Indian Americans make a splash in yet another election cycle

Jennifer Rajkumar became the first South Asian woman elected to the New York state assembly defeating her Republican rival Giovanni Perna (Twitter Image)

NEW YORK (TIP): Besides the four member ‘Samosa Caucus’ of Indian American lawmakers re-elected to the US House of Representatives, over a dozen others, including five women have won state level elections scoring a few firsts for the community.

Among the five women, Democrat lawyer Jenifer Rajkumar, 38, became the first South Asian woman elected to the New York state assembly defeating her Republican rival Giovanni Perna.

Rajkumar, a Stanford-educated lawyer and an immigrant rights advocate, is a professor at the City University of New York. She has previously served as the Director of Immigration Affairs and Special Counsel for New York state.

Democrat Kesha Ram, who served in the Vermont House of Representatives from 2009 to 2016, became the first woman of color elected to the Vermont State Senate.

Daughter of a Punjabi from India, she was one of the youngest ever to be elected to State Assembly at the age of 21.

Other three elected to state houses were immigration attorney Nima Kulkarni in Kentucky, Vandana Slatter, a pharmacist, and scientist, in Washington and Democrat Padma Kuppa in Michigan. Kuppa was the first Indian immigrant and Hindu in the Michigan Legislature.

“This year’s election represented a giant leap forward for the Indian Americans’ role in US politics,” says Neil Makhija, Executive Director of IMPACT.

The leading Indian American advocacy and political action committee had raised a $10 million war chest to get Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris and other Indian origin candidates elected. “Indian American voters and candidates demonstrated the burgeoning power and influence of this important voting bloc in decisive fashion,” he said.

With a record number of Indian American candidates running for office across the nation, around two million Indian Americans voted in the 2020 election, according to the Center for American Progress.


US House:

The longest serving Indian American House member Ami Bera, 55, won his fifth consecutive term to the House from California. Son of immigrant parents from Gujarat, Bera is a physician by profession. New Delhi-born lawyer Krishnamoorthi, 47, defeated his Libertarian Party rival in Illinois to win a third term.

So did lawyer, academic Ro Khanna, 44, who defeated another Indian American challenger Ritesh Tandon of Republican Party in California.

Chenna-born civil rights activist Jayapal, 55, the first and the only Indian American woman in the House, also won a third consecutive term from Washington State.


In Arizona, Democrat Amish Shah, a doctor who defeated incumbent Ken Clark in 2018 was reelected to the State House from District 24.

In California, Ash Kalra was re-elected to the California State Assembly for the third consecutive term.

In Michigan, Democrat Ranjeev Puri was elected to 21st House District with a promise to help fight for a better Michigan.

Also elected to Michigan state House 3rd District was Shri Thanedar, 65, millionaire businessman, scientist, who made an unsuccessful bid for governor two years ago,

In New York,  Jeremy Cooney of Democratic Party, Working Families Party, was elected to the state senate from district 56.

Born in an Indian orphanage, Cooney was adopted by a single-mother and grew up in the South Wedge neighborhood of the City of Rochester.

Zohran Mamdani, son of filmmaker Mira Nair, won a New York State Assembly seat.

In North Carolina, Democrat attorney and professor Jay Chaudhuri, who in 2016 became the first Indian American state legislator, was re-elected from State Senate’s 15th District.

In Ohio, Republican Niraj Antani, 29, who in 2014 became the youngest member of the Ohio state house, has been elected as Ohio’s first Indian American state senator.

He was the first Indian American Republican to serve in the Ohio House and second to get elected from the community to the statehouse.

In Pennsylvania Democrat Nikil Saval, a writer and community organizer, was elected to District 1 of State Senate. He was the first Indian American elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

In Texas, Ravi Sandill, who in November 2008 became the first judge of South Asian descent elected in Texas, was re-elected as District Judge in Harris County.

A number of Indian Americans also lost their races on Tuesday.

In Maine, state house speaker Sara Gideon, 48, lost the US senate race to incumbent veteran Republican Senator Susan Collins.

Gideon grew up in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, where her father was a pediatrician who emigrated from India and her Armenian American mother was a psychiatrist.

In New Jersey, Republican Rik Mehta, 42, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur and political newcomer, lost to popular Democrat senator Cory Booker, a former mayor of New Jersey’s largest city and onetime Democratic presidential aspirant.

In California, Republican Ritesh Tandon lost the US House race to fellow Indian American lawyer, academic Ro Khanna.

So did Nisha Sharma, another Republican, to sitting Democrat Mark DeSaulnier.

In Texas, former US diplomat Sri Preston Kulkarni, 42, lost to his Republican rival Troy Nehls in the state’s 22nd congressional district. He had narrowly lost the race in 2018, too.

In Arizona’s 6th congressional district, Democrat Hiral Tiperneni is trailing narrowly at 10:30 am EST.

In Virginia, Republican Manga Anantatmula failed to unseat Democrat Gerry Connolly.

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