Indian Americans Suhas Subramanyam and Ghazala Hashmi were among the group of Democrats who won their respective races in the Virginia state legislature during the Nov. 5 general election, helping the party switch control of the state from Republican Red to Democrat Blue.
Running in the Virginia House of Delegates 87th District, Subramanyam, who has dedicated his life to serving his community and solving some of the country’s biggest challenges, ousted Republican Bill Drennan, 62 percent to 38 percent.
“Incredibly honored to be elected to the VA House last night and to join a
@vademocrats majority. Thank you so much to the voters of HD-87 for making your voice heard, and thank you to the vols, staff, donors, friends and family who all made this possible. #BlueWave2019,” Subramanyam tweeted.
“My promise to the people of Loudoun and Prince William: I will always listen to you, work tirelessly for you, and do everything I can to empower you. The campaign is over, but my work for you has just begun,” the Indian American victor added.
Subramanyam’s family's story in America began in 1979, when Subramanyam’s mother, a native of Bangalore, immigrated to the United States. She landed at Dulles Airport to start a new life where she would later become a physician and raise a family. She united with the 87th District winner’s father, who was born in India and raised by the widow of a deceased army veteran. Together, they pursued the American dream and passed along values that Subramanyam holds today: serve your community, succeed with hard work, and empower those without a voice.
Those values stuck with him and, while at Tulane University and in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, his community service work in the aftermath of the storm propelled him into a life of community service. He helped organize volunteers to rebuild and revitalize communities affected by the storm and, as president of the college's environmental club, pushed local officials to prioritize environmental standards during the rebuild. Subramanyam graduated summa cum laude and turned down lucrative corporate opportunities to help get Democratic leaders elected.
He has since worked tirelessly to improve the health and prosperity of all Virginians and Americans. He served on Capitol Hill as a health care and veterans policy aide, where he worked to expand and improve health care access to millions of Americans and drafted legislation to increase job opportunities and funding for veterans.
He later earned his law degree with honors at Northwestern University School of Law, volunteering at the Center for Wrongful Convictions. There, he was part of the legal team that freed a man who had spent 21 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He also clerked for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, where he helped re-introduce the DREAM Act and worked on criminal justice reforms.
Subramanyam serves as a volunteer firefighter at Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department, and he is an active member of the Rotary Club of Ashburn. He was also appointed by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to the Loudoun Health Council, where he works to address some of the most pressing health care issues in Northern Virginia.
Hashmi, running for the 10th Legislative District seat in the state Senate, who recently received the endorsement from former President Barack Obama, won 54 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, the Republican incumbent state Sen. Glen Sturtevant claimed 46 percent of the vote.
“Today we sent a message that the status quo is no longer accepted. Thank you all for your support and passion in helping me become the next state senator for Virginia’s 10th District! I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of the change to come for Virginia,” Hashmi tweeted.
“This victory, is not mine alone. It belongs to all of you who believed that we needed to make progressive change here in Virginia, for all of you who felt that you haven’t had a voice and believed in me to be yours in the General Assembly,” she added.
Hashmi is an experienced educator and advocate who has spent over 25 years working within Virginia’s college and university system, her campaign site says.
She currently serves as the founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning at Reynolds Community College.
Hashmi immigrated to the U.S. from India 50 years ago. As an immigrant living in a small town in the South, she saw first-hand how community building and fostering important dialogue can bridge the cultural and socioeconomic divisions that we face, the bio says.
She later earned her doctorate in English from Emory University, and she and her husband moved to the Richmond area in 1991.
Their daughters were born and raised in Midlothian and educated in Chesterfield County Public Schools. Hashmi is guided by the principles of integrity, social justice, and ethics in government in her approach to public service. She is the first Muslim American woman to serve in the Virginia State Senate, according to her bio.
Also in Virginia, Vinson Palathingal and Rachna Sizemore Heizer were hoping to win one of the three seats available in the Fairfax County School Board.
Heizer won 19.27 percent and Palathingal won 10.78 percent in the six-candidate race, finishing third and fifth, respectively, with Heizer winning a seat. Joining Heizer on the school board are Abrar E. Omeish and Karen A. Keys-Gamarra, who finished first and second, respectively.
Outside of Virginia, there were a number of candidates vying for seats across the country.
Manohar Raju, the sitting public defender in San Francisco, California, ran unopposed in the general election. He earned 89,736 of the votes, with 295 write-in votes, claiming the seat for another term.
In Houston, Texas, Raj Salhotra was vying for a seat in the City Council’s Position 1 at-large post. In a five-candidate race, Salhotra finished in second, behind winner Mike Knox.
The Indian American received 22 percent of the vote, 14 points behind Knox’s 36 percent. But because Knox failed to reach 50 percent, he and Salhotra will face off in a run-off election Dec. 14.
“We always knew this would be a two-step process,” Salhotra told a room full of supporters during his watch party on election night, a news release said. “We’re looking good on step one, and we’re ready for step two.”
If Salhotra wins the runoff, he will become the first Indian to hold a Houston City Council at-large seat. He said he hopes to serve as an example to other minority students who are striving to enter politics. Salhotra also serves as the president of the Young Hindus of Greater Houston, and he is the founder of a mentorship non-profit called SWAG to College.
Jay Bedi was among five candidates running for three City Council seats in Mason, Ohio. Bedi finished fifth of the five candidates, taking 14.28 percent of the vote. Josh Styrcula (25.3 percent), Kathy Grossmann (23.3 percent) and Tony Bradburn (19.8 percent) were the three winners.
In North Carolina, Dimple Ajmera won re-election to the Charlotte City Council, winning back her at-large seat. Ajmera won 20 percent of the vote, with other incumbents Julie Eiselt, James Mitchell, and Braxton Winston taking 24 percent, 22 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
In the Pacific Northwest, Kshama Sawant was running in Seattle, Washington, for a council seat. Sawant was seeking the city’s District 3 Council seat, but lost out to Egan Orion, 54 percent to 45.6 percent.
In New Jersey, Bharat Rana, running as a Republican, was vying for one of the two seats on the state’s District 34 General Assembly. Democrats Thomas Giblin and Britnee Timberlake won the seats with 38.9 percent and 37.9 percent, respectively. Rana finished third in the five-candidate race with 10.9 percent, just ahead of fourth place finisher Irene DeVita (10.7 percent).