An astounding 34 Indian American and South Asian candidates made bids for state Legislature seats in the Nov. 6 midterm election, catching the ‘Blue Wave’ that spread across the nation, as 13 Democrats and one Republican won or retained their seats.
In Kentucky, Democrat Nima Kulkarni overwhelmingly defeated Republican Joshua Neubert for Kentucky House of Representatives District 40, grabbing more than 74 percent of the votes. “Congratulations to attorney and Emerge Kentucky alum Nima Kulkarni for State Representative on winning her election for Kentucky State House, District 40! She made history as the first Indian American woman elected to the Kentucky state Legislature!” wrote the organization Emerge Now on Kulkarni’s Facebook page.
In Michigan’s House District 41, Democrat Padma Kuppa won against Republican Doug Tietz. With all of the precincts counted, Kuppa collected 51.3 percent versus 48.7 percent for Tietz. “We did it – together we flipped 41! Thanks to all our supporters – the journey was rewarding: meeting and reconnecting with so many neighbors and friends, new and old, and listening to their concerns, talking about our shared values. Proud to have run a clean & positive campaign!,” tweeted the engineer turned politician.
Kevin Thomas, who initially had sought a seat in the 2nd Congressional District in New York, refocused his campaign on the state Senate in District 6. It was a good move for Thomas, a Democrat, who prevailed over the Republican incumbent, Kemp Hannon, 50.6 percent to 49.3 percent. “Proud to be your Senator-elect from District 6. Thank you to all my volunteers and staff. I wouldn't be here without you!” he tweeted.
Also in New York, Republican Khorshed Chowdhury was hoping to unseat Democratic incumbent Erik Dilan for the state Senate seat in the 54th Legislative District. But the race wasn’t close, with Dilan receiving 91.4 percent of the vote in gaining re-election.
Democrat Jeremy Cooney, who was born in India and adopted by an Irish family, lost his bid for the New York state Senate. Incumbent Republican Joe Robach kept his seat, defeating Cooney by a 56-44 margin.
In California, state Assemblymember Ash Kalra, in the 27th Legislative District, was seeking re-election for a second term. Republican challenger Burt Lancaster was hoping to unseat the incumbent, but the Indian American received 72.2 percent in winning the seat.
In California’s state Assembly District 14 race, Aasim Yahya, a Democrat, fell short in her bid against Democratic incumbent Tim Grayson. The incumbent secured 73.5 percent of the vote in claiming the seat.
In North Carolina, Democrat incumbent Jay Chaudhuri overwhelmingly defeated Libertarian challengers Brian Lewis and Republican Alan David Michael to retain his seat in the state Senate. Chaudhuri received more than 73 percent of the vote. “Congratulations to @NCSenateDems for breaking the GOP supermajority after EIGHT YEARS! Thanks to everyone's door knocking, texting, and contributions, we did it!” tweeted an ecstatic Chaudhuri after polls closed.
Also in North Carolina, Democrat Nasif Majeed, making his second bid for a state House seat, handily beat Republican Joshua Niday, capturing more than 82 percent of the votes.
Mujtaba Mohammed, a Democrat, ran for the 38th District seat in the North Carolina state Senate. Up against Republican Richard Rivette, Mohammed received 81.7 percent of the vote, winning handily over Rivette.
In Ohio, Niraj Antani, who has been named among the rising stars of the Republican Party, was seeking a third term to represent Ohio’s House of Representatives in the 42nd Legislative District.
“I am truly grateful to the voters of my district for once again re-electing me. Representing the community in which I was born and raised is an incredible honor,” Antani, who won 59.5 percent of the vote in beating Democrat Zach Dickerson, said in a statement to his supporters. “I work hard every day to make it achievable for all Ohioans to have the opportunity to make their American Dream a reality. Growing up as an Indian American has greatly influenced my life, and I will continue to proudly represent our community.”
The 27-year-old Antani was first elected at 23, and is the youngest serving member of the state House, as well as the youngest Indian American elected official in the United States.
He is the second Indian American state elected official in Ohio history, and the first Indian American Republican.
Currently, Antani serves as vice chairman of the Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, as well as a member of the Committee on Health, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care and the Committee on Community and Family Advancement.
In the Ohio state House District 7 election, Aziz Ahmad, a Democrat, was seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Thomas Patton. However, Ahmad fell short, receiving 39.2 percent of the vote, more than 20 points behind Patton’s 60.8 percent.
In Wisconsin, Josh Kaul, a Democrat, was successful in his pursuit to win the state Attorney General’s seat. Taking on Republican incumbent Brad Schimel and the Constitution Party’s Terry Larson, Kaul shocked the incumbent.
