Indian American businessman Vimal Patel is vying for the Democratic nomination for US Congress from Alabama’s redrawn 2nd district which spans south Alabama and includes Montgomery County and a portion of Mobile County.
Patel, 39, is one of 13 Democrats who joined the race after a federal court approved a new map that changed the 2nd District from safely Republican to one where a Democrat can win. The primary is March 5. Eight Republicans are running.
Patel told Al.com that the Great Recession of more than a decade ago taught him how to sustain his family businesses during lean times, skills that he believes would make him a problem-solver in Washington.
Patel said he believes the business skills would make him effective in Congress and help tackle issues like the federal deficit and the long-range outlook for Social Security. He said those in Washington have responded to those foundational problems with complacency.
“That’s ridiculous, for us to know the Titanic’s hitting the iceberg and to say that we’re just going let two political parties take us right into it,” Patel said.
“The real issue is, what kind of changes need to take place to keep it solvent,” Patel said. “Right now, you’re just having people throw up bullets in the air. You’re going to want to elect people who have numbers in mind, who know how to do those things. You cannot spend money that you don’t have.”
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Patel ran for the 2nd District seat in 2022, losing in the Democratic primary to Phyllis Harvey-Hall, who is also running again this time.
Patel said he has always leaned toward a Democratic viewpoint on certain issues. Patel supported the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress under former President Barack Obama and says its emphasis on preventive healthcare was commonsense.
Patel disagrees with Republican candidates for Congress who call for abolishing the federal Department of Education. He said he thinks he knows why, but said the answer is to fix it, not eliminate it.
Patel said he would support a federal initiative to improve education that would not take decision-making away from the state and local levels.
Patel said if he goes to Congress he will have a staff member whose job is to inform small businesses about federal programs that can help them.
Patel said he saw the need for that effort during the Covid pandemic when he said he only learned about a federal grant program from a chamber of commerce Facebook post.
Patel manages his family’s hotels in Troy, Montgomery, and Dothan and a laundromat in Eufaula. He lives in an apartment built into one of the family hotels in Troy. He is married and has an 11-year-old daughter. He shares his home and office with his father, Pravin Patel, who built three of the hotels.
Patel’s family immigrated from India in 1980. The first one in his family born in America, Vimal Patel graduated from Charles Henderson High School in Troy and earned a political science degree from Auburn in 2007.
He said he assumed management responsibilities for the family businesses around 2009 to 2010, a time when the recession and its aftermath were squeezing the economy in Alabama and across the nation.