A record number of Indian American candidates — running for local, state, and national offices — breathlessly awaited mid-term election night results Nov. 6, as the nation delivered its verdict on President Donald Trump’s tenure in office.
Democrats were hoping for a “blue wave” to regain their majority in the House and deliver a blow to Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-trade agenda.
At least 75 Indian Americans have thrown their hat into the ring for seats on local city councils, school boards, state legislatures, the House, and even the Senate. India-West will post race results to its Web site – indiawest.com – as races are called. A full list of results will be reported in the Nov. 16 edition.
Race results for 20 Indian American candidates can be viewed in real time on the Election Night Tracker — http://bit.ly/ImpactNov6 — created by the Indian American Impact Fund and Desis for Progress. The candidates on the tracker were endorsed by IAIF.
A study released last month by AAPI Data and APIA Vote found that 62 percent of Indian Americans voters surveyed said they were more excited to vote this year than in previous elections.
“Trump has galvanized the mid-term election,” Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder of AAPI Data, told India-West when the study was released. Shekar Narasimhan, chairman and founder of the AAPI Victory Fund, told India-West that the mid-term was a watershed moment for the Indian American community. “We’re fighting for rights we thought we already had,” he said.
The four Indian American incumbents in the House, Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Ami Bera — known as the ‘samosa caucus’ — were all on track to win their races as India-West went to press Nov. 6 evening. Eight first-time Indian American Congressional candidates include Democrats Hiral Tipirneni and Anita Malik in Arizona; Sri Preston Kulkarni in Texas; Aftab Pureval in Ohio; Chintan Desai in Arkansas; Sanjay Patel in Florida; and Republicans Harry Arora in Connecticut and Jitendra Digavker, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat in Illinois.
“President Obama inspired me to get involved in public service. It is surreal and incredible to have his endorsement. As he told us, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” tweeted Pureval, who has also inspired an eponymous Ben and Jerry’s flavor.
Also in the fray is Shiva Ayyadurai, an Independent challenging Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts for her long-held seat.
Shortly after the California primary election June 5, The Sacramento Bee predicted that Bera, D-Sacramento, who is seeking his fourth term in Congress, would easily “cruise to re-election” against Republican challenger Andrew Grant.
Following a nail-biting race in which votes were counted for 10 days after election night, Bera won his first term in office in 2012, becoming the first Indian American to win a House seat since Dalip Singh Saund in 1957. “Team Bera won’t stop until every ballot is counted,” tweeted the physician turned politician on Election Day.
Khanna, D-Calif., was also expected to cruise to victory for his second term in the House. Khanna was challenged by Tea Party Republican Ron Cohen; in the June primary, Khanna captured 62 percent of the votes, while Cohen came in second with a little more than 26 percent.
Jayapal, D-Washington, the first Indian American woman in the House, was also guaranteed an easy win against Republican challenger Craig Keller. Jayapal won 82 percent of the vote in the primary.
“Democrats are embracing the straight-forward policies that built the middle class. We want laws and policies that will help the American public from the ground up: universal health care, better-paying jobs and a corruption-free government that works,” said Jayapal in a twitter shout-out to her party on Election Day.
In Illinois, Krishnamoorthi is being challenged by Indian American Republican businessman Jitendra Diganvker. Krishnamoorthi won the primary with 40 percent of the vote, and pollster Nate Silver of 538.com predicts Krishnamoorthi’s victory at 99.9 percent. The congressman held a watch party election night at the WyndhamGardenSchaumburgHotel & ConferenceCenter, in Schaumburg, Illinois.
Gautam Raghavan, executive director of the Indian American Impact Fund, said in an interview with CNBC that in the past, Indian Americans were content to stay on the sidelines of politics, writing checks and taking photos with candidates. But as the community matures, Indian Americans are trying to broaden their engagement at all levels of politics.
The xenophobic and racist agenda of the Trump administration has also galvanized Indian American political participation. “I think a lot of these folks are concerned about not just where they came from but where their families are now,” said Raghavan.