Need to make sure that Virginia is a great place for everyone: Aneesh Chopra

Straw polls have former CTO of the US poised to be VA’s Lt. Gov.

By Mariam Thomas

WASHINGTON, DC: Aneesh Paul Chopra, who served as the first Chief Technology Officer of the United States, appointed by President Barack Obama, resigned from his position last year, to run for public office. He is now poised to become the Lt. Gov. of the Commonwealth of Virginia on a Democratic ticket, with straw polls showing him in front of his GOP opponent.

Aneesh Chopra (Photo Credit: Bala Chandran)

Chopra, who has also served as Virginia’s Secretary of Technology under Gov. Tim Kaine, in an exclusive interview to The American Bazaar at a fund-raiser for him organized by prominent community leader Lavika Bhagat Singh, lays down his vision for the future, if he succeeds in winning the elections next month, on June 11th.

Excerpts from the interview:

Why did you decide to come back to Virginia, given your position as the first Chief Technology Officer of the United States?

I was very proud of my services as the President’s Chief Technology Officer and as Governor Kaine’s Secretary of Technology. During the time of my service, Virginia has been the best managed state, the best place for business, and the best place to raise a family. And I feel very strongly that the best days of Virginia are ahead of us. But for the past three years, our leadership in Richmond has taken us down a slightly different path, rather than focusing on our human capital, making sure that we have educational opportunities for everyone, research and development to make new jobs, and making sure that we are well connected. I want to make sure that Virginia is just as effective for the next 20 years as it was in the past 20-30 years. And that leadership requires a change in direction in Richmond today. I am running for Lieutenant Governor because I believe I can make that change.

We see here today that you have remarkable support from the Indian community and the South Asian diaspora in Northern Virginia. However, what can you say about the South Asian community from other parts of Virginia? How do you think you can pull the community together?

Well what’s amazing about my campaign is the grassroots nature of it. I have been traveling to every corner of the Commonwealth for the past year as an active candidate and we have registered over 700 endorsements from the mayor of Martinsville to the mayor of South Boston to the mayor of Hampton, Virginia, to the mayor of Richmond. So elected officials of each of the corner of the Commonwealth, active citizens, those who are politically charged, who are willing to publicly stand and join our campaign. So I am very proud of the coalition. Yes, I happen to be from Northern Virginia, but our message of creating a stronger and more vibrant middle class, creating jobs and ensuring that people have the skills in filling theses jobs are resonating throughout the Commonwealth.

What do you think your chances are this election on June 11th?

Well, I’m hopeful and I’m optimistic but I will not take anything for granted. We have won all the major straw polls; 1400 people gathered in Fairfax, Virginia and I have won 70 percent of the votes when the activists had a chance to hear me and my opponent go head to head, and I have been doing that in every corner of the state. I’m very hopeful and the hopeful message is being carried throughout Virginia.

Given the hostility from Ken Cucinelli and other Republicans, do you still plan on bringing forth the Open Government Initiative that you had created and executed under the Obama Administration to Virginia? How do you think that is going to be perceived?

Well, I will say this, more Virginias want us to move forward, not turn our backs on basic rights on women, on immigrants, or a gay or lesbian member of our community. It doesn’t matter who you are, you need to feel like an equal member of our society. These are basic values and Virginia believes in these values. Unfortunately, the Republican ticket across the board works hard to undermine these values. I think there are other priorities that we need to focus on. We need to make sure that Virginia is a great place for everyone, that we have great middle class jobs and you know if we work hard and play by the rules you should get the great life you deserve.

In a state that may be more hesitant towards this policy, how do you plan on bringing forth the values of participation, transparency, and collaboration?

I’m extremely excited about the young people in this campaign, whether they are South Asian or not. We have launched a digital campaign, which lets people get engaged where they are and we are seeing enthusiasm like I never would have expected. And together, young people and I, have worked together to generate 20,000 petitions. That is double what we needed and 5000 more than my opponent. So I’m definitely proud of the grassroots nature of this campaign and our message is really about including the everyday Virginian.

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