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Indian American Incumbents Sail Through the Election Night, Challengers Fall Short

Indian American Incumbents Sail Through the Election Night, Challengers Fall Short

  • Among the prominent losers are Sara Gideon of Maine who failed to unseat Sen. Susan Collins and Sri Preston Kulkarni who failed in his bid to win Congressional race in Texas.

Tuesday, Nov. 3 night saw all four Indian American members of the House of Representatives, fondly known as the ‚Äėsamosa caucus,‚Äô sail through again. Among other hopefuls some appear to be giving their rivals a run for their money, while others have fallen by the wayside. Here is the latest list of winners and losers.


  1. Incumbent Dr. Ami Bera (Dem), 55, easily won the 7th Congressional District of California for the fifth consecutive term. He won by an insurmountable lead of 61 percent against his Republican rival, 65-year-old Buzz Patterson with 39 percent. Bera has represented California‚Äôs 7th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives since 2013. Born and raised in California, Bera is the longest serving Indian American in the U.S. Congress.
  2. Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, 44, easily defeated fellow Indian American Republican Ritesh Tandon, 48, by 74.1 percent to Tandon‚Äôs 25.9 percent in his re-election bid to the US House in California‚Äôs 17th Congressional district. This was his third consecutive win from the 17th Congressional District of California. A lawyer and academic, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Khanna is the son of an IIT engineer and a schoolteacher.
  3. Incumbent Democrat Pramila Jaypal won the US House seat representing Washington State by 84.8 percent votes, defeating Republican challenger Craig Keller, with 15.2 percent votes. Jayapal is reelected to the US House of Representative for the third consecutive term. Chennai-born Jayapal, 55, was the first Indian American woman to be elected to the US House of Representatives in 2016 and is a harsh critic of India.
  4. Incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) easily romped home in his re-election bid to the US House of Representatives in the 8th Congressional District of Illinois. He defeated challenger Preston Nelson (Libertarian Party) by 70.9 percent votes to Nelson‚Äôs 29.1 percent.  New Delhi born Krishnamoorthi, 47, has been reelected for the third consecutive term. He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016. He serves on the House Oversight Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
  5. At the state level, 29-year-old Niraj Antani (Republican) created history by becoming the first Indian American to be elected to the Ohio State Senate. Currently a State Representative, Antani defeated Mark Fogel of the Democratic Party and was elected as the state Senator for the Ohio Senate‚Äôs 6th District, which encompasses most of Montgomery County. He was a member of the state House of Representatives for three terms having been first elected when he was only 23 years old, becoming one of the youngest legislators in the country.
  6. In New York, Kevin Thomas, a sitting State Senator and Democrat from Levittown was reelected in District 6 against Republican challenger Dennis Dunne Sr. The district includes some or all of the following communities: West Hempstead, Wantagh, Uniondale, Seaford, Salisbury, Plainedge, Old Bethpage, Massapequa, Malverne, Levittown, Lakeview, Island Trees, Hicksville, Hempstead, Garden City South, Garden City, Franklin Square, Farmingdale, East Meadow and Bethpage. Thomas, 34, immigrated to the U.S. at age 10. Prior to winning election two years ago in the 6th District, he served as an attorney and civic leader. Thomas was also an appointee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to the New York State Advisory Committee. Upon his election in 2018, Thomas became the first Indian American in New York history to serve in the state Senate. He currently serves as chairman of the Consumer Protection Committee and sits on the Judiciary, Finance, Banking, Aging, Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committees.
  7. Filmmaker Mira Nair‚Äôs son, Zohran Mamdani won a New York State Assembly seat. Mamdani, 28, ran unopposed in the general election after defeating incumbent Assembly member Aravella Simotas in the Democratic primary election in June, handing him an automatic win once the polls closed Nov. 3 night. A housing counselor, the Indian-Ugandan New Yorker, as reported to said, ‚ÄúIt’s time to guarantee housing to all New Yorkers as a right, regardless of ability to pay.‚ÄĚ  He is a first-time candidate for elected office.
