‘Change Can’t Wait’ says Illinois school teacher starting early for 2026 elections to Congress

Nikhil Bhatia, Democratic candidate for the 2024 party primaries in his run for US Congress for 2026. Seen here with his wife Alison and children. PHOTO: campaign website @bhatiaforcongress.com

Nikhil Bhatia, an “urban educator” as his campaign website says, is starting early in his run for Congress. Bhatia has registered with the Federal Election Commission already for the Democratic primary scheduled for March 19, 2024, when he hopes he can get the party’s nomination for the General Elections in 2026.

His slogan and recurring theme, therefore, may be appropriate, even as he displays the patience to build his campaign over the coming months for an election three years from now.

“Change Can’t Wait” says the aspiring Indian American, running for the Congressional District 7 endorsement. The “safe” Democratic  District has been represented by veteran politician, Rep. Danny K. Davis, who has courted and been a favorite of his Indian-Americans constituents. And he has made clear that even though in his 80s, he is not stopping after the 2024 elections and plans to run again for 2026.

Like many other Indian American candidates for any public office, Bhatia thanks his parents for where he is now. “His inspiration begins with his parents, who moved from India to the United States so their children could have endless opportunities,” says the campaign website, adding, “Nikhil’s parents rose from humble beginnings to become physicians through the power of education.”

Bhatia has spent his own career as a teacher in what he describes as “under-resourced communities,” and his writings elsewhere indicate it has been mostly in the South Side of Chicago.

According to FEC filings for District 7, Bhatia currently has two other Democratic contenders, apart from incumbent Rep. Davis, namely, Melissa Conyears-Erwin, and Kip Knutson.

DAVIS, DANNY K. MR.DEMOCRATIC PARTY$10,078.00$120,693.18$110,022.58Coverage ending: 03/31/2023
View all
CONYEARS-ERVIN, MELISSADEMOCRATIC PARTY$0.00$0.00$0.00No processed data this period.
KNUTSON, KIPDEMOCRATIC PARTY$0.00$0.00$0.00No processed data this period.
BHATIA, NIKHILDEMOCRATIC PARTY$0.00$0.00$0.00No processed data this period.


Source: FEC.gov

A middle-school math teacher, Bhatia also served as a principal for five years. During the pandemic, he went back to school at night to get a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, “in order to study how we can tackle the systematic issues that oppress many of our communities,” the website says.

Bhatia was elected to the local school council of his daughter’s Chicago Public School, Galileo Scholastic Academy.  He is   married to Alison, and the couple has two children.

Bhatia believes that teaching and raising kids has given him a “unique insight into the needs of students and families in Chicago.”

He points to issues such as gun violence, student debt, economic inequity, a warming planet, “and a democracy in peril” as his reasons for trying to join policymakers on Capitol Hill.

“… to provide a better future for our children, we can’t keep sending the same career politicians to Washington and hope for a different result,” Bhatia says, contending that leaders who can relate to today’s challenges and have fresh ideas are needed.

“Nikhil is running because change can’t wait,” is the slogan he has chosen to stand by.

Nikhil Bhatia. PHOTO: linkedin @nikhil-bhatia

In a letter to the publication Daily Kos, Bhatia indicated he had aspirations for being in politics since he was in college and did participated as an intern in fundraising for a Congressional race. “A lot has changed in 17 years,” personally and politically, including 4 presidential terms, he said, but “Through it all, my passion for the progressive movement has stayed the same.

Identifying himself as “brown” and Indian American, he noted, “Mom and Dad did not grow up with much.  My dad’s family were refugees who fled their village during India’s partition.  My mom’s family lived in disputed Kashmir without heat.  They were able to build a better future our family through the power of education: they became doctors and moved to the United States after marriage so my siblings and I could be born here,” Bhatia says.

“I realized quite early on that Chicago is about as segregated as it gets.  Cross one street and public schools can go from opulent to terribly under-resourced.  I’ve spent my entire adult life in urban education, trying to give black and brown students the same opportunities I had growing up.  America worked for me.  I want it to work for everyone’s kids,” Bhatia said.

“But after having done 9 years as a teacher, 5 years as a middle school principal, and studying nights to get a masters in public policy, I can say this with certainty: America is NOT working for all of our kids.  Something needs to change,” he adds.

In a sometimes emotional tone, he said, “I’ve seen the deck stacked against out students.  I’ve been to funerals for their siblings.  I’ve walked them two blocks to the library after school so I could confirm to their parents that they are safe.  I’ve taught them, again and again, what to do if there is an active shooter in the building.  We have to do better for them.  That’s why I’m running for Congress.”

He took a swipe at incumbent Rep. Davis, saying the 15-term Congressman who said he intends to run in 2026 as well. “Well, put simply, Danny isn’t doing the job anymore.”

Asserting that his kids could not wait for safer and better schools, Bhatia says he is not going to take any corporate donations in his race, or be obligated to any special interests, and that to bring about progressive change it necessary to reform the country’s democracy.

“They can’t wait for safer and better schools.  They can’t wait for us to address climate change.  They can’t wait for another Uvalde.  Change can’t wait,” he reiterates.

According to Bhatia, the government is out of step with public opinion on issues ranging from gun control to abortion rights.

“We need massive democratic reform: voting rights, changing campaign finance laws, term limits for legislators and judges, banning stock trading in Congress, abolishing the electoral college, adding Washington D.C. as the 51st state, and eliminating gerrymandering nationwide.  We need a 21st century democracy,” Bhatia said in the Daily Kos letter.



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