The re-election victory of Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, was called early after polls closed in Illinois, in the U.S. midterm elections today. The first Indian-American to be on Capitol Hill from the state of Illinois, Krishnamoorthi represents the 8th District.
In an interview soon after, Krishnamoorthi told News India Times he hoped Democrats would get the majority in the House of Representatives, which would lead to a radical leadership change in all committees. As election results rolled in, talking heads predicted a House takeover by Democrats.
According to unofficial results declared by Associated Press, Krishnamoorthi won 66.3 percent of the vote against another Indian-American Republican J.D. Diganvker’s 33.7 percent, with 58 percent of the precincts reporting.
“It feels good,” Krishnamoorthi said. “The victory validates our approach in the first term. Where we disagreed with the President, we said so, but where we didn’t, we worked with the other side,” he said noting a Skills Training bill he took the leadership on and got passed in the House.
Decisive victories were in store for the other Indian-American lawmakers on the West Coast, Reps. Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, in California, cruised to their wins. According to Associated Press calls, Khanna had 72.3 percent of the vote in the bag with 89 percent of the precincts reporting, against his Republican opponent Ron Cohen (27.7 percent); Bera won with 52.7 percent to his Republican opponent Andrew Grant’s 47.3 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Associated Press reported Rep. Pramila Jayapal in Washington State would win, and with 76 percent of the precincts reporting, the first Indian-American woman to get into Congress, had won 83.4 percent of the vote to her opponent Craig Keller’s 16.6 percent.
New candidates like Sri Preston Kulkarni, a Democrat running in the 22nd Congressional District in Texas, and Hiral Tipirneni in Arizona’s 8th, made good showings, but as this went to press each of them was behind their Republican opponents. Kulkarni had 46.1 percent of the vote to incumbent Pete Olson’s 51.9 percent with 37 percent of the precincts reporting; Tipirneni had lost with 43.7 percent to incumbent Debbie (56.3 percent). The same fate awaited Anita Malik, who ran for Arizona’s 6th District, with 43.6 percent to Republican incumbent David Schweikert’s 56.4 percent. Needless to note, all these candidates braved Republican leaning districts because they believed voter mood may have shifted away from President Trump’s policies.
Sanjay Patel, candidate for Congress from Florida’s 8th Congressional District trailed with 39.4 percent, losing to incumbent Republican Bil Posey (60.6 percent). Sri Preston Kulkarni, one of the most high-profile candidates and former foreign service officer, who ran for the U.S. Congress from Texas’ 22nd District fell short with 46.4 percent of the vote to incumbent Republican Pete Olson’s 51.4 percent, which nevertheless, was a great show of force by the Indian-American.
“Regardless of what these results are for Indian-Americans, these races signify that Indian Americans are continuing to make gains,” Krishnamoorthi contended. “We should not at all be disappointed. I took the silver medal the first time I ran, and then I took the gold medal,” he said about his past efforts to win public office.
There were however, several firsts for Indian-Americans at the state level.
Josh Kaul won his race for Attorney General of Wisconsin in a close race. According to Madison.com news, late-counted ballots from Milwaukee County and mail-in ballots vaulted Kaul to the leading position after being neck-and-neck with incumbent state Attorney General Brad Schimel.
Kevin Thomas became the first Indian-American to win a seat in Albany, N.Y., in his race for the New York State Senate from District 6; Nimi Kulkarni in Kentucky was another first. Amish Shah won a seat in the Arizona State House from District 24; Ram Villivalam got in from District 8, into the Illinois State Senate, another first for an Indian-American.
“We’re proud to stand with you, @Nima4StateRep, and congratulate you on being the first Indian American elected in Kentucky!” tweeted the Indian-American Impact Fund, founded early this year to support candidates from the community. Nima Kulkarni ran for the Kentucky State Legislature from District 40.
With the House of Representatives flipping to Democrats as predicted, Krishnamoorthi said, he expected the ‘change of guard’ to bring more power and responsibilities in the hands of Democratic lawmakers including the four Indian-Americans. “All of us, I hope, will have a greater role, a bigger voice. We bring a lot to the table,” Krishnamoorthi told News India Times.
Padma Kuppa, running for the Michigan State House from District 41, became the first Indian-American woman in the legislature. “We did it- together we flipped 41! Thanks to all our supporters – the journey was rewarding: meeting and reconnecting with so many neighbors and friends, new and old, and listening to their concerns, talking about our shared values. Proud to have run a clean & positive campaign!” Kuppa tweeted.
Some other notable wins include the election of Harry Singh Sidhu as the first Indian-American mayor of Anaheim, a large city in California. “I am honoured and thrilled to lead the charge in unifying our city once again,” Sidhu is quoted saying in mynation.com, after his electoral victory. Sidhu, who defeated Ashleigh Aitken Nov. 6, was on the city council from 2002 to 2012, and becomes the third mayor of Sikh origin, to lead a city. Yuba City already boasts a woman, Mayor Preet Didbal, and Hoboken, N.J., has Mayor Ravinder Bhalla, both of them elected earlier this year.
In addition, according to the news site Communityimpact.com from Houston, TX, Indian-American K.P. George, ousted incumbent Republican Judge of Fort Bend County Robert Hebert.
“With 100 percent of vote centers reporting, George garnered 132,298 votes, or 52.91 percent, while Hebert garnered 117,747 votes, or 47.09 percent,” the website reported, noting that Hebert had held the office for 15 years. George has been a Fort Bend Independent School District trustee.
Meanwhile, “the party started early” at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in his district, where Krishnamoorthi’s supporters gathered to celebrate his victory.
According to some estimates, close to 100 Indian-Americans are running for various offices up and down the ballot. Among them, Republican State Representative from Ohio Niraj Antani, who was also re-elected Nov. 6. The youngest Indian-American state elected official in Ohio history and the first Indian-American Republican, Antani will serve his third term in the state House.
Winning his seat again from State District 42, Antani expressed his appreciation for the vote. In a statement released to the media, Antani said, “Representing the community in which I was born and raised is an incredible honor. I work hard every day to make it achievable for all Ohioans to have the opportunity to make their American Dream a reality. Growing up as an Indian-American has greatly influenced my life, and I will continue to proudly represent our community.” First elected at the age of 23, Antani is the youngest serving member in the Ohio State House today at the age of 27.
While the number or percentage of Indian-Americans and South Asians who voted is not out yet, community organizations were at the forefront of mobilizing their members and the general public, both individually and as groups. From religious organizations like BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, advocacy groups like the Hindu American Foundation, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Washington Leaderhip Program, AAPIVictory Fund, and the Impact Fund among others, went online to stir Indian-Americans to vote.
From Texas, the BAPS Mandir tweeted –
#ElectionDay is here! Go out and exercise your civic responsibility and vote! The @BAPS Mandir in Stafford, TX (Houston) is an election polling place today – great to see so many people out to vote!
The organization, SAALT, brought out a 2018 Midterm Election Voter Guide.
Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and Indian-American activists urged people to get to the polls weeks before election day.