Bera, Khanna, Jayapal and Krishnamoorthi re-relected; Big night for Indian American candidates

From left: Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Raja Krishnamurthy (D-Wash.) and Ami Bera (D-Calif.).

Despite losses in six US House races, more than a dozen Indian Americans win on Tuesday; Josh Kaul becomes the first Indian American Attorney General of Wisconsin. 

The size of the “Samosa Caucus” in the US Congress will remain the same, as spirited challenges from more than half a dozen Indian Americans ended in defeat on Tuesday. On the positive side, all the four incumbents —  Democrats Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal and Raja Krishnamoorthi — were re-elected easily.

Josh Kaul became the first Indian American Attorney General of Wisconsin and a dozen members of the community were elected to various statewide and local offices, at least six of them for the first time.

Bera, a physician, won for the fourth time in California’s 7th congressional district. Unlike the previous three elections, which were all nail-biters, this time around, the Democrat won with more than 5 percentage points. He received 52.7 percent of votes, while his Republican opponent Andrew Grant received 47.3 percent, with all the precincts reporting, according to the California Secretary of State’s website.

Fellow Californian Ro Khanna scored an even more impressive victory from the state’s 17th congressional district, which includes large swathes of the Silicon Valley.

Khanna won with 72.5 percent of all the votes polled, while his GOP rival Ron Cohen received 27.5 percent.

In the Washington state, Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian American woman to serve in Congress, was reelected from the 7th district by an overwhelming margin. The Democrat received 224,351 (83.38) percent votes. Her Republican opponent Craig Keller received only 44,732 (16.62 percent) votes.

In Illinois’ 8th district, incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi defeated fellow Indian American Jitendra “JD” Diganvker by nearly 18,600 votes.

“You sent me to Washington two years ago with a clear message: Despite the partisan fighting and finger-pointing, you wanted me to get things done,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement forwarded to the American Bazaar. “And together, we have.”

Krishnamoorthi, who received the support of nearly 66 percent of voters, said that, “From health care to infrastructure; from climate change to gun violence, we must put partisanship aside and make real progress for our nation… And I pledge to you, that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

The candidates who lost on Tuesday night include Aftab Pureval, who was endorsed by former President Barrack Obama, former diplomat Sri Kulkarni, physician Hiral Tipirneni and tech executive Anita Malik.

Pureval, in whom Democrats had high hopes, lost to incumbent GOP Rep. Steve Chabot by more than 5 percentage points in Ohio’s 1st district. Similarly, in Texas, Kulkarni failed to unseat incumbent Pete Olson. The Democrat lost by 5 percentage points.

Two other House races where Indian Americans were competitive were in Arizona. In the 8th district, Tipirneni lost to GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko, 56.7 percent to 43.3 percent. Lesko was first elected to Congress earlier this year by defeating Tipirneni in a special election.

Other Indian American congressional candidates who lost last night include Chintan Desai in Arkansas’ 1st district and Sanjay Patel in Florida’s 8th. Both are Democrats.

Victories in states

In state races across the nation, Indian American candidates had a great night. In Wisconsin, Josh Kaul narrowly defeated Republican Brad Schimel to become the second Indian American state attorney general in the country. He received 1,310,300 votes (49.54 percent), while Schimel received 1,287,627 votes (48.68 percent).

At least seven Democrats and one Republican won their races for statehouses. In California and Ohio, two incumbents were re-elected, one Democrat and the other Republican.

RELATED: Record number of Indian Americans elected to statehouses across the country (November 7, 2018)

Democrat Ash Kalra, the first Indian American to get elected to the California state legislature when he won from the 27th district in the San Jose area in 2016, was re-elected with more than 72 percent of the votes. “I am incredibly grateful to the San José voters of Assembly District 27 for sending me back to Sacramento! Your support means the world to me and I do not take this responsibility lightly,” he tweeted on Wednesday.

In Ohio, Republican Niraj Antani won a second term in House District 42.

“I am truly grateful to the voters of my district for once again re-electing me,” Antani said in a statement. “Representing the community in which I was born and raised is an incredible honor. I work hard every day to make it achievable for all Ohioans to have the opportunity to make their American Dream a reality. Growing up as an Indian-American has greatly influenced my life, and I will continue to proudly represent our community.”

According to the pro-Democrat, Indian American Impact Fund the six Democrats elected are all first-timers. They are Nima Kulkarni, Kentucky State House, District 40; Mujtaba Mohammed, North Carolina State Senate, District 38; Ram Villivalam, Illinois State Senate, District 8; Amish Shah, Arizona State House, District 24; Padma Kuppa, Michigan State House, District 41; and Kevin Thomas (Democrat), New York State Senate, District 6.

The Indian Americans who were victorious in local races include the following:

Shalini Bahl-Milne, Amherst Town Council (Massachusetts), District 5

KP George (Democrat), Texas Fort Bend County Judge

Juli Mathew (Democrat), Texas Fort Bend City Court at Law No. 3

Josh Kaul (Democrat), Wisconsin State Attorney General

Susheela Jayapal (Democrat), Multnomah (Oregon) City Commission, District 2

Jayapal is the sister of Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

The Impact Fund had tracked more than 100 races featuring Indian American candidates nationwide, and endorsed several of them.

On Wednesday, the organization congratulated all the winners.

“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 U.S. House of Representatives — were re-elected,” said Deepak Raj, co-founder of Impact and chair of the Impact Fund. “We also want to congratulate Josh Kaul on being elected Attorney General of Wisconsin, thus becoming the only Indian American to currently serve in statewide office, and the four new state legislators who will be the first Indian Americans to serve in the state legislatures of New York, Illinois, Kentucky, and Arizona.”

Raj Goyle, co-founder of Impact and a former member of the Kansas House of Representatives, thanked its donors and noted that “Impact Fund was able to raise and deploy more funds for our candidates than any Indian American political organization in history.”

He added: “Today we celebrate, but tomorrow we get to work on 2019 and 2020.”

Former White House official and executive director of Impact Gautam Raghavan said even “though we weren’t able to win any new seats in Congress, we are tremendously proud of our candidates. 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.”

(This post has been updated.)

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