- While primaries are two years away, in the first election of 2021 in February, 2 Indian Americans, 4 Bangladeshi Americans are among candidates running for NYC City Council seat from District 24.
Former Obama administration official Ashwani K. Jain has announced his long-shot bid for Governor of Maryland. Jain ran unsuccessfully for Montgomery County Council in 2018. In a campaign video, the 31-year-old Jain says: “In a state that’s becoming younger and more diverse than ever before, voices like mine are growing in Maryland and deserve to be heard, because decisions made about us should not be made without us.” Arguing that “elective experience is not the only kind of experience that matters,” Jain says: “I understand that some will say that this overly ambitious, eager millennial with a baby face and no elected experience is not qualified or ready for this position.”
A childhood cancer survivor, Jain has talked about turning from “a survivor to advocate.” Jain held multiple roles during the Obama administration, working at the White House and in the Department of Health and Human Services. Maryland Matters reports that Jain becomes the second Democrat to enter the 2022 election for governor, joining state Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D). Several Democrats and Republicans are eyeing the race, the report says.
Jain’s announcement comes a week after President Biden and Vice President Harris were sworn in. In addition to Jain, several South Asian Americans are launching their campaigns for state and local government for the 2021 primaries.
Like Jain, another Indian American making headlines is Aftab Pureval, who announced his mayoral bid for Cincinnati on Jan. 21, becoming the latest candidate to enter what is getting to be quite a crowded race. Pureval is currently the Hamilton County Clerk of Court. “I’m running for Mayor to lead us boldly into the new decade, starting with an aggressive economic recovery from COVID that benefits every neighborhood in Cincinnati, and a plan to restore the public’s trust in City Hall,” he said in a statement.
In 2016, Pureval became the first Democrat elected to the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in 100 years. He won re-election by 15 points in 2020. In the video announcing his campaign, Pureval introduced his wife, a doctor at Bethesda North working on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, and their son, 1-year-old Bodhi.
In California, Carlsbad city council member Dr. Priya Bhat-Patel is looking to take a step into a spot in Sacramento as part of the state Senate. She is eyeing Republican incumbent Patricia Bates’ spot in the 36th state Senate District.
Bhat-Patel, a daughter of Indian immigrants, grew up in Carlsbad. She is the first Indian American to be elected to City Council in the county of San Diego in 2018, and the youngest person ever to be elected to the Carlsbad City Council. As a public health expert, she has devoted her career to tackling tough issues — from reducing childhood obesity, improving health access for seniors, to expanding preventative care programs. If elected, she will make history again as the first Indian American woman state legislator in California history, as stated on her campaign page.
In the state’s 22nd Assembly District, Harini Krishnan, California State Director of South Asians for Biden is running to be a delegate. If elected, she will represent San Mateo County at the California Democratic Party (CDP) regional meetings and conventions and “champion the Democratic values of equity, equality and justice in the party agenda and platform,” she says on her Facebook page.
She was elected as one of two delegates for Joe Biden to the 2020 Democratic National Convention from California’s 14th Congressional District. Krishnan was also the recipient of the Hillsborough Schools’ Citizen of the Year Award, which honors a resident who has made a sustained and significant contribution to Hillsborough, especially in education. An iIndian classical vocalist, Krishnan lives in Hillsborough.
On the East Coast, New Jersey State Senator Vin Gopal ((D-Long Branch) has launched his re-election campaign to represent District 11. Gopal held a virtual kickoff rally for his re-election bid on Jan. 21 which was attended by nearly 300 people from around the state and brought in over $150,000. The Democratic primary is scheduled on June 8.
A lifelong resident of Monmouth County, Gopal, who was raised in Freehold, is a small business owner, having built his business from the ground up, now with 14 employees. He is also the founder and president of a 501c(3) organization dedicated to helping Monmouth County charities and individuals in need.
Another Indian American who has thrown her hat in the ring is Anjali Mehrotra, president of the National Organization for Women of New Jersey, and Municipal Chair of Mountainside Democratic Committee. The India-born Mehrotra is seeking the Democratic nomination for State Assembly from Legislative District 21. The district consists of 16 municipalities from Union, Somerset, and Morris counties. In her announcement, Mehrotra made note of how the coronavirus pandemic had underscored disparities for New Jerseyans in health care, wealth and income, and food security.
