Republican opponent Igor Birman gets support of Sen. Rand Paul.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: California Congressman Ami Bera is facing stiff competition in his bid to win re-election in this year’s crucial midterm elections.
A Democrat, Bera’s main political opponent is Republican Igor Birman, who picked up the endorsement of influential Kentucky Senator Rand Paul on Wednesday. Birman, 32, is a former aide to Tom McClintock, the former Republican Representative from California’s 4th District. Although two others candidates have thrown their names into the hat on the Republican side – former Rep. Doug Ose and autism activist Elizabeth Emken – Paul’s endorsement will likely solidify Birman as the man to beat from the Right.
Bera, 49, is currently the only Indian American currently in either house of Congress, and has spoken several times about his desire to get more desis into politics so that the community can have more representation on Capitol Hill. But Bera himself is going to have to pull out all the stops to defend his seat as the Representative for California’s 7th Congressional District.
And he’s not the only Indian American candidate from California in danger of losing this November – Ro Khanna, from California’s 17th District, is also running on the Democratic ticket to unseat fellow liberal Mike Honda. Khanna is lagging severely in the polls, however, due largely to the loyalty Honda has accrued throughout his many terms in the House of Representatives. Earlier this week, Khanna launched his first TV ads to start raising his profile even more, tapping into the significant funds he has at his disposal.
Bera is also raising his profile, too, and was in Queens, New York on March 22 to talk to young Indian Americans about engaging in the political process and get out to vote in this year’s elections.
Bera’s presence was made possible by SAYA! (South Asian Youth Association), an organization dedicated to helping impoverished desi youth in the New York City area. According to information on their website, around 55% of south Asian youths in the city live below the $47,000 poverty line. The event was called “High Chai,” and was held at the Elmhurst Community Center, where Bera spoke about the importance of political activism and inciting change.
Bera was also present at a panel discussion today – held jointly by the US-India Business Council, Confederation of Indian Industry, and the Embassy of India – at the Rayburn House Congressional Building, where the topic of discussion was “Success Stories in the US-India Partnership.”