Indian-Americans pick up six seats in state legislatures; eight challengers lose bid for Congress
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, November 10, 2018 – In a divided nation united to vote in record numbers, the four Indian-American members of the House of Representatives, all Democrats, have cruised to victory in the historic midterm elections.
Reps. Ami Bera and Ro Khanna (California), Raja Krishnamoorthi (Illinois) and Pramila Jayapal (Washington), nicknamed the ‘Samosa Caucus’, were comfortably re-elected as Democrats regained control of the House for the first time in eight years.
At the time of filing this story, Democrats had won 225 seats including 31 pickups in the House; Republicans trailed behind with 197 seats. In the Senate, the GOP solidified its hold with a 51-46 seat margin of control. The one-party rule in Washington is over, at least for the next two years.
In California’s 7th congressional district which includes much of Sacramento County, Bera defeated Republican challenger Andrew Grant 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent. The victory margin was wider than in the previous three elections when he eked out a narrow win. The lawmaker is seen as the Dean of the Samosa Caucus, a mentor for the other Indian-American lawmakers who will begin their second term in Congress on January 3, 2019.
“84 percent”, gushed Jayapal about the percentage of votes which propelled her to victory against GOP challenger Craig Keller. The first Indian-American woman to serve in the House, she has been called the Leader of the Resistance, the anti-Trump.
“Thank you Washington’s 7th District for re-electing me – a proud immigrant, strong woman of color, and fierce progressive – to the US House of Representatives”, she said in a Facebook post adding in her ‘telling it like it is’ signature style, “Oh and this time, I’ll be serving in the majority”.
Khanna, whose District encompasses Silicon Valley, earned 72.5 percent of the vote squarely defeating GOP hopeful Ron Cohen who managed to pull only 27.5 percent.
“Thank you to everyone who contributed to our huge victory tonight”, Khanna said on popular social media sites. “Together we will continue to build a progressive future that includes Medicare for all, debt-free public college, restraint in foreign policy, and good jobs for every American”.
About Tuesday’s election results, the lawmaker, who describes himself as “a strong progressive” rejecting money from Political Action Committees (PACs) and lobbyists, noted, “Tonight, we once again proved that you don’t need the funding of PACs and special interests to run an effective campaign. You just need people power”.
The race for the Illinois 8th Congressional District seat saw one Indian-American pitted against another. Krishnamoorthi, earning 65.6 percent of the vote, sailed past Republican challenger Jitendra Diganvker who garnered 34.4 percent.
“I am honored to have been re-elected to serve another term as Congressman for Illinois’s 8th Congressional District. Thank you so much to my constituents for choosing to extend my contract for another two years”, the incumbent lawmaker tweeted.
Indian-American Congressional hopefuls ran spirited, innovative campaigns, but were unable to ouster the incumbents this time around. The eight challengers were: Chintan Desai (Arkansas); Anita Malik (Arizona); Hiral Tipirneni (Arizona); Sanjay Patel (Florida); Aftab Pureval (Ohio); Sri Preston Kulkarni (Texas); Harry Arora (Connecticut); and Diganvker, the latter two Republicans.
“Even though we weren’t able to win any new seats in Congress, we are tremendously proud of our candidates”, said Gautam Raghavan, executive director of Indian American Impact Fund. “They each ran strong, smart, innovative campaigns and as a result outperformed recent challengers in their districts. We hope we’ll see them on the ballot again”.
Deepak Raj, co-founder of Indian American Impact and chair of Impact Fund, stated, “In the most high-stakes election cycle in recent memory, we are thrilled that all of our incumbents, including all four Indian-American members of the US House of Representatives, were re-elected. We also want to congratulate Josh Kaul on being elected Attorney General of Wisconsin” and the new state legislators, he added.
Among the six newly elected state lawmakers are: three senators — Kevin Thomas (New York), Ram Villivalam (Illinois) and Mujtaba Mohammed (North Carolina); and three representatives – Nima Kulkarni (Kentucky), Padma Kuppa (Michigan) and Amish Shah (Arizona).
The incumbent state legislators, all Democrats, who won re-election bids include: Kumar Barve (Maryland), the longest-serving Indian-American lawmaker in the country; Manka Dhingra (Washington); Jay Chaudhuri (North Carolina); Vin Gopal (New Jersey); and Ash Kalra (California).
Tuesday night will go down in history as a triumph for women lawmakers: over 100 are heading to Congress including more women of color than ever before!
Democrats Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Omar is the first Somali-American and Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American in Congress. Omar came to the US as a refugee. On Tuesday night, she garnered 78.2 percent of the vote forging far ahead of Republican candidate Jennifer Zielinski, replacing Congressman Keith Ellison.
Republican Marsha Blackburn became Tennessee’s first female senator after winning retiring GOP senator Bob Corker’s seat in the midterms. The state has elected six women to the House of Representatives.
In Massachusetts, Democrat Ayanna Pressley became the first ever black woman elected to represent the state in Congress. Democrats Deb Haaland (New Mexico) and Sharice Davids (Kansas) became the first Native American women elected to Congress. Texas sent its first two Latinas to Capitol Hill: Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, both Democrats.
Latina progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described “democratic socialist”, will be the youngest member of Congress. Earlier this year, she pulled off a stunning upset in the primary for the seat in New York’s 14th Congressional District, defeating ten-term congressman Joe Crowley.
In Virginia, state senator Jennifer Wexton (Democrat) handily defeated Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock in the 10th Congressional District, hitherto a GOP stronghold. It’s quite a feat as Wexton has won a seat which Republicans have held for nearly 40 years.
“The sweetest victory of last night belongs to women”, Wexton said in a Facebook post the day after the midterms. “Together, we’re taking one big step toward equal representation in Congress”, she enthused.
Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez weighed in about his party’s election results stating in a press release, “The diversity of our candidates, our organizers, and our voters were key to flipping the House and electing Democrats up and down the ballot”.
He emphasized that Democrats elected the most diverse group of candidates in the party’s history. “Voters across the country sent a loud and clear message that our leaders should represent the diversity of our country”, he said.
Perez noted, “Even in races where we didn’t come out ahead, voters turned out in record numbers to support candidates who shared their values”.
“Representation matters”, he underscored. “When the people we entrust with political power reflect the great diversity of the people they represent, we are stronger as a nation. The DNC was proud to support such a historic slate of candidates in races from the school board to the Senate across the country”.
“Democrats put hope on the ballot last night, and that’s why the American people elected Democratic candidates across the country”, the DNC chair said on the first day post-midterms. “We never backed down from our values of inclusion and opportunity because we know that those are not only our party’s values, they are America’s values”, he added.