Winning around the country: Indian-Americans score victories up and down the ballot

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Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois,was re-elected for the third term to Congress Nov. 3, 2020 election day. Photo: Krishnamoorthi.house.gov

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., declared victory election night Nov. 3, 2020, winning his bid to the U.S. House of Representatives for the 8th District of Illinois, to serve his third term.

“I am humbled to win a third term to Congress,” Krishnamoorthi told News India Times. “And I’m very grateful to my constituents and friends for their enormous support. it’s the honor of my life to represent them in Washington, DC.” District 8 includes Chicago’s west and northwest suburbs.

“Today, our country faces enormous and unprecedented economic and public health challenges, Krishnamoorthi said in a statement released the same night. “No matter who controls the White House or the Senate in January, I am committed to doing whatever it takes to bring the country together to implement common-sense solutions that move our country and our people forward,” he added.

Reps. Pete Olson (TX-22) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-7) participate in the traditional lighting of the diya Nov. 14, 2019, during BAPS Swaminarayan’s Advocacy Day and Diwali celebrations on Capitol Hill. Photo: BAPS

Rep. Krishnamoorthi is one among four Indian-Americans in the House of Representatives, to be re-elected. The others are Reps. Ami Bera, D-California, Ro Khanna, D-California, and Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington.

“I’m elated that all four members of what I’ve called the ‘Samosa Caucus’ received a 2-year ‘contract extension’ last night. I look forward to working with them going forward,” Krishnamoorthi told News India Times.

Congressman Ro Khanna, D-California (Photo: Twitter)

If all goes well, the four-member ‘Samosa Caucus’ may add to its ranks as Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, candidate for Congress from Arizona’s 6th District battles to dislodge long-time Republican incumbent David Schweikert. As of this report, the two were neck and neck with Tipirneni leading. By noon Nov. 4, according to someone in her campaign who did not wish to be identified, told News India Times it was a difference of 2,000 votes.

With 100 percent of the precincts in the 8th District reporting election results, Krishnamoorthi had the support of 70.9 percent of voters. His opponent, Libertarian Preston Nelson received 29.2 percent, according to results posted by the Chicago Tribune.

He swept all of the Chicago area major newspaper endorsements on his way to winning re-election to Congress. On Capitol Hill, Krishnamoorthi holds important committee assignments, including chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the powerful Oversight Committee. He is also on the House Intelligence Committee.

Rep. Ro Khanna had another Indian-American, Ritesh Tandon, a Republican, running against him in what is considered a solidly Democratic District 17 in California which lies in the heart of Silicon Valley. Khanna won a decisive 74 percent of the vote to Tandon’s 26 percent, who is a former Obama administration official, has been a high profile member of the Progressive Caucus in Congress and during the primaries supported the candidature of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Rep. Pramila Jayapal is also part of the Progressive Caucus and both have led the call for the Democratic Party to lean further left.

Congressman Ami Bera, D-California. (Photo: Twitter)

Congressman Ami Bera, the senior-most Indian-American elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives, who ran from California’s 7th District, sailed through with 61 percent of the vote to return to Capitol Hill for his fourth term.

“It’s been an honor to represent the people of California’s 7th Congressional District and I am grateful for the trust voters have placed in me once again,” Bera Tweeted, calling for unity to “heal” the country. “We face many difficult challenges ahead, including ending this pandemic, ensuring affordable and quality health care for every American, and growing our economy for working families.”

Jayapal got re-elected from the 7th Congressional District in Washington with a whopping 85 percent of the vote, figures from IMPACT fund show. She was a Washington State Senator before being elected as the first Indian-American woman to Congress.

“WOW, we did it decisively: 85% and 344,541 votes! Thank you thank you thank you, Washington’s 7th! I am humbled, grateful, and ready to serve you again,” Jayapal said on Facebook. “Our path to truly building a more just and equitable country is long. But we are bold, progressive and unafraid — and if we believe in the possible and organize to achieve it, we WILL win!”

