An Indian American former Barack Obama campaign staffer last month announced his intentions to run for Congress in New York’s 12th District.
Suraj Patel, who served on Obama for America’s advance team for four-plus months leading up to the 2008 November election, released a campaign launch video via YouTube announcing his intentions to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
Patel, in addition to his time on the Obama for America advance staff, served as deputy director for the Office of Public Outreach for the 2012 Democratic National Convention; a special assistant to the chief of staff for the Presidential Inaugural Committee from December 2012 through February 2013; and as an advance associate and national advance team member for the White House from June 2008 through November 2016, according to his bio.
He currently serves as an adjunct professor of business ethics at the New York University Stern School of Business; a co-founder of Creative Caucus, an organization “reinventing the way political campaigns engage audiences”; and a founder and board member of The Arena, an activism organization working on building communities bringing up the next generation of civic leaders.
Now his focus is on Maloney and New York’s 12th Congressional District, where he intends to focus his campaign on housing, climate change and infrastructure.
Patel says he is “fighting for more responsible development and proper NYCHA funding” with regard to housing. In terms of climate change, Patel says he’s “fighting for immediate climate action — we have solutions, we must enact them now.” And speaking on infrastructure, Patel said, “I'm fighting for a new MTA, less short-sighted spending, and new transportation alternatives.”
Patel’s bid for Congress is his second in as many election cycles. The Stanford University (bachelor’s), University of Cambridge (master’s) and New York University School of Law (law degree) graduate previously tried to unseat Maloney in the Democratic primary but fell 59.6 percent to 40.4 percent.
He’s hoping for a change this time around against the incumbent with more than a quarter century worth of experience.
In his campaign launch video, the 35-year-old candidate talks about New York City’s deteriorating transit system, which has become the bane of the city with riders frequently tweeting “fix the subway” at local politicians.
“When I was 5 years old, I can remember my dad coming home after working the night shift fixing these tracks,” Patel says in the opening of the two-minute clip. “And he jokes to me, ‘They’re pretty much in the same condition.’”
The video speaks to a new campaign strategy that focuses on Patel’s personal story; he was born to small-town farmers from India who worked their way from nothing to contract and franchise multiple motels throughout the Midwest. They would return to their humble beginnings after the 2008 recession, it said.
“I think we’ll make a more concerted effort to talk to people across every income bracket and every zip code in that district and say that you deserve activism representation as much as young people,” Patel told BuzzFeed News. “Let me be frank. I think, if I learned a lesson from the last campaign, it’s a bit of humility. We admittedly, sort of, didn't do a good enough job of explaining to the older voters what change meant.”
In his announcement video, Patel says that “simply holding a job doesn’t entitle you to keep it. You’ve got to deliver,” and argues that the district hasn’t seen “real progress” in the nearly three decades Maloney has been in office — though he does not mention her by name, the report notes.
While Patel thinks of himself as “much more progressive than Carolyn Maloney,” he said he considers himself an Obama Democrat.
Patel is the fourth contender to announce a primary bid against Maloney, following Lauren Ashcraft, a project manager and stand-up comedian; attorney Erica Vladimer; and housing advocate Peter Harrison, the report said.