Candidate With Deep Roots In Indian-American Community Running For Congress

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Passaic County Freeholder John Bartlett who is running for the U.S. Congress from New Jersey’s 11th District, with his wife Khyati Joshi, and their 13-year old son. (Photo: courtesy John Bartlett)

Passaic County Freeholder John Bartlett of Wayne, a Democrat, recently announced his candidacy for the U.S. Congress from the 11th Congressional District. In a speech announcing his run, Bartlett drew upon his connections to the Indian-American community to garner support.

“I’m the son of a country doctor. He kept his doctor’s bag in the back of his pickup truck, with a chainsaw in case a downed tree ever stood between him and a patient. Dad’s example of commitment and service guides me every day,” Bartlett is quoted saying in a press release. He is married to Khyati Y. Joshi, a full Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she teaches about race and religion in America. “I’m equally inspired by the example of my father- and mother-in-law, Dr. Yogesh and Madhu Joshi, who traveled halfway across the world, and helped build an Indian American community for themselves and their daughters and so many others,” Bartlett added. Khyati Joshi is also co-chair of the South Asian American Caucus of the N.J. Democratic State Committee.

Bartlett stresses the diversity of his interfaith (Christian and Hindu) and inter-racial family. The family attends St. John’s Episcopal Church in Montclair, and are involved with Hindu temples in the area, the press release said.

A Freeholder for the last five years, Bartlett’s highlights his advocacy on behalf of new immigrant communities, particularly Indian and other South Asian communities, while holding that office. He worked to make government information available in Gujarati and Bengali languages, spoken about government services in mandirs and masjids, and engaged volunteers and religious communities in supporting newly-arrived refugees from Syria and elsewhere, his press release says.

When he launched  his campaign more than a month ago, he worked with the theme  “Leadership starts with listening,” and held “30 coffees in 30 days” – a series of events that took him to several parts of the district for discussions with voters in private homes and diners, including homes of Indian-American constituents, according to his press release.

“Sometimes coffee was coffee, and sometimes – like in Parsippany – ‘coffee’ was chai and nasta,” Bartlett said, brandishing his familiarity with Indian culture and language. “Whatever we were eating and drinking, it was a chance for me to introduce myself and hear what’s on the minds of everyday New Jerseyans.”

His opponent, long time incumbent Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen has been in office since 1995, and the race may be a tough one for Bartlett. District 11 consists of 54 towns in four counties, Essex, Morris, Passaic, and Essex. It covers most of  Morris County, west of New York City, as well as some affluent suburbs of Newark and Paterson.

Frelinghuysen is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He has spoken out against racial violence in Charlottesville saying – “The hatred and violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville must be condemned.” Bartlett has accused Frelinghuysen of supporting President Donald Trump’s agenda and is  calling for “new voices” to represent constituents on Capitol Hill.

Some Indian-Americans Bartlett met during his campaign are quoted saying favorable things about him.  “We hadn’t met John previously, but we came away from the evening impressed by the depth and breadth of John’s knowledge of the issues, his record of results as a Freeholder and his commitment to hear out and respond to all our neighbors’ questions and concerns,” Rob Soni, who hosted a coffee in Randolph along with his wife Rachita, is quoted saying.  “He’s a family man, and understands what it’s like to live in our area.  Everyone who joined us was struck by his ability to speak to the issues we’re concerned about, and issues affecting families like ours,” Soni added.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Bartlett has a bachelor’s degree with honors from Brown University. According to profile on the campaign website, he was also a Raoul Wallenberg Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he met his wife.  Before law school, he also served as communications director for the national anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids in Washington, D.C., and as a barista at Starbucks. He has been recognized with the highest professional rating for attorneys, AV-Preeminent, from Martindale-Hubbell, and was among the New Jersey Law Journal‘s “Forty Under 40” promising young attorneys in 2010. He is a Partner in Murphy Orlando LLC, where his practice includes litigation and counseling for non-profit organizations, election and campaign finance law, and other business and appellate cases.