  8. Indian American lawyer Jenifer Rajkumar has become the first South Asian woman to be elected to the New York State Assembly. The 38-year-old Democrat has defeated her Republican rival Giovanni Perna. Congratulating her, The Indian American Impact Fund said on Twitter, ‚ÄúCongratulations to Jenifer Rajkumar on becoming the first South Asian woman elected to NY state office! Jenifer is a longtime public servant and legal advocate, and we know she’ll be a strong advocate for South Asian voices in Albany.‚ÄĚ Rajkumar will represent New York City in the New York State Assembly, representing the 38th Assembly district, which includes Woodhaven, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Glendale. A Stanford-educated lawyer and an immigrant rights advocate, Rajkumar is also a former New York state government official.
  9. Democrat Kesha Ram became the first woman of color elected to the Vermont Senate, placing her alongside five other state senators for the Chittenden County district. Ram came in third in the six-seat Chittenden District with 46,504 votes, according to unofficial results posted on the Vermont Secretary of State election website. All six seats in the district were won by candidates backed by the Democratic Party or both the Democratic and Progressiveparties. For Ram, born to an Indian father and Jewish American mother, the push to get people of color into state office doesn’t stop with her election. “I want to turn around and help recruit the first Indigenous woman, the first Black woman,” she said to VT Digger. “Many other firsts and seconds and onward so that we can have a robust conversation and no one is seen as monolithic.” Speaking to American Kahani via email, a humble Ram says of her victory, ‚ÄúAs the first woman of color and the youngest woman in history to be elected to the Vermont State Senate, I hope I can serve as a bright spot for Indian Americans even in this time of uncertainty. When you love your community and country long and hard enough, eventually it will love you back.‚ÄĚ She adds, ‚ÄúParticularly to younger Indian Americans, I would also say that it‚Äôs okay to fail. You need to fail to understand the value of success, and I lost some elections before winning this one. Taking a risk is always important and worthwhile!‚ÄĚ More than 94% of Vermont’s population is white. In Chittenden County, where Ram won, this number falls to 90.3%.  Ram, originally from California, studied at the University of Vermont and served as student body president. She hit two milestones in 2008: Graduating and running for the Vermont House. She won a seat as the country’s youngest legislator, but took a break from politics after she lost the 2016 Democratic primary race for lieutenant governor.
  10. San Jose Councilman Ash Kalra appeared Wednesday to pull off an upset win over rival Madison Nguyen who was deemed the front-runner in a hotly contested race for the state‚Äôs 27th Assembly District. Nguyen had beaten Kalra by nearly 15 percentage points in the June primary. But early returns Tuesday showed the two Democratic contenders in a dead heat. And as election results rolled in late Tuesday, Kalra not only narrowed Nguyen‚Äôs initial 130-vote lead but surged ahead to surpass his opponent by nearly 4,000 votes Wednesday. Kalra is said to have benefited from a higher voter turnout in Tuesday‚Äôs election which also drew a large population of Latino voters and younger voters. But the 44-year-old credits his success to a strong ground game ‚ÄĒ he says volunteers knocked on ‚Äútens of thousands‚ÄĚ of doors. ‚ÄúWe worked harder than anyone could possibly imagine,‚ÄĚ Kalra said Wednesday to The Mercury News. ‚ÄúWe really made an effort to reach out to folks who normally don‚Äôt vote and we convinced them it was an important enough election for them to show up to vote.‚ÄĚ
  11. Louisville immigration, employment and business attorney Nima Kulkarni, who in 2018, became the first Indian-American ever elected to the Kentucky Legislature, and Democratic member of the Kentucky House of Representatives representing District 40 since January 2019, running unopposed  for re-election to the Kentucky House of Representatives to represent District 40, has declared victory. Speaking to American, a jubilant Kulkarni says, ‚ÄúMy main race was actually this past summer in the primary, where the gentleman I had defeated in 2018 ran against me again. I was able to beat him with a margin of about 80%, which is huge, when you think of immigrants and immigration being at the top of the agenda in a presidential election year with Trump at the top of the ballot.   The fact that I won that primary election and ran unopposed, I am very encouraged that District 40 felt I was representing them the right way.‚ÄĚ However, Kulkarni is disheartened by the results in Kentucky at the state legislative level. ‚ÄúWe lost a lot of Democratic seats. But I think this is a reflection point where people are trying to figure out what the identity of this country is. In Kentucky, a red state has somehow turned even redder,‚ÄĚ she adds sighing. On a hopeful note she adds, ‚ÄúI represent two urban centers ‚Äď Louisville and Lexington. They are the only blue points in the sea of red. But I think it speaks to incremental signs of progress.‚ÄĚ As to how she feels about her win, Kulkarni says, ‚ÄúHopeful and determined.‚ÄĚ Nirupama ‚ÄėNima‚Äô Kulkarni, 38, immigrated to the U.S. with her parents at age six from Jamshedpur.

