Indian American economist Chetan Panda has put his name into the hat with hopes of representing the 25th Congressional District in Texas.
Running as a Democrat, Panda, who was born in Kingston, N.Y. and grew up in Austin, Texas, will have to beat fellow Democrats Chistopher Perri and Kathi Thomas in the March 2018 primary to have a chance at unseating Republican incumbent Rep. Roger Williams in the general election next November.
The son of immigrants from India, a mother who is an educator and a father who is a business owner, Panda said he is running for Congress to give people their chance at achieving the American dream (see earlier India-West story here).
“I am running because I want everyone to have a shot at their own American dream. As the son of immigrants, I am grateful for the opportunities that this community and country have given my family and me,” he told India-West. “I was fortunate to grow up in a place where people supported me and helped me find success. I want all Americans to have the same opportunities.”
Panda added that President Donald Trump’s policies, specifically the immigration ban, that create barriers also served as a catalyst in his decision to run.
Earning an international economics degree from Georgetown University, doing a year of study abroad at the London School of Economics in the process, Panda began working while he was still studying at global mutual fund firm Dimensional Fund Advisors.
During his time there, he was entrusted with managing billions of dollars in retirement funds and leading a program that earned additional revenue on behalf of retirees. Additionally, he solved complex problems, created new products and worked with people from different groups and companies to get things done.
"Now I want to apply my expertise, energy and forward thinking on behalf of the 25th District of Texas," he said, as to why he is a strong candidate for the 25th Congressional District in the state. “Second, as a millennial and an Asian American, I bring a unique perspective to an increasingly diverse constituency that deserves a representative who embraces and represents diverse viewpoints, not just his own. Lastly, I grew up in the community and spent the better part of my life here. My commitment to helping my community and its residents thrive runs deep.”
The candidate believes his unique combination of experiences lends to accomplishing his goals if elected into Congress, setting himself apart from his primary opponents, Perri and Thomas.
Specifically in reference to the incumbent, Williams, Panda said “everything” is different between the two.
“Roger Williams is a party mouthpiece who has voted with Donald Trump 94 percent of the time. My opponent is a professional politician who is out-of-touch with the district," the Indian American explained. "He has taken votes that unequivocally harm people, including voting to repeal the ACA and voting against aid for communities affected by hurricanes and wildfires."
What’s more, Panda says his youth, innovation, energy and new perspective will be beneficial to the district.
Panda has a comprehensive platform which he hopes to tackle if elected to Congress.
Among the issues he hopes to work on include making healthcare affordable for all, creating jobs to strengthen the economy, energizing education, protecting the environment, investing in infrastructure, modernizing the rural economy, breaking down barriers for women, empowering the veterans, advocating for equality and LGBT rights, and keeping the community safe.
"I want to focus on building a 21st century economy that works for everyone. We need to make our government more efficient. And we need to adapt our government to the changing economy, like expanding education and the social safety net to meet the needs of 21st century workers," Panda said. "From there, a lot of other positive policy changes can come in areas such as healthcare, infrastructure and clean energy."
The platform promises much, but the community seem to be responding to Panda in the early going of the campaign.
Panda Oct. 26 announced his campaign has raised nearly $60,000 for the race this quarter, more than double the next closest candidate, Perri, who raked in $27,822.03. And on Nov. 1 Panda posted on Facebook that his campaign was approaching another fundraising milestone.
And while he says he is “all-in” on his campaign and wants to help the community thrive, Panda said his intent is not to be a lifer in politics.
“I don't aspire to be a professional politician like Roger Williams,” he said. “I think I have the experience, the energy, and the ideas to bring positive change and do great things for my community, and I hope that results in being elected, so I can serve the people of the 25th District for as long as I continue to accomplish those things.”
If elected, Panda would become the first Indian American member of Congress in Texas.