The Indian American received 1,310,300 votes to 1,287,627 to Schimel; Larson received 47,152. All votes tallied, Kaul topped Schimel 50 percent to 49 percent.
“As your Attorney General, I'll focus on protecting Wisconsin families, I'll be independent, and I'll be a watchdog for Wisconsinites. I’ll ensure that all DNA matches from the testing of the kits in Wisconsin's rape-kit backlog are fully investigated. I’ll work with the legislature and the governor to reduce testing times at the state crime labs,” Kaul wrote to his supporters.
“This election has confirmed that Wisconsinites want elected officials to keep protections in place for people with a pre-existing condition. And as Attorney General, I'll advocate for expanding Medicaid in Wisconsin,” he added. “Under my leadership, the Department of Justice will once again seriously enforce the laws that protect our environment and consumers.”
In Maryland, Kumar Barve was among three candidates who were voted into the state House of Delegates in the 17th District.
Barve, a Democratic incumbent, was the top vote-getter in the race, receiving 28,469 votes, just ahead of fellow Democratic incumbent James Gilchrist, who earned 28,125 votes. Julie Palakovich Carr, another Democrat, won the third seat with 27,535 votes. Barve is the longest-serving Indian American in U.S. politics.
Sachin Hebbar, also campaigning for a seat in the Maryland state House of Delegates, appeared to have lost to fellow Democrat Michele Guyton, although not all ballots had been counted by press time in the four-person race.
Also in Maryland, Democrat incumbent Peter Franchot defeated Republican Anjali Reed Phukan by a wide margin in the race for state Comptroller. Franchot captured 73 percent of the vote.
In Georgia, Bangladeshi American Sheikh Rahman, who won the District 5 seat in the Georgia state Senate, ran unopposed. However, Aisha Yaqoob, campaigning for a Georgia state House seat in District 97, was defeated by Republican Bonnie Rich by a margin of 55.9 percent to 44.1 percent. Sachin Varghese, also campaigning for a Georgia state House seat, lost to fellow Democrat Bee Nguyen in a 52 percent to 47 percent margin.
Running unopposed, Ram Villivalam won the District 8 seat in the Illinois state Senate. In March, Villivalam won the primary election – 51 percent to 30 percent – over the incumbent Ira Silverstein.
Two seats were up for grabs in the 24th District of the Arizona House of Representatives, which Amish Shah was running for. Shah, a Democrat, along with another Democrat Jennifer Longdon, won the two seats, receiving 39.2 percent and 40.3 percent, respectively. Republican David Alger Sr. was unsuccessful in his bid.
Meanwhile, Republican Anthony Sizer came in last in a four-person race for the District 2 state House seat in Arizona. Sizer received more than 21 percent of the vote, but was bested by Democrats Rosanna Gabaldon and Daniel Hernandez Jr., who each captured more than 28 percent of the votes.
In Washington state, Vandana Slatter hung on to her position in the state House, in an uncontested race. Slatter, who works in biotechnology, was appointed to her seat in 2017; she represents Legislative District 48.
Mona Das was hoping to win the state Senate seat in Washington’s 47th Legislative District. A Democrat, Das had advanced in the primary to face Republican Joe Fain in the general. At the time of press, the result was not called, with Das having 49.7 percent to 50.3 percent for Fain.
Vineeta Lower, a Republican candidate in the Oregon House 32nd District, fell just short to Democratic candidate Tiffiny Mitchell. Mitchell prevailed with 50.1 percent to Lower’s 42.5 percent.
Alexander Jonathan Karjekar was seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Dennis Paul in the Texas state House of Representatives in District 129. The Democrat was unable to do so, falling short, though exact results were not immediately available.
And Democrat incumbent Alma Allen overwhelmingly defeated Republican Syed Ali for Texas House of Representatives’ District 131. Ali captured less than 16 percent of the votes.
Democrat Gayatri Agnew was seeking the District 93 seat in the Arkansas state House. In an attempt to unseat Republican incumbent Jim Dotson, Agnew received 42 percent of the vote, 16 points short of Dotson’s 58 percent.
First-time candidate Poonam Gill lost her bid for a seat in the Indiana state Legislature to Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, who captured 59 percent of the vote. Gill’s campaign knocked on more than 10,000 doors in a grassroots attempt to oust Bosma, who has been serving in the state Legislature for 24 years.
In Iowa, Democrat Megan Srinivas lost to Republican Ann Meyer by less than 400 votes for the District 9 seat in the state House of Representatives.