Immigrant from India expected to win seat in heavily Democratic leaning Detroit; Pramila Jayapal wins in Washington
Indian Americans are set to increase their numbers in the US House with Michigan State Rep. Shri Thanedar winning the Democratic primary for an open seat representing most of Detroit.
Thanedar, 67, an Indian immigrant is expected to win the seat in the Nov 8 election in the heavily Democratic 13th Congressional District, where the key issue was what kind of minority candidate should represent the predominantly Black city.
Meanwhile, in Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the first and only Indian American woman in the US House of Representatives serving from Washington’s 7th congressional district since 2017, sailed through the primary, with 83.88% of the votes.
Read: Indian American Shri Thanedar to run for US Congress (December 27, 2021)
In Michigan, with 99% of votes counted, Thanedar was leading with 28% to 24% over his nearest rival state Sen. Adam Hollier with six other contestants. He declared victory early Wednesday.
“This race was not about me. Michigan’s 13th Congressional district is one of the poorest in the country, and I will fight for economic and racial justice in Congress,” Thanedar said in a Wednesday statement.
“We must continue the fight against the special interests that seek to divide us and prevent us from achieving the basic rights that we all deserve. We have a lot of work in front of us, and you can count on me to continue fighting for our communities.”
The 13th District seat is open because Michigan’s only African American in Congress, Democratic US Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, is retiring at the end of her term.
Thanedar, the only non-Black candidate on the ballot, committed over $5 million of his wealth to his campaign and has been inundating the TV airwaves with ads, according to local media reports.
Thanedar spent part of his personal fortune to win the congressional seat, just as he did in 2018, when he finished third statewide in the Democratic race for governor, though he got the most votes in Detroit.
The Wayne County district is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib. However, after Michigan’s political maps were redrawn, Tlaib opted to run in the 12th District after Lawrence announced her retirement.
Thanedar, who represents Michigan’s 3rd District across northeast Detroit, said he’s running for Congress because he knows what it’s like to struggle growing up in poverty.
The entrepreneur and chemist grew up in Belgaum, India, and worked odd jobs to support his family of eight. He immigrated to the United States in 1979 to pursue a doctorate at the University of Akron and became a citizen in 1988.
Thanedar’s chemical laboratory companies made him a millionaire before he made an unsuccessful run for governor of Michigan in 2018, pledging not to accept any corporate political action committee donations.
As a state representative, he touts bringing in funding for Detroit public schools, literacy programs and co-sponsoring a $1.5 billion Racial Equality and Reparations Fund Act.
Thanedar believes his science background will allow him to craft legislation on climate change. Education funding is the key to fighting poverty, he said, adding that he supports making community colleges and early education tuition-free.
Thanedar said bankrolling his candidacy gives him independence. He’s calling for campaign finance reform because “money is corrupting our politics.”
As the only non-Black candidate in the race, Thanedar said he agrees there should be proper representation for the district. “But I do believe that this congressional seat belongs to the people of the district, and the people who should decide who they want.”
Meanwhile, in Washington Jayapal, one of the House’s leading progressives, sailed through the primary, leading the four-way race with 91,963 or 83.88 percent of the votes.
“Thank you #WA07 for giving me such a big primary election night vote! On to the general election!! I will be honored to serve you again,” she tweeted.
Born into a Malayali family in Chennai, India, Jayapal immigrated to the U.S. in 1982, at age 16, to attend college. She represented the 37th legislative district in the Washington State Senate from 2015 to 2017.
Before entering electoral politics, Jayapal was a Seattle-based civil rights activist, serving until 2012 as the executive director of OneAmerica, a pro-immigrant advocacy group.
She founded the organization, originally called Hate Free Zone, after the September 11 attacks. She also co-chaired the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Currently, she serves on both the Judiciary Committee and Budget Committee.