Indian American candidates across the country who were vying to claim city council, school board and other local seats in their respective cities, came away winning a vast majority of the elections, while losing some others.
Among the winners during the Nov. 7 general election were a slew from New Jersey including Sam Joshi and Falguni Patel in Edison, Virbhadra ‘Viru’ Patel in Woodbridge, Sangeeta Doshi in Cherry Hill, Shanti Narra in Middlesex County, and Deven Patel and Joyce Mehta in South Brunswick.
Other victorious Indian Americans throughout the country included Vijay Kapoor in Asheville, N.C.; Seema Singh Perez in Knoxville, Tenn.; Dimple Ajmera in Charlotte, N.C.; Satwinder Kaur and Maya Vengadasalam in Kent, Wash.; and Tanika Padhye in Redmond, Wash.
Joshi won one of the three four-year council seats available. His 11,827 was second among the six candidates, behind vote leader Robert Diehl (12,382) and ahead of the other winner Alvaro Gomez (11,717). All three winners are Democrats; all three losers are Republicans.
The 28-year-old financial executive Joshi is a relative newcomer. A lifelong resident of Edison, this was his first time seeking a seat on the council.
He earned his undergraduate degree from Rutgers and a mini-M.B.A. through the Rutgers University Executive Education Program, and is an executive vice president at SD Capital Funding, a mortgage financing firm, and a co-founder of Loanscribe, a student loan refinancing firm.
Joshi since 2004 has been extensively involved in politics in the city. He currently serves as elected vice president of the Middlesex County Young Democrats and has volunteered and/or raised funds for many organizations and foundations.
Joshi, now on the council, intends to hone in on redevelopment and economic growth of the areas near the Edison Train Station.
Doshi was among a group of four Democrats who won the four three-year-termed seats in the Cherry Hill Township. The eight-candidate race saw all the Democratic winners tally more than 7,000 votes while none of the Republican losers scored more than 3,903 votes. Doshi finished fourth with 7,296 votes, nearly 700 behind top vote-getter David Fleisher.
"Thank you all for your faith in us and to all the volunteers who worked so hard for us," Doshi said in a Facebook post following her election night win. "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! I am humbled, honored and excited to get to work!"
Doshi has been a resident of Cherry Hill for 21 years. She has been an active volunteer on the Township Planning and Zoning Boards, and has served on the Domestic Violence Response Team, a group dedicated to addressing issues around the prevention and response to domestic violence.
Additionally, she has been a volunteer in youth athletic associations throughout the township. Doshi is an active member of the Indian cultural center and temple association. Currently, she is focusing on raising her family and volunteering in the community.
The Indian American candidate has held a career in various telecommunications companies including serving as a manager of New England Telephone's Data Voice Center, wireless implementation manager at Sprint Nextel, and vice president of Gael Telecommunications.
Additionally, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Babson College graduate has held the role of director of SBA Network Services, program director of Comcast Cable and chief operating officer at Doshi Home.
This was her first foray into politics, putting her name into the race in April.
Viru Patel was among the five Democrats to claim a Woodbridge City Council seat, doing so in the town’s 4th Ward, representing the Iselin and Menlopark Terrace neighborhoods. Patel topped his Republican counterpart, Paul Danielczyk, by tallying nearly 1,000 more votes, 2,239 to 1,272.
Patel took over the 4th Ward seat from James Major when he resigned last year. The Indian American is very active in Woodbridge's thriving Indian business community.
Patel has previously worked as a senior transportation specialist at NYC DOT and as a civil engineer at Frederic R Harris Inc. His is a graduate of the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Falguni Patel was among the three winners for the Edison School Board, overcoming racist flyers circulated days before the election. She and a Chinese American candidate, Jerry Shi, were targeted in mailings that said that they should both be deported and that "Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.”
Like Joshi, Patel finished sandwiched-in between the other winners with 6,115 votes, behind Jerry Shi’s 6,259 and Beth Moroney’s 5,991.
Deven Patel won the South Brunswick School Board seat, coming in second of the three winners with 4,118 votes, seven ahead of third place Patrick Del Piano (4,111) and more than 700 votes behind top vote-getter Arthur Robinson (4,833). Coming up short in the school board election were Deep Shukla (2,885 votes) and Mahendra Patel (1,974).
Mehta also won a South Brunswick School Board seat, claiming the one open two-year term for the township. The Indian American topped another Indian American, Anilkumar Patel, in winning the seat. Mehta tallied 4,364 votes, nearly double that of Patel’s 2,223.
Narra claimed the single one-year unexpired term freeholder seat in Middlesex County. The Democrat received 92,281 votes, winning in a landslide over her Republican counterpart Roger Daley, who tallied 60,365 votes.
Kapoor claimed a seat on the Asheville City Council, earning the most votes of the six candidates with 23 percent of the vote — 10,491 votes. The top three vote-getters, including Sheneika Smith (20 percent) and Gwen Wisler (18 percent), were named to the council.