This is Mehrotra’s second bid for public office. She ran a strong race for council in heavily-Republican Mountainside three years ago. Mehrotra will take on Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) and another Republican who has not yet been determined.
New York City
Right now, all eyes are on New York City where a special election will be held on Feb. 2 for the New York City Council to represent District 24, covering Briarwood, Electchester, Hillcrest, Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Jamaica Estates, Parkway Village, Fresh Meadows, and Jamaica. Several South Asian American candidates are vying for the position which became vacant after former Councilmember Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) formally resigned to begin a new post as special counsel for ratepayer protection with the Governor’s office. The winning candidate will serve in the role until Dec. 31.
Running in the special election is Dr. Neeta Jain, a practicing psychologist for over 30 years. There are no Democratic or Republican ballot lines to signal candidates’ ideologies. However, special election rules force candidates to make up their own party names. Thus, Jain is running under the Community First banner. Jain is New York’s Democratic District Leader and an elected DNC Delegate for Biden-Harris.
Joining Jain is Deepti Sharma, who is running under A Better Queens banner. A small business owner , Sharma took a roundabout way into local politics, before deciding to run for the New York City Council to represent Queens’ 24th District. The Flushing native volunteered for Fernando Ferrer’s mayoral campaign while she was still in college in 2005. She volunteered for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. Then in 2011 she founded Food to Eat, a catering company that connects immigrant, women and minority owned restaurants with corporate clients.
Also joining the race for the spot in the City Council representing District 24 are four Bangladeshi American candidates. If one of them wins, the candidate will be the first Bangladeshi elected to the New York City Council and join a cohort of Bangladeshi American elected around the nation.
Progressive community organizer Moumita Ahmed (Mo For The People) seems to be on the right track. Earning the most coveted endorsement yet — New York’s Working Families Party (WFP) —Ahmed’s campaign, which began last month, has backing by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), in addition to the support of other city-based groups. In 2015, Ahmed helped co-found Millennials for Bernie, started the New Reformers PAC and, to maximize voting power, formed Bangladeshi Americans for Political Progress (BAPP). When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she sprang into action launching the all women-led Queen’s Mutual Aid Network to provide critical funding and aid to over 2,000 families.
Progressive public interest lawyer Soma Syed (Soma for Queens) recently launched her campaign for New York City Council for District 24. Syed, is focusing on a “Justice for All” platform. Her justice platform on housing, economic, education, environment, healthcare, and criminal justice are the centerpiece of her campaign to improve the district. Syed attended the Albany Law School of Union University and returned to Queens with her Juris Doctor (JD) to serve her community as an attorney. Syed serves as the President of the Queens County Women’s Bar Association.
Joining the two women are two men, both Democrats — activist and educator Dilip Nath (Your Voice Matters) and community leader Mujib Rahman (Unity). Nath has many feathers in his cap — New American Voter Association Political Action Committee president, Community Board 8 member, SUNY Downstate interim vice president and chief information officer and more — and is looking to add another: to become the first South Asian to serve on the City Council. Nath immigrated to Queens from Bangladesh at age 16.
Like Nath, Rahman is no stranger to the Bangladeshi community in the district. Rahman is claiming status as the most conservative Democratic candidate in his run for New York City Council. He believes his focus on “faith and family” directly represents the views of the community and will earn him the elected position. “There’s conservancy in my district,” he told the Queens Chronicle. The Council bid is the second for Rahman, who ran against Lancman in the 2012 election. Lancman took home 73 percent of the votes, beating out Republican Alex Blishteyn with about 20 percent, leaving Rahman with 6.3 percent. In that race, Rahman ran on the “Family Values” line. Now, he’s running on the “Unity Party” ticket.
Other candidates to watch out for in New York City politics is Ahsan Syed and Reshma Patel. Syed is running for Mayor of New York City along with heavyweights like Andrew Yang, Scott Stringer, Eric Adams and Maya Wiley amongst some 30 candidates. If elected, he will be the first Muslim candidate to be elected mayor of New York City. Patel, meanwhile, is running for the post of New York City Comptroller. She belongs to Manhattan Community Board 6, is president of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club and serves as co-chair of the board at Chhaya Community Development Corporation.
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.