Congresswoman Jayapal is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, where she serves as Vice Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee, and on the House Education & Labor and Budget Committees. She is also the elected Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which represents approximately 40% of the entire Democratic caucus; the Immigration Subcommittee Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific Asian Caucus; and a Vice Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus. In Congress, Representative Jayapal has been a leader on immigration issues.

Indian American Impact Fund, a political action committee which raised some $10 million to support candidates of Indian origin, saw several of them win across the country, mostly at state-level, including Jenifer Rajkumar who becomes the second Indian-American to go to Albany in New York state.

“I am humbled and honored to be the first South Asian woman ever to be elected to a government office int he State of New York,” Kumar told News India Times. “But I am certainly not the last one.” She noted how so many Indians, Bengalis, and West Indian families had immigrated to the U.S. like her own, with little in their pockets. “Our story shows that with hard work, persistence and high aspirations there is nothing you cannot achieve in the United States of America. Now we will bring those same values to caring for all New Yorkers, and improving education, health care and quality of life for all,” she added. Kumar was among the TIME magazine’s list of those who “made history” with their wins.

Jenifer Rajkumar at a South Asian grocery store in Queens. She just announced her candidacy for the New York State Assembly from District 38. (Photo: Sultan Khan, courtesy Rajkumar campaign)

The IMPACT list of candidates it had endorsed, is as follows:

Jenifer Rajkumar (NY, State Assembly District 38), 67%-26%

Nima Kulkarni (KY State House, HD-40)

Kesha Ram (VT, State Senate)

Nikil Saval (PA, State Senate)

Jeremy Cooney (NY, State Senate, SD-56), 47%-46%

Pramila Jayapal (WA-07, U.S. House), 85%-15%

Ro Khanna (CA-17, U.S. House), 74%-26%

Ami Bera (CA-07, U.S. House), 61-39

Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08, U.S. House), 71%-29%

Vandana Slatter (WA, State House District 48), 73%-27%

Padma Kuppa (MI, State House 41), 55%-45%

Jay Chaudhuri (NC, State Senate), 58%-36%

Ravi Sandill (TX, 127th District Court Judge), 54%-46%

Amish Shah (AZ, State House AZ-24), 37%-36%

There are several Indian-Americans whose results are yet to be declared but are ahead in their state-level races, according to IMPACT Fund. They include:

Ranjeev Puri (MI State House, District 21), leading 53%-47%

Rupande Mehta (NJ, State Senate), leading 51%-49%

Nina Ahmad (PA, Auditor General), trailing 40%-55%

Nima Kulkarni (Courtesy: Twitter)

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released preliminary results the day after voting day, ofa nonpartisan multilingual exit poll of more than 5,000 Asian American voters who were surveyed in English, as well as nine other Asian languages. It found that Asian Americans strongly favored Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a margin of 67% to 30%. Asian Americans also favored Democratic candidates in close races in Georgia and supported Democratic candidates in Senate races in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia.

However, a significant percentage of Asian Americans, near 30 percent, had no party affiliation. “Asian Americans, now the nation’s fastest growing racial minority group, could play a critical role in determining electoral outcomes in 2020 – particularly in Nevada, Michigan and Pennsylvania,” AALDEF Democracy Program Director Jerry Vattamala is quoted saying in the press release.

One Indian-American candidate who could have turned the Democratic Party’s fortunes in the U.S. Senate lost her bid. Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, lost to Republican incumbent Susan Collins securing just 43 percent of the vote.

Sri Preston Kulkarni running for the U.S. Congress from District 22 in Texas, did not make it either, losing to Republican Troy Nehls.

Republican candidate Nisha Sharma, running for Congress from California’s 11th District lost to Mark De Saulner who secured more than 50 percent of the vote.

In Virginia, GOP Congressional candidate from District 11, Manga Anantatmula, lost to incumbent Democrat Gerry Connolly.

(With updates on Nov. 4, Nov. 5, and 6, 2020)

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