In a hotly contested Democratic primary in Michigan’s District 11, the Indian-American candidate for Congress recently released a campaign video featuring his famous brother.
Suneel Gupta, candidate for the U.S. Congress from Michigan’s 11th District where he was born and brought up, has launched a campaign video laying out his commitment to fighting for affordable and accessible healthcare. The video on his campaign website, suneelgupta.com, features his famous older brother, Dr. Sanjay Gupta famed medical correspondent of CNN, a household name in this country and worldwide.
“As I tell people – I’m still trying to make my mother proud, while Sanjay has made hundreds of mothers proud,” he quipped in an exclusive interview with Desi Talk. This was a tongue-in-cheek reference from the former vice president of Groupon holding an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, and a JD from Northwestern Law School, who was sworn-in by Justice John Roberts to practise before the U.S. Supreme Court, and till recently, was CEO of Rise, a successful healthcare company that was recruited by former First Lady Michelle Obama in her Partnership for a Healthier America initiative.
The video focuses on how growing up with two chronically ill parents shapes Suneel Gupta’s commitment to fighting for quality health care for all Americans, and who better to endorse that view than Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who says that his brother is uniquely prepared to lead the fight for affordable quality health care in Congress.
The Cook Political Report calls the 11th Congressional District seat a “Toss-up” come Nov. 6, and Democrats are hoping to turn Red to Blue in their bid to reverse the 4.4 percent advantage by which Donald Trump won there. Before that goal can be tackled, however, multiple Democrats are fighting with each other to get the party’s endorsement in the Aug. 7 primary.
Suneel Gupta is facing off against those Democrats – State Rep. Tim Greimel who appears to have an edge with the endorsement of U.S. Senator Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and several large labor unions including teachers and the Service Employees International Union; Haley Stevens, former chief of staff on the Auto Task Force in the U.S. Treasury Department; Dan Haberman, attorney and small businessman; Fayrouz Saad, an economic development advocate, community organizer, former Obama administration official, most recently working with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan; and lastly, Nancy Skinner, who was defeated in her race for the same seat back in 2014.
“I’m ahead of everyone else. In a recent straw poll, I was number one. I’ve raised more than the others. So I have all the ingredients,” to win the primary, Suneel Gupta told Desi Talk. He recently quit Rise, the company he and Dr. Sanjay Gupta started in 2012, and is “one hundred percent” focused on his campaign, one in which the large South Asian-American population in District 11, is significantly involved.
Apart from South Asians, he says, “We have also engaged the larger community in District 11 because the issues are the same – good paying jobs, good schools, healthcare — these are the issues that keep us up at night.” He has 200 volunteers beating the pavement walking door-to-door and he is doing the same.
“One-on-one is the best way, and as an Indian-American it is even more important to do this. We have not sent anyone to Congress with my name and my look,” he added. “We have a campaign ready to take on the Republican who wins their primary,” Suneel Gupta claimed.
The District 11 seat became vacant when incumbent Republican David Trott, announced last September he is not running for re-election. Republican Kerry Bentivolio, a former U.S. representative defeated by Trott in 2014, is seeking a win in the Republican primary Aug. 7. Other Republicans in the primary are businesswoman Lena Epstein, former Michigan House Majority Leader Rocky Raczkowski, and Michigan State Senator Mike Kowall.
In the video, Dr. Sanjay Gupta says of his younger sibling – “I think the various skill sets that he’s had, the things that he’s learned, the contacts that he made — he’s bringing them all together for the benefit of the people with whom he grew up in this district.”
The Indian-American candidate’s commitment to improving health outcomes grew out of his personal experiences, the press release says, watching his father’s struggles with diabetes, hypertension and triple bypass heart surgery. His mother’s successful battle with cancer was another big influence.
In the video, Suneel Gupta says that five percent of patients represent 50 percent of the costs in the American health care system, and argues that the treatment of preventable chronic diseases is both a moral and financial imperative.
His website lays down his priorities, the highest being affordable quality healthcare, a goal that he believes can be achieved by — Using collective bargaining power to lower the cost of prescription drugs; prioritizing the opioid epidemic, and holding the drug companies accountable; plus acknowledging and investing in mental health care. He also calls for a “world-class” education for every student.
According to his campaign’s calculations, the last competitive party primary attracted some 40,000 Democrats to the polls, and this one promises to bring a higher number.
Suneel Gupta has displayed great prowess as a fundraiser. A couple of months ago, his campaign announced it has raised $1 million, all from individual contributions, Gupta says. “That is what we need, a movement where lots and lots of people are engaged.”
Suneel Gupta hearkens to his mother as an inspiration, being the first woman engineer to be hired by the Ford Motor Company back in 1967; and his father who worked in the auto industry for 3 decades. They were both laid off April 4, 2001.
The candidate who calls himself “a proud Michigander,” went to Novi public schools and washed dishes on nights and weekends at Salvatore Scallopini’s. He was named in the New York Stock Exchange magazine as “The New Face of Innovation” in 2015.
After studying computer programming at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, he worked in state government as well as the United States Navy. He was later recruited to Groupon as the first VP of Product Development.
In 2012, Suneel and Dr. Sanjay Gupta co-created Rise, a healthcare company that uses technology with the goal of shrinking the cost of quality health care. After the start-up served more than 1,000 patients, then First Lady Michelle Obama asked Rise to be her team’s official technology partner. “Through this public-private partnership, together they delivered health coaching to lower-income areas of the country,” the website says.
In 2016, Michael Bloomberg convened a bi-partisan commission on the Future of Work, and Suneel Gupta was asked to join and bring Rise’s lessons to policymakers.
He has lectured on entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan and been named a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University.
He is married to Leena Rao, a journalist who most recently wrote for Fortune Magazine. They have two daughters – Sammy, 5, and Serena, 1.