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Former congressional aide Ram Villivalam running for Illinois state Senate

Ram Villivalam (Courtesy of his Facebook Profile)

The Indian American is taking on 20-year incumbent Ira Silverstein in the March 20 primary.

By Roshan Varghese

CHICAGO: Former congressional aide Ram Villivalam is challenging 20-year incumbent Ira Silverstein in the next week’s Democratic primary for the Illinois state Senate 8th district.

If he wins, Villivalam will be the first Indian American elected to the Illinois statehouse.

The primary will be held on March 20, next Tuesday.

The 8th Senate district has the highest concentration of Asian Americans in Illinois. It includes 21 Chicago neighborhoods, among them, all of Devon Ave.’s business district — which is known as a “Little India” — and the suburbs of Lincolnwood, Skokie, Morton Grove, Niles, Des Plaines and Glenview.

Villivalam, whose parents immigrated from India in the 1970s, believes Illinois needs more diversity in government and a new generation of elected officials like him to lead on challenging issues it faces at the moment.

Villivalam was born and raised on the Northwest side of Chicago, where he continues to live. The area is part of the 8th district.

“As the son of Indian immigrants who came to this country to seek out a better quality of life and opportunities for their children, I feel the responsibility to step forward and speak out on the important issues that working and middle-class families are experiencing every day,” said Villivalam.

He added that his parents, who were professionals in India, had to work minimum wage jobs before going back to school. They retired with a combined 50 years in public service.

Villivalam said, based on his own family’s experience, he believes in lowering taxes for middle-class families while raising them for millionaires and billionaires, reducing gun violence, equitably funding public schools, and ending discrimination based on race, gender and religion.

He pointed out that, his opponent, Silverstein, was reprimanded by an independent inspector general for violating the legislative ethics act and behaving in a manner “unbecoming of a legislator.”

The taxpayers of the 8th state Senate district deserve a senator who is solely focused on effective representation, he said.

The candidate said he has both the advocacy and legislative experience to make progress on his agenda in Springfield.

His experience includes working as a legislative coordinator for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), where he fought to protect home care for seniors and people with disabilities, child care for working families, and Medicaid for those in need.

Prior to that, Villivalam was the Outreach Director for Rep. Brad Schneider, D-IL, where he signed people up for the Affordable Care Act and put on job fairs.

Villivalam said he has built a broad coalition of support, including from four members of the Illinois’ Democratic congressional delegation — Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Jan Schakowsky, Mike Quigley and Brad Schneider. He also has the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Indo-American Democratic Organization. These elected officials and organizations trust his to be the effective, proactive, and truly progressive our community deserves, said Villivalam.

“As I knock on doors to speak with voters about the challenging issues we face, I hear the frustration people have with business as usual in Springfield,” he said. “Voters want a change. We can’t expect different results if we keep sending the same people down there.”