Indian-American Democratic candidate from Florida has high hopes in Republican District

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Sanjay Patel, candidate for the U.S. Congress from the heavily Republican District 8 in Florida, raised more than his opponent in the 2nd Quarter though his total campaign haul lags behind Rep. Bill Posey. The Indian-American candidate is seen here taking a selfie while campaigning with his supporters and volunteers. (Photo: Facebook)

Sanjay Somabhai Patel, a political activist and founder of a non-profit, raised more than his Republican incumbent in the 2nd Quarter, in Florida’s Congressional District 8, according to news reports. However, he lags far behind Rep. Bill Posey, in funds available for a race to Nov. 6, though Democrats contend there may be a ‘blue wave’ unfolding in Florida.

That is what Patel also believes going by his comments in an interview with News India Times. Not only did he get more signatures than his opponent when he registered his candidacy, Patel points out, but his door-knocking campaign far outstrips that of Posey, he says and he is reaching out to individuals regardless of party affiliation. A couple day ago, Patel said, he convinced an obviously Republican supporter who loves fishing, that he would be the best candidate to prevent pollution creeping up in the waters. “He told me he has been fishing for 30 years and now could not see through the pollution and algae. And he asked me-You say you’re going to fight for the environment? I said , ‘One hundred percent,’ and he responded – ‘Then I’m voting for you a hundred percent’,” Patel recounted.

The Federal Election Commission data shows Patel raised a total of $192,271.90 by the end of the 2nd quarter June 30 to Posey’s much larger campaign war-chest, $642,003.77.  However, in the 2nd quarter alone Patel raised $101,000, which according to the news outlet Floridapolitics.com, is $30,000 more than Rep. Bill Posey, who raised $67,775 in the same period.

The FEC data shows Patel’s total “cash on hand” of $160,296.92. A plus for Patel is that most of the contributions he received ($176,594.62) came from individual donations. He has so far put in only $5,584.28 of his own money into the campaign.

Rep. Posey has received $237,246 of his total cash-on-hand ($642,003.77) from various interest groups including the Asian American Hotel Owners Association which comprises of mainly Indian-American hotel and motel owners; American Bankers Association Political Action Committee (PAC), Lockheed Martin Corporation Employees’ PAC; National Association of Mortgage Brokers; UBS Americas Inc. PAC; Comcast Corporation & NBCUniversal PAC; and the  National Beer Wholesalers Association PAC among others.

“In this district too many people are struggling to make ends meet – with rising rents, cost of healthcare, education. And people representing them are not listening,” Patel told News India Times. “People are really ready for change,” he contends.

Patel was one of Brevard County’s elected delegates to the Democratic National Convention in 2016. He spent several weeks at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota where protests were staged against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and has since been elected State Committeeman of the Brevard Democratic Party (BrevardDems) As State Committeeman of BrevardDems, Patel was appointed to a statewide Resolutions Committee of the Party, and won a “golden gavel” award for knocking the most doors of any county in the state, his bio says on the campaign website.

His wife Stacey Patel, chairs the Democratic Executive Committee of Brevard Democratic Party. She was a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2016 convention. The two are seen as a “power couple” in Brevard.

He is the only candidate from the Democratic Party to have launched the attempt to displace a five-term incumbent Republican, and faces no opponents in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary. The Cook Political Report which rates various districts, describes District 8 as “Solid Republican,” and it is hard to see how Patel could dethrone Posey who won more than 63 percent of the vote in 2016, and close to 66 percent in 2014, according to Florida Division of Elections results carried in Ballotpedia.

However, Patel’s fundraising profile cannot be discounted. Out of nearly 1,300 individual contributions received in the second quarter, 94% were under $200, and the average was $68. 84% of Q2 donors are from Florida, and 70% live in the district.

Patel’s campaign also reported a dozen endorsements – including an endorsement by the Justice Democrats, an important early supporter of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaign in New York.  Other endorsements included the Brevard Federation of Teachers (BFT), Moms Demand Action, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the AFL-CIO, the Space Coast Labor Council, Our Revolution, as well as Florida Democratic Party’s LGBTA Caucus, Progressive Caucus, Environmental Caucus, Young Democrats, and College Democrats organizations.

“Together, we will win and work together to make healthcare a human right for every American, protect our environment, secure the American Dream for working families, and ensure that every kid can get a great education from pre-K through college or trade school without a lifetime of debt,” Patel said in his press release which he sent to News India Times.

Despite Posey’s strong standing, Patel hopes to make a good showing based on his activist background. The Indian-American candidate has worked in the government, corporate and non-profit sectors, is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles, with a degree in Economics, and began his career in technology, strategy and consulting roles at Deloitte, Genentech and the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency. He then launched a small consulting business in San Francisco, and subsequently founded a non-profit that used social media to raise funds for “changemakers” across the globe, says his bio on the campaign website.

“I Am The American Dream”

Patel has lived in Brevard for nearly a decade, relocating from California with his wife whose family has called Satellite Beach home for generations, his profile says.

Recounting his life on his website, Patel says he came to the U.S. when he was less than a year old and his parents had little money and knew little English, nor did they have the “right papers to stay here.”

“After Reagan gave our family a path to citizenship in the 80s, my parents owned their own businesses, an ice cream parlor and eventually their own convenience store,” he says.

“I am the American Dream, a first generation immigrant, the son of parents who have barely a high school education, a graduate of UCLA with a degree in Economics who has built a small business and a nonprofit, and led transformative efforts in business, philanthropy and politics,” Patel says on his website

“As Congressman, I will work to reform America’s immigration policy to ensure that we protect Americans, but even more importantly, that we protect what it means to be an American,” he adds.

 

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