Indian-American lawmaker elected Democratic Whip in North Carolina

North Carolina State Sen. Jay Chaudhuri being sworn in Jan. 2, after he was re-elected for a second term in November. “This evening at Macedonia New Life Church, I was honored to be sworn in by Justice Mike Morgan to begin my second term. Many thanks to Pastor Stevenson and his congregation for hosting,” Chaudhuri tweeted. He is seen in photo with his wife and children. (Photo: Lorenzo Pedro, courtesy Jay Chaudhuri)

An Indian-American legislator in the state of North Carolina has been elected to a top position by his party.

On Jan. 5, State Senator Jay Chaudhuri, who represents District 15, was unanimously elected by his Senate Democratic colleagues to serve as the second-highest ranking Democrat, the Senate Democratic Whip, for the 2019-2020 General Assembly Session.

The new General Assembly session begins on January 9 and Democrats got a leg up in the November elections. “We picked up 6 new seats so the chamber breakdown is now 21 Ds and 29 R, enough to have broken the GOP supermajority,” in the 50-member Upper House, Chaudhuri noted in an email to News India Times. Chaudhuri is seen as a fighter as well as one able to work with Republicans on issues he considers bipartisan.

“I look forward to being at the leadership table of the North Carolina State Senate so I can make sure all North Carolinians have a shot at the American Dream, the way my parents did when they immigrated to this new land more than a half century ago,” Chudhuri told News India Times.

In the 120-member State Assembly, Democrats total just 45 to the 75 Republicans, The governor of the state is Democrat Roy Cooper, elected in 2016. The divided government has led to conflict between the Governor and the Republican majority legislature with numerous vetoes and overrides.

In his acceptance speech, a copy of which he shared with News India Times, Chaudhuri dwelt on Black history.

“You may ask:  Why have we gathered at a predominantly black church to commemorate and inaugurate the second term of a brown Senator who represents a majority of white constituents?” Chaudhuri prefaced his remarks.  “I will respond by telling you that I believe in America, that I believe in North Carolina in all it’s mosaic of black, white, and brown. I believe this moment, this experience represents the future, not the past.  I believe this moment represents hope, not fear. I believe this moment represent love, not hate.”

Chaudhuri said he was honored and humbled to be the Whip and exited about working with his Democratic colleagues including the 7 new members elected in November. “I look forward to supporting an agenda that invests in public education, builds a North Carolina economy that works for everyone, provides affordable health care, and creates a more compassionate state,” he added, noting, “We still have more than a half million people in our state without health insurance coverage.  We still have too many teachers who work more than one job. We still have one of the greatest disparities of income found in our country in this very county.”

Chaudhuri succeeds State Senator Terry Van Duyn of Buncombe County who stepped down from the whip position to focus on running for Lieutenant Governor. Senator Chaudhuri is serving his second term representing Wake County, N.C.

“A well-deserved promotion for my former boss and great news for NC progressives!” tweeted Jeff DeLuca, who was the legislative assistant to Chaudhuri,  “Congrats Jay and thanks in advance for everything you’re going to do to move NC forward in this role,” DeLuca added.

Chaudhuri has played a high profile role in opposing redistricting, and new voter ID regulations, and for gun control, strengthening public education, computer science education, and number of other issues in North Carolina.

Chaudhari is a attorney by profession, and is Of Counsel at Cohen Milstein, in Raleigh, N.C. Before joining Cohen Milstein, Chaudhuri served as General Counsel & Senior Policy Advisor at the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer, the sole trustee of the state’s $90 billion pension fund and administrator of the $8 billion defined contribution plan, the law firm’s website says. In that position, Chaudhuri oversaw all legal and corporate governance matters.  He is credited with recovering more than $100 million for the pension and unclaimed property funds, including settlements with a real estate investment manager and custodian bank.  He played a key role in uncovering alleged wrongdoing that led to eight investment managers paying the pension fund back $15 million and tougher, cutting-edge ethical standards for these managers, the website notes.





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