- In my purple district, I tackled critical as well as niche issues that affect those who are unheard, invisible, or “new Americans” like me.
It has been a busy December: I attended my first legislators’ conference, introduced my last resolution, turned a constituent idea into a bill for the last time, and delivered my farewell remarks. I will also send out my last e-news, clear out my legislative office in the Anderson House Office Building, hold my last office hours, turn in my state-issued laptop and ID badge, and start the search for a new job.
While I am not sad to be leaving the world of partisan politics, I definitely recognize that representation matters. I made my farewell remarks while wearing a traditional handloom sari from India with a purple border and boy, did I represent my purple district! As a legislator, I championed the issues that matter to my constituents and to the immigrants across our state for whom I was also a voice. I tackled critical issues such as funding our kids’ education and protecting our natural resources, and also niche issues that affect those who are unheard, invisible or “new Americans” like me. Because of my identity, I was able to understand and respond to issues that most others miss. Our Governor will have two Democratic majorities in both chambers, but no one that comes with a perspective rooted in Hindu faith – and for that, I am truly sorry.
A local-level elected official summed up this loss in two sentences: “Padma was the victim of character assassination by Republican operatives who lack a moral compass, and then she was abandoned by Democratic decision-makers… Nevertheless, she persisted…” Persistence meant knocking on a lot of doors and raising a LOT of money. Our team amassed the resources to run a phenomenal campaign remaining positive throughout. We didn’t have the “soft side” support that other candidates had and yet we came within 0.69% of victory. Other Democrats running for state legislature who were supported by the party and outside groups had a better chance of winning because resources were directed to counter the Republican attacks against them.
The Federal Election Commission states: Individuals, groups, corporations, labor organizations and political committees (including separate segregated funds (SSFs), party committees and nonconnected committees) may support or oppose candidates by making independent expenditures (IEs). Independent expenditures are not contributions and are not subject to limits. Neighbors, friends, and allies were appalled at the multitude of commercials and mailers attacking me, full of lies and rumors. For every positive mailer our campaign sent, laying out our vision and the work I have done as a legislator, there were at least 4 or 5 negative mailers about me – funded by outside groups, by IEs. Similar independent expenditure, supporting my candidacy or opposing my opponent, could have stemmed the harmful attacks against me.
Many organizations focus on issue-based support — e.g., environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters, or Emily’s List, which supports pro-choice Democratic women. Candidates who earn their endorsements often get contributions as well. Yet others focus on identity. One such organization that provides support to Muslim and pro-Muslim candidates is the Emgage PAC, a 501c4 organization, and its affiliated nonprofit, nonpartisan 501c3, EmgageUSA.org, that mobilizes Muslim voters, educates them on issues and provides leadership training.
I’ve worked closely for years with APIA-Vote MI, a 501c3 organization formed nearly 20 years ago, collaborating even more as a legislator, on issues affecting Asian Americans. Just this year, a 501c4 org was formed to support the APIA community’s political advocacy. The Hindu Community Relations Council (HCRC ) of Michigan was formed in 2021 as a 501c3, taking the interfaith outreach that we began building decades ago to the next level.
While HCRC of Michigan is yet to form a PAC or get involved in political advocacy, there are other groups doing so, such as the Hindu American PAC. Based on its setup, HAPAC is limited to supporting federal-level issues and candidates. In the final weeks of my campaign, I was fortunate to get the support of the Indian American organization, IMPACT Fund. Many of these groups can give directly to candidates, but ensuring that they are well-funded is critical to having a meaningful impact. And perhaps it’s time to establish IE side entities as well, especially to support Indian Americans or Hindus running for office.
Running for office as a Democrat, Indian American and Hindu woman in a district that leans Republican is beyond demanding. A solid and extensive infrastructure of support to weather any storms that come up is critical to winning. It is also essential as more Indian Americans, especially those of us who are Hindu, become engaged in all levels of government and run for office.
Padma Kuppa, the State Representative for Michigan’s 41st House District serving her second term, was the Democratic candidate for the Michigan State Senate in District 9. A mother, an engineer from NIT Warangal, and an automotive and IT professional for over 2 decades, and a civic and interfaith leader for years, she is the first Indian immigrant and Hindu in the Michigan state legislature.