Indian-American candidate gets boost in run for Illinois State Senate

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Ram Villivalam, candidate for Illinois State Senate from District 8, with his wife Elizabeth. (Photo: election website ramforsenate.com)

The Chicago Tribune, Illinois’ leading paper, has endorsed an Indian-American candidate running for Illinois State Senate.

Ram Villivalam, who was born and raised on the Northwest side of Chicago, got a real boost to his campaign for the State Senate from District 8, when the Tribune endorsed him Feb. 22. He threw his hat into the ring following sexual harassment charges against fellow Democrat, incumbent Ira Silverstein, last November. If elected he will become the first Indian-American in the Illinois State Senate. If Villivalam wins the March 20 primary, he will be a shoe-in for the November elections in this Democratic leaning district. Illinois has one Indian-American legislator, Raja Krishnamoorthi, also a Democrat, on Capitol Hill.

The former legislative coordinator for Service Employees International Union, “is policy proficient, engaged and prepared to push back against the Democrat establishment,” the Chicago Tribune said in its endorsement Feb. 22. His Democratic rivals for the March 20 primary —  Caroline McAteer-Fournier, a community activist; and David Zulkey, an attorney — the paper said, “are both strong contenders, but Villivalam’s policy chops give him the edge.” The Tribune does not mention another Indian-American Democrat, Zehra Quadri, running for the same seat. And obviously, it does not consider Silverstein as a serious contender.

“We need a new generation in government, and more diversity,” Villivalam told News India Times. “Ram knows It is far past time we reform Springfield culture and the culture of workplaces in our community.Ram fully supports a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment. Women need to be believed, and men need to be held accountable,” his website says.

Though Silverstein was cleared of charges, the report that came out described his conduct as “unbecoming of a legislator,” and the Chicago Tribune in at least two editorials, slammed the State Senator and demanded why he was still in office.

The Tribune is the 2nd major paper after Chicago Sun Times to recognize the Indian-American’s potential as a leader.

Villivalam said he expects to raise the $200,000 needed to run his campaign. His District 8 he told News India Times, has the largest concentration of Asian Americans (25 percent) in the state, and a majority of those are of South Asian origin.

Leading Democrats at the federal and state level, have already endorsed Villivalam. They include U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider, Mike Quigley, Danny K. Davis, and Krishnamoorthi; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; State Senators Laura Murphy and Omar Aquino; and State Rep. Theresa Mah as well as a host of labor organizations, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, Citizens Action, as well as the Indo-American Democratic Organization.

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