elected chair May 31, 2019. (Photo courtesy Amar Shergill)

The California Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus is the largest caucus in the organization with more than 700 delegates.

Shergill, who was elected unopposed during the CDP Convention, was born in United Kingdom and brought up in Canada before moving to the United States, he told News India Times.

“More and more, members of the South Asian community are taking leadership roles in civic affairs,” Shergill is quoted saying in the press release. “Whether Hindu, Muslim and Sikh, whether Punjabi, Gujarati or Madrasi, we all need to step forward and help build the America we want to leave behind for our children,” Shergill added.

This Caucus advocates for policies such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and fundamental human rights protections, a May 31, press release said. Shergill, a trial attorney based in Sacramento, California, described plans for the Caucus in his speech, including building on Democratic successes in California, supporting candidates in non-partisan races, and holding Democrats accountable to progressive values.

The CDP Convention, which was held in San Francisco from May 31 to June 2, saw more than 3,000 delegates from across California, who were addressed by eleven presidential candidates including Indian-American Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, and Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren of Washington state.

(At the national level, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is co-chaired by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, and has as First Vice Chair, Rep. Ro Khanna of California. Unlike the Congressional organization by the same name, the CDP’s Progressive Caucus is open to any delegate or member of the party)

During the election process, Shergill received early endorsements from Rep. Khanna, California State Assembly Member Ash Kalra, former Assembly Member Mariko Yamada, as well as Assembly Member Kevin McCarty and the California Nurses Association.

Amar Shergill, left, with Congressman Ro Khanna, D-California, at the California Democratic Convention, May 31, 2019. (Photo: courtesy Amar Shergill)

“The Democratic Party needs clear voices across the country that will do the hard work necessary to elect Democrats that unapologetically advocate for progressive values. Amar Shergill is one of those voices,” Rep. Khanna is quoted saying in the press release.

“Our party needs bold leaders and I trust Amar to uphold the tradition of the Caucus as the conscience of the Party,” Kalra said, adding, “In my role as Vice-Chair of the State Assembly Progressive Caucus, I look forward to working with Amar as we campaign to elect progressive Democrats in 2020.”

Asked whether the Progressive Caucus of the CDP would support all the Indian-American candidates for national and other offices from California, Shergill indicated it would be selective. “For example, (California) Assemblyman Ash Kalra and Congressman Ro Khanna have been fantastic leaders in the progressive movement. You can contrast that with Congressman Ami Bera  who has been a disappointment on issues like Medicare For All, and he generally pursues a centrist path which is pro-corporations and not pro-working families.”

On Sen. Kamala Harris for President, Shergill said, the Indian-American Senator from California “has been doing a really great job and when it comes to the Progressive Caucus, we are continuing our dialogue with her.”

The next meeting of the Progressive Caucus is in San Jose at the CDP executive board meeting from August 23 – 25. “We invite everyone to join us as we celebrate our successes and plan the 2020 campaign. South Asians will have a special welcome in the Progressive Caucus,” the press release said.

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