Hanging On

  1. Emergency room physician Democrat Dr. Hiral Tipirneni is posing a real threat to incumbent Dr. David Schweikert (Rep), with her slim lead of 50.3 percent votes to his 49.7 percent from the 6th Congressional District of Arizona. If Tipirneni wins, she will be the second-ever Indian American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.


  1. Sri Preston Kulkarni (Democrat) lost a tough neck to neck battle with Republican challenger and Fort Bend County Sheriff, Troy Nehls from the 22nd Congressional district of Texas. Kulkarni lost his election to the US House of Representatives by 44.4 percent votes to Nehls’ 51.7 percent. The seat was up for grabs after Republican Representative Pete Olson announced his retirement in 2019. Nehls drew national attention in 2017 over threatening to prosecute a driver with an anti-Trump sticker on their truck. In addition to serving as Fort Bend County constable and sheriff, Nehls is also an Iraq War veteran. Nehls’ victory on Nov. 3 thwarted heavy spending by Kulkarni and the Democrats to flip the district that stretches south and west of Houston into booming suburbs, including Pearland, Missouri City and Sugar Land, which is among the most racially and ethnically diverse in the nation. A lifelong public servant and huge Rockets fan, Kulkarni ran for the seat in 2018.
  2. Republican Manga Anantatmula, who tried to unseat Democratic incumbent Gerry Connolly in the 11th Congressional district of Virginia, lost by 43.3 percent.
  3. In Maine, Democrat Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Sara Gideon, who had been leading sitting stalwart Sen. Susan Collins in pre-election opinion polls, conceded the Senate race with 95% of results reporting, with Collins leading 51% to 42%. The incumbent, who trailed in most polls down the stretch, outperformed the polls and held a 50 percent to 43 percent lead over Gideon, with 75 percent of the expected vote reporting. If the race were closer and neither candidate had a majority, that might have opened the door for Gideon to win because of ranked-choice voting, as the third-place finisher Lisa Savage had 4 percent and was running to Gideon’s left. But with Collins hovering right around the 50 percent mark, Gideon probably decided there was no path for her. This is a potential death knell for the Democrats’ Senate hopes too. Sen. Collins is the only Republican on the ballot who has not endorsed President Trump. Born in 1971, Gideon was raised in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. 
  4. Nisha Sharma, who ran for the House on the Republican ticket from California, was defeated by incumbent democrat Mark DeSaulnier by 50.6 percent votes.
  5. Republican¬†‚ÄėRik‚Äô Mehta¬†lost the race to the US senate seat in New Jersey by 33.8 percent to incumbent Democrat Cory Booker, who had 60.63 percent votes.
  6. In the hotly contested race for mayor of East Brunswick, N.J., Democratic incumbent Dr. Brad Cohen, who is running for another four-year term has a wide lead over Republican challenger and newcomer Jesal Amin according to Nov. 3 preliminary results.  With 39.11 percent of the votes counted in Middlesex County, Cohen had received 12,460 votes, while Amin received 5,326 votes, according to the unofficial results. An East Brunswick resident for the past 24 years, Amin is a self-employed businessman, who promises not to raise taxes for town residents. Amin believes that the fast-paced redevelopment projects in town will over-crowd the school system and raise property taxes. 
  7. In New Jersey’s 25th Legislative District, Indian American Rupande Mehta is in a tough race with her Republican challenger Anthony Bucco. The Mumbai-born Mehta is seeking to be the first Indian American woman in the New Jersey state Senate. Both Bucco and Mehta are running for the one-year unexpired term that was created when Bucco’s father, Sen. Anthony R. Bucco, died last September. Bucco was named to his father’s Senate post in a special GOP election in November and he subsequently stepped away from the Assembly post he had for nine years. District 25 has been solidly Republican, with only 6 percent Asian representation. The 25th district includes more than a dozen municipalities in Morris County as well as one municipality in Somerset County in North Jersey. 
  8. Incumbent Republican Dale R. Folwell has defeated Democratic challenger Ronnie Chatterji to win a second term as North Carolina treasurer. With 2,601 of the state’s 2,662 precincts reporting, Folwell had received 52.6% of the vote to 47.4% for Chatterji. Chatterji, the Democrat challenger, is an economist who serves as a professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Sanford School of Public Policy. He served in the Obama administration.
  9. In Connecticut, Sujata Gadkar Wilcox lost to incumbent David Rutigliano for District 123. This was her second attempt at contesting this seat in the State House. She had stated that the pandemic situation had convinced her to run again. ‚ÄėThis unprecedented crisis demands new and thoughtful solutions to complicated issues,‚Äô she told the Trumball Times. Daughter of Indian immigrants, she was born on the 4th of July in New York. A professor of legal studies at Quinnipiac University, Wilcox lives with her husband and two daughters in Trumbull, of which District 123 is a part. 22)
  10. In New York‚Äôs District 99, Sarita Bhandarkar conceded defeat to Republican incumbent Colin Schmitt. She said she was ‚Äúrunning for Assembly because residents of Hudson Valley deserve a real advocate in Albany.‚ÄĚ Born to immigrants from India, Bhandarkar is an attorney and a small business owner, living in Orange County for 12 years. This was her first time running for election. Her challenger, Schmitt has been criticized by the Times Herald Record for his ‚Äúvile and nasty ad attack‚ÄĚon Bhandarkar. Schmitt called her ‚ÄėSocialist Sarita,‚Äô poking fun at her platform of lower taxes, affordable healthcare coverage and better schools.

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