Patel poses challenge to longtime incumbent Rep. Maloney, Wants Indian-Americans to rally behind him

Candidate for Congress from NY District 12, Suraj Patel (Profile pic from Twitter)

Candidate for Congress from New York Suraj Patel, says he needs the community to rally behind him to send the first Indian-American from the Empire State to Capitol Hill.

This Feb. 4. 2020, the Patel for Congress campaign touted the fact that he had out-raised incumbent Democrat Carolyn B. Maloney in District 12 which covers the affluent Upper East Side, and also parts of Brooklyn.

The New York primaries which are scheduled for June 23, 2020, will see Patel trying once again after 2018, to oust Rep. Maloney, who won the Nov. 6, 2018 elections with a thumping 86.4 percent of the vote, and the primary against Patel with 59.6 percent.

However, Patel’s  40.4 percent in that 2018 primary confrontation, was hardly shabby, which gave him the boost to try again this year.

Patel draws heavily from his Indian-American background –the early days of his parents immigrating to the U.S., building their hospitality business, then the recession and how they climbed out of it. His is an appealing story of achieving the American Dream and his social media sites contain images of those days, and also his experiences growing up and getting an Ivy League education.

“I speak Gujarati, Hindi. I do not forget where I came from,” Patel told News India Times, doing the interview while on a public bus on his way to the Upper East Side in Manhattan.

Back in 2010, another Indian-American, Reshma Saujani, dared to go against Maloney who who has held that seat since 1992. Saujani was even backed by some prominent Democratic donors. But she was handily defeated getting just 19 percent of the vote in the primary.

The scenario appears to have changed with the youth cohort led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her surprise upset of former Congressman Joe Crowley, also a long time incumbent like Maloney.

Millennials are registering their presence. And Patel may be banking on that cohort to help him outdo Maloney who, his campaign says, had over $200,000 more than Patel on hand at this juncture in 2018.

“In invite every Indian-American in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, to get behind me. The community can volunteer and help us. I really think we are going to win because of the community,” Patel said, adding, “So many young people come to us to volunteer. For so many years, we had no other alternative (than Maloney), but many people know we can do better.”

This time Patel has raised more than $370,000 from individuals last quarter, and that despite not accepting corporate PAC donations. He has $345,266.98 cash on hand, according to Federal Election Campaign filings and total of individual contributions standing at $372,440.59.

By the end of 2019, Maloney had $324,349 cash on hand according to FEC filings. However, overall for the year 2019, Maloney raised more than a million dollars.

For a successful campaign, Patel told News India Times, “We need $950,000 more. And we need it from individuals whose maximum limit is $2,800.”

Patel has been releasing a string of policy position over the month as a progressive Democrat, with plans that include creating debt-free options to higher education, ending for-profit colleges and legacy admissions, as well as universal paid family leave, a public option for daycare, universal pre-K, Medicare for kids, and universal basic income for kids.

The activist, organizer and lawyer by training, is an adjunct professor at Stern Business School at New York University. His biography on the NYU Stern website says during the 2018 election  cycle, his participation increased millennial turnout by 797 percent over the previous 2016 election cycle.

“The Indian community and the Indian family structure including my family’s way is to treat each other like we are family. … So many that I meet say they want to help,” especially young Indian-Americans, Patel said.

The 36 year old attorney and businessman who served in both Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012, hopes this millennial generation will see him to victory in the primaries.

Suraj Patel campaigning (Photo Twitter)

However, not only has Maloney’s position in the House of Representatives strengthened, becoming chair of the powerful Oversight Committee which holds the promies of bringing in more dollars for her district, but, she has a deep record with Indian-Americans in greater New York having been closely involved with the campaign to bring out the Diwali stamp, and being a familiar figure in all community celebrations.

Patel however, indicated in his interview with this correspondent, that Maloney had taken up Indian-American causes that were not necessarily bread and butter ones, like the Diwali stamp. “We can do better not just for Indians, but for everyone.  We want real change – in the H-1B visa, small business reform. That is not a black, white, or Indian issue,” he said, adding, “We are winning over her prior supporters.”

Patel has been involved in helping found and build communities like The Arena and Creative Caucus to support a new generation of American leaders says the NYU bio. He holds a BA in Political Science from Stanford University, a Masters in Public Policy from Cambridge, and a law degree from NYU.

A video on his Twitter site ( traces the family’s history). “When my parents emigrated from India in the late 1960s in search of economic opportunity, we fit three generations of our family in a two-bedroom apartment over the bodega we were running,” Patel recalls on his sight “My dad got a job working the night shift fixing subway tracks, and eventually we started a family business in hospitality. I grew up bussing tables, filling vending machines, doing motel laundry, and helping out on construction sites,” he notes.

The financial crisis knocked down his parents’ business, and the family faced tough times.  “My parents had worked hard to send me and my brothers to college, and now we had to step up and guide our family’s hospitality company through immense financial hardship and back to growth. I know what it’s like to make payroll when times are tough. Empty storefronts are not political talking points to me, they’re personal,” Patel says in a relatable message for Indian-American immigrants.

“Upward mobility is the promise of New York, but lately it feels like the exception rather than the rule,” Patel says, declaring, “we need leaders with vision that is bold and progressive. Working people, small business owners, immigrants, activists, and educators on both sides of the East River deserve to be heard, and I will represent each and every one of us.”



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