- The 67-year-old entrepreneur and self-made millionaire defeated his Republican challenger Martell Bivings by a landslide from an overwhelmingly African American district.
The Samosa Causes in the U.S. House of Representatives has a new member — Shri Thanedar from Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. The Belgaum-born 67-year-old entrepreneur and self-made millionaire defeated his Republican challenger Martell Bivings by a landslide from an overwhelmingly Democratic district.
“We did it,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “With early returns showing us receiving 89.2 percent of the vote, I’m honored that voters chose me to be the next Representative in Congress for the 13th District!”
Thanedar will join the four other Indian American Representatives — Ami Bera and Ro Khanna from California, Pramila Jayapal from Washington, and Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois — who have sailed through their re-election bid. Khanna easily defeated Indian American Ritesh Tandon in California’s 17th Congressional District. Khanna received 56,505 votes, compared to Tandons’ 21,171, according to The New York Times. Jayapal won her re-election from Washington’s 7th Congressional district, as did her colleague Raja Krishnamoorthi in Illinois’ 8th Congressional District. While Bera’s re-election hasn’t yet been called, he’s comfortably leading his opponent Tamika Hamilton, 58.7 percent to 41.3 percent, The New York Times data reveals.
Thanedar, a one-term Michigan state legislator, ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic party nomination for governor in 2018. He has passed 18 bills, including one to bring $94 million to Detroit Public Schools, according to a press release issued by him earlier this year.
Thanedar’s win is significant given that he will be the first non-Black representative in over 70 years from the newly redrawn 13th District which is now 45 percent Black. It covers most of Detroit, Hamtramck, the Grosse Pointes and the Downriver communities. He will now occupy the seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, the state’s sole African American in Congress, who is retiring at the end of her term.
There was conjecture that the constituents would support Republican Bivings, who’s African American. But news reports noted that Black leaders from his constituency supported Thanedar. He ran on a platform that supports raising the minimum wage along with supporting free early childhood education, the Housing in Infrastructure Act, developing the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act and investing “in people, not special interests and corporations.”
Their faith in and support for Thanedar was evident on Nov. 8, when he addressed his supporters in a victory speech although his race wasn’t called by then. Several leaders spoke, congratulating the new Congressman for his win.
Thanedar, in turn, pledged to work for the Black community and be their voice in the U.S. Congress. “I will serve the people of the 13th district to the best of my abilities,” he told his supporters. He shared stories of being a poor Indian immigrant who became wealthy by starting a chemical business, which seems to have resonated with Detroit voters. “I grew up in dire poverty,” he said. Noting that the district is 20 to 30% at or below the poverty level, he stressed the importance of economic prosperity “We need to bring in good-paying jobs.”
Thanedar came to the U.S. in 1979 and got his Ph.D. in chemistry and an MBA. He took out loans to buy a company he worked for, Chemir, and built it from a $150,000 company to one with a revenue of $14 million before selling it for $26 million. He next started Avomeen Analytical Services, a chemical testing laboratory.
He sold the majority stakes in it in 2016 and, according to his campaign bio, retired to get involved in public service to answer “the call to fight for social, racial and economic justice.” He has a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Akron, a post-doctoral degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s in business administration from Fontbonne University, a private, non-profit four-year institution in Missouri.
Thanedar and is wife Shashi live close to their two boys and their grandchild.