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Oops: Congressional Candidate Aditya Pai Suspends Campaign; Reverses Decision Hours Later

Oops: Congressional Candidate Aditya Pai Suspends Campaign; Reverses Decision Hours Later

  • The Indian American is among four Democrats vying for a seat currently held by Republican Rep. Michelle Steel from California's 45th Congressional District in the 2024 elections.

Supporters of Indian American Congressional candidate Aditya Pai got a rude shock last week as they woke up to an email announcing that the 31-year-old Indian American is suspending his campaign. But a few hours later, he reversed his course. Pai, a Democrat, is vying for Rep. Michelle Steel’s seat from California’s 45th Congressional District in the 2024 elections.

Pai first announced his bid for the seat in April. He was the third Democratic candidate to throw his hat into the ring, alongside Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Bernice Nguyen and Cheyenne Hunt, an activist and attorney with Public Citizen.

In an Aug. 10 email sent to his supporters, Pai said he is quitting the campaign because of “a lack of joy.” By the end of the day, the 31-year-old had reversed his suspension, telling the media and his supporters that the email was sent in error, and reaffirming that he is very much in the race to represent the district that includes Garden Grove, Westminster, Cerritos, Fountain Valley, Buena Park, Fullerton, Placentia and Brea.

Earlier in the day, in the email announcing the suspension of his campaign, Pai said that despite their “service message that resonates in a purple district,” and the fundraising to “stay competitive,” his “heart is not quite in it.” Although he loves “politics, law, policy, government dearly and loves helping people,” he is not “at least at this moment,” enjoying the life of a politician. “And were I fortunate enough to be elected, I am now certain, I would be unhappy in Congress,” he wrote. “I didn’t know that four months ago. I know that now.”

However, a few hours later he issued a statement saying he “wrote that letter as an emotional processing exercise after an exhausting glimpse into the political machine.” He sent it to “some mentors and staff for perspective before getting back to work.” Although it wasn’t supposed to be shared, Pai said he sees “a silver lining” by his supporters seeing the email. “Despite the emotional weight of candidacy, my call to service — not politics — far outweighs it.”

The Harvard-educated trial attorney, lifelong Democrat, and Orange County native is hoping the approach can better resonate with a voter base with a significant number of moderates. California’s 45th Congressional District, in Orange County, is one of only 18 that voted for a Republican congress member in 2022 and President Biden in 2020. The district is considered to lean Republican, according to an early forecast of the 2024 elections by Center for Politics. 

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Pai has raised a significant amount as well, federal filings reveal. As of June 30, he has raised “about $140,000.” His two primary opponents — Cheyenne Hunt and Kim Nguyen — have raised about $170,000 and $150,000 in the same period, respectively. Steel has raised about $2.2 million for her reelection.

Born to a middle-class family in Bombay, Aditya Pai moved to Southern California at the age of 8 with his parents, his website says. Growing up in Orange County, “he learned both the power of hard work and the importance of good luck,” the website adds.

Pai’s campaign is dedicated “to building a bright future for north Orange County, Artesia, and Cerritos through affordable housing, sane and humane immigration reform, and smart economics that empowers taxpayers, workers, and small businesses – not large corporations,” according to his website.

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