Indian Americans are getting noticed in state-level politics with Jay Chaudhuri earning a Democratic Whip role in North Carolina and Padma Kuppa being named an Assistant Whip in Michigan.

State Sen. Jay Chaudhuri of North Carolina’s 16th Legislative District, who recently won re-election for a second term, received the honor by his fellow party members to serve as Whip Jan. 5.

“On Saturday, I was unanimously elected by my @NCSenateDems colleagues to serve as the 2nd highest-ranking Democrat, Senate Democratic Whip,” the Indian American said in a tweet. “I am honored & humbled to serve as Whip, & I'm excited to work closely with my new Dem colleagues, including 7 new members. #ncga #ncpol.”

The state senator, since earning a spot in the North Carolina Legislature, has been named to the judicial reform and redistricting committees.

Chaudhuri was general counsel to North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell before resigning to pursue a political career. He told India-West during his campaign (see India-West story here: http://bit.ly/1HwlxHF) that education is the overriding issue in his campaign. Other planks of his campaign platform included addressing “economic inequalities,” “the importance of an open and honest government” and economic growth, he amplified.

The Davidson College, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and North Carolina Central University School of Law graduate was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., and now calls Raleigh home.

In addition to serving as general counsel and a policy adviser to Cowell, he was also North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper’s special counsel and legislative counsel when Cooper was state Senate Majority Leader.

Before that, Chaudhuri clerked for now Chief Judge Linda McGee of the North Carolina Court of Appeals and was Jacob K. Javits Fellow for former U.S. Sen. Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin.

Additionally, Chaudhuri has been an adjunct law professor at N.C. Central University, supervised a state safety task force after the 2006 Virginia Tech shootings, and managed legal affairs for the $86 billion state pension fund.

Chaudhuri’s parents, Debi and Mithu Chaudhuri, left India 50 years ago and settled in Fayetteville, N.C., where his father worked at the Veteran Administration Hospital.

Padma Kuppa, who won her race to become the state representative in Michigan’s 41st Legislative District, has been named an assistant whip.

State Rep. Darrin Camilleri was appointed as Democratic Whip by the party’s leadership Dec. 28 for a term running 2019-2020. Camilleri Jan. 3 named his assistant whips, which included Kuppa, John Cherry, Kevin Coleman and Mari Manoogian.

“This leadership team reflects the new face and energy of the House Democrats, who remain committed to fighting for the wages and benefits of working families across the state, a world-class education for every Michigander, and the safe roads we need to drive on,” Camilleri said in a statement.

“I’m looking forward to working with this team to ensure that the priorities of everyday Michiganders are the focus of the work that’s done in the House,” Camilleri said.

Kuppa earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the National Institute of Technology in Warangal, Telangana. The Indian American worked for more than five years with the Chrysler corporation, as a project manager, and currently works as a business analyst at Ally Financial.

Kuppa and her husband raised their two children in Michigan. As her children started college, she decided the timing was right to run for state office.

In an earlier interview with India-West when she announced her candidacy for the state legislature (see story here: https://bit.ly/2CVa6wV), Kuppa told India-West she is aiming to address the state’s crumbling infrastructure. “We have really bad roads here, and no source of income to keep them well-maintained.” The candidate said she wants to attract businesses to the state to increase a tax revenue stream. She noted that Amazon had planned a one million square foot warehouse in Detroit, which would have employed about 1,000 workers, but ultimately rejected the idea because of the state’s insufficient talent pool.

Kuppa believes the key to attracting both businesses and families to the state is to improve its K-12 education. “Betsy deVos has pretty much destroyed our state,” she said, noting that the Secretary of Education’s hard push towards privatization has left the state’s many charter schools receiving funding but without accountability. Before the White House tapped her for the post, DeVos – who is from Michigan – served as the chair of the American Federation for Children, which seeks to privatize public education by requiring public funds to pay for private school tuition in the form of vouchers and similar programs.

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