Seema Singh Perez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and domestic violence activist, is the first Indian-American to win a seat on the Knoxville, Tennessee City Council in the Nov. 7 election. She ran as a Independent and defeated her opponent, James Corcoran, by over 2,000 votes.
“This is a win for the City Council Movement and this is people coming together and saying we want to be represented. We used so little money and many hours, this is about people caring about their government,” she told Knox News.
“My campaign was successful due to the volunteering energy of residents of Knoxville that have been involved with social justice work of all kinds shifting their focus to electoral politics,” Singh Perez told the Real News Network.
Knoxville is nearly 80% white and has been cited as one of the most affordable cities to live in the U.S., although the poverty rate is 31.2 percent, over twice the national average, according to the Real News Network report.
Singh Perez’s parents were both social workers, which inspired her to make it her career. She has worked with women’s reproductive health, HIV/AIDs patients, the homeless, and is currently running a jail alternative program for domestic violence offenders. She was inspired to run for political office by Bernie Sanders’ emphasis on social justice issues, however is concerned over the rise of Trump and the racist far-right.
In December, she will be formally sworn in as one of nine members on Knoxville’s City Council.
“The policies that most places, including Knoxville, have followed I think have been very well intentioned, but there’s certain things that need to be questioned in order to serve those that are continuously left behind,” Singh Perez is quoted saying, adding that she “feels my role on the City Council is to look at these policies and decisions and bring different viewpoints to them, from different perspectives.”
According to her website, as Councilwoman Singh Perez said she will focus on the economic development of Knoxville, update the city zoning codes while making the city neighborhoods more walk-able and bike-able with easy access to public transportation and bridge the property tax gap by bringing revenue from other sources.
Singh Perez was born in India and became a naturalized US citizen at age 13 and has been living in Knoxville for more than 40 years, she is the program coordinator for a Domestic Violence Offender’s Intervention program and owns a business with her husband Eddie and has a daughter in middle school, says a Knox Commerce report.