GOPIO, IMPACT celebrate community’s record success in 2020 elections.
Indian Americans have come a long way in politics since the early ’80s, says Dr. Thomas Abraham, head of a leading community organization, noting their record success in 2020 elections across the United States.
“In the early 80s, there were two city council members from the Indian American community in small towns – a remarkable achievement then,” said Abraham, founder president and current chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO).
“From those days we have traveled a long way to win many positions in several states, including the vice presidency of the US,” he said at a virtual celebration honoring the newly elected members to various state legislatures.
Held over Zoom Friday, the event was hosted by GOPIO chapters (Manhattan, New York, Central New York, Connecticut, Central Jersey and Virginia) and the Indian American Impact Fund (IMPACT). The program was streamed live though The Indus TV, PIO TV and UNI TV all over the world.
Two Republicans and 13 Democrats elected to 11 state legislatures recounted their experiences with former Kansas State Representative Raj Goyle, a co-founder of IMPACT, moderating the discussion.
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It feels like he was elected 10,000 years ago in 2006 when he was 31, said Goyle calling it an emotional thing noting there were just about 10 Indian families in the district at that time.
The community worked for the level of success reached this year, he said. “We expected it,” added Goyle noting the IMPACT fund raised a war chest of $10 million for the community’s campaigns.
Impact Executive Director Neil Makhija provided information on the functioning of IMPACT and suggested potential candidates fill up the form at the IMPACT website to get its help.
Deepak Raj, the other IMPACT co-founder, recounted how IMPACT was born after he met Goyle in 2008 and discussed how to get more Indians elected. It was Raj who wrote the first check for the organization.
“As a broad-based community organization, we at GOPIO want to provide a bipartisan platform to all Indian American elected lawmakers,” Abraham said. He hoped “this will motivate more Indian Americans to join the political leadership process – especially young Indian Americans.”
Dr. Nikil Saval, Democrat, a writer and community organizer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, described his fight in the Senate District 1 to dislodge a three-term incumbent.
The first Indian American elected to the Pennsylvania legislature, Saval said he raised money from 5,000 people, with about 500 volunteers working to meet the voters.
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Connecticut Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan, Democrat, elected from the 2nd District noted his Guyanese and Irish Catholic origins. This is his second term and he has plans to run for US Congress in the future.
Harry Arora, Republican, elected to Connecticut House 151st District for a second term, expressed his joy to meet with people with similar background as his own.
Niraj Antani, 29, a Republican who in 2014 became the youngest member of the Ohio State House, has been elected this year as Ohio’s first Indian American state senator from District 6. He described the journey his parents took from India and his own achievements.
Attorney and professor Jay Chaudhuri, a Democrat who in 2016 became the first Indian American state senator in North Carolina, spoke about his work and the voters’ confidence in him that saw him re-elected to a third term.
Immigration attorney Nima Kulkarni, Democrat, who was elected to Kentucky House from the 40th District, said there are only a handful of Indians in the constituency. She defeated a 22-year incumbent.
Padma Kuppa, Democrat, who was re-elected from the Michigan House’s 41st District, takes pride in her Hindu heritage. An engineer by profession, she was also happy to have two more Indians in the Michigan legislature.
Ranjeev Puri, a Democrat elected from District 21, noted his Sikh heritage and his plans to improve the life of his constituents.
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Dr. Shri Thanedar, 65, Democrat, elected from 3rd District, noted he ran for Michigan governor in 2018 winning 18 percent votes.
This time, Thanedar, an entrepreneur and scientist with a PhD in chemistry, ran from Detroit, where 90 percent of the voters are African American. He plans to help the African American community members become entrepreneurs and thus create a new Black Wall Street in Detroit.
Jenifer Rajkumar, 38, Democrat, an attorney and professor, noted a few records she has created. The first South Asian woman and Hindu elected to the New York State House, she defeated a 11-year incumbent.
Latha Mangipudi, a Democrat elected to New Hampshire House’s 35th District for a fifth term, said she shares her Indian culture in her talks and that mainstream people appreciate it.
She also coined the term ‘Idli Caucus’ to describe South Indian representatives as US House member Raja Krishnamoorthy has nicknamed Indian American lawmakers in the US Congress as the ‘Samosa Caucus.’
Kesha Ram, Democrat, the first woman of color elected to Vermont State House and later Senate noted her Hindu/Jewish ancestry. She became a House Representative in 2008 when she was only 21.
Dr. Amish Shah, a Democrat re-elected to Arizona State House, joined the meeting in scrubs since he was working at the hospital. His district includes parts of Phoenix. He spoke about his work for the community and also how the state is changing from red to blue.
Dr. Tushar Patel, GOPIO Health Council Chair, said that GOPIO chapters would be enablers in promoting community involvement, especially the youngsters, in the political process.
In closing remarks GOPIO-Manhattan President Shivender Sofat, urged the community to join GOPIO International or any of its chapters.
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