"I'm very humbled by the number of votes we have, obviously we're very pleased with that," Kapoor said in a Citizen-Times report. "We've worked very hard to get our name out across the city, and that reflected (at the Nov. 7 election)."
A Chicago native and son of Indian and Polish immigrants, Kapoor grew up in Asheville and received his bachelor’s degree in economics and public policy from the University of Chicago, as well as his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
He went on to successfully organize neighborhood opposition to out-of-scale developments, advocate for displaced residents of a mobile home community, and called for greater transparency in Asheville’s operations and budgeting.
Additionally, Kapoor recently raised questions on how the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project bid process was handled by city staff and city council. In addition to RADTIP, Kapoor intends to rectify issues in the city such as traffic, development, the city budget and districting.
In Charlotte, the 31-year-old Ajmera, a Democrat who was appointed to the council to replace John Autry earlier in the year, finished fourth in the council election and earned a seat. Her tally of 59,733 votes was over 12,000 more than the fifth-place John Powell, a Republican, who was on the outside looking in. In total, she received 14.5 percent of the vote, less than 3 percent behind top vote-getter Julie Eiselt. Democrats accounted for all four at-large council seats.
Ajmera was previously unanimously voted into the Charlotte City Council District 5 seat in January. At the time she was voted into the seat, the council added the caveat that she could not seek the District 5 seat in the election. Her announcement to run for an at-large seat shocked some of the councilmembers who appointed her, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Ajmera, according to the Observer, is probably best known for a comment she made this summer saying, “Republicans that are supporting Trump, they should have no place on city council whatsoever or in the mayor’s race.”
The comment led to a backlash from local Republicans, though she stood strong on her comments, the report said.
Ajmera, who works at TIAA in University City, became the first Asian American on the council.
The Indian American said she has worked to make progress on redeveloping Eastland Mall and said she wants to do more to encourage businesses to relocate to east and west Charlotte.
She said the city could change its economic development grants to steer companies toward struggling areas of the city, according to the report.
In Washington state, a plethora of Indian Americans were looking to claim seats. In the Kent City Council race, Kaur earned a seat with her 54.8 to 45.2 percent (5,846 votes to 4,814) over Paul Addis for position No. 2. Vengadasalam won the Kent School Board seat, running unopposed as the incumbent. Padhye was the winner in Redmond’s No. 4 City Council seat, winning convincingly 61 percent to 39 percent over Eugene Zakhareyev.
Padhye, an Indian American former civil rights attorney, was appointed to the post earlier this year.
Using the slogan “Run like a Mother” for her campaign, Padhye, a mother herself, focused her efforts on issues the city faces, such as those that have come from the economic situation the city is experiencing.
She said she will attempt to resolve concerns about affordable housing, increasing traffic congestion, aging community centers and cultural inclusion.
Padhye also said she is looking at ways to improve or create new community centers by partnering with public and private entities.
Kaur said she ran for office to continue to make Kent a great place to raise a family. She said she would be a leader to listen to concerns, and as a local who understands the local government and who is engaged in the community.
"Thank you to each and every one of you for your support during this campaign. We started our campaign journey in January and met many amazing candidates and individuals along the way," she said in a Facebook post. "I would like to thank my family for being supportive and working each day doorbelling, making calls, raising funds, building/putting up signs."
She intends to make the neighborhoods safe, instill trust between law enforcement and the residents of Kent, make sure parks are well-maintained, prioritize economic development and make sure the government is accountable, among other issues, she said.
A Kentridge High School graduate, Kaur attended Highline Community College and has an M.B.A. from the University of Washington. She works as an IT professional at a major IT firm. Additionally, she volunteers for various local organizations in the city.
Perez was the winner in the Knoxville Council race, become the first Indian American to hold a seat on the council. Her 6,105 votes, accounting for 57.7 percent, was nearly 1,500 more votes than James Edward Corcoran’s 4,470 (42.3 percent) for the city’s District 3 seat.
Perez said prior to the election, she was running for the 3rd District seat because she wanted an active role in changing and affecting policy to be more responsive to underrepresented people.
Perez has called Knoxville home for more than 40 years. She attended public school in the area and graduated from the University of Tennessee.
Perez has been an advocate in the community for over 20 yrs. She worked in the field of medical social work for many years, helping with access to healthcare for women, people with HIV/AIDS and the homeless population in Knoxville.
She has also worked at The YMCA teaching ballet, sign language and Yoga to children. Currently, she runs a jail alternative program for domestic violence offenders.
While in office, she hopes to tackle numerous issues in the community. Her campaign promises economic development to improve the neighborhoods and fix taxes.
Others who came up short included Hari Pillai in the Cambridge, Mass., City Council race; Preeti Shridhar in Seattle for the Port of Seattle Commissioner seat; Rituja Indapure in the Sammamish, Wash., City Council race; Rekha Nandwani in Jersey City, N.J., for a City Council seat; Bangladeshi Mohammad Rahman in the New York City Council race; and Krisha Chachra in the Blacksburg, Va., Council race.