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Provocative Ads by Conn. Treasurer Candidate Dita Bhargava Put Spotlight On Issues Often Sidelined by High-profile Contests

Provocative Ads by Conn. Treasurer Candidate Dita Bhargava Put Spotlight On Issues Often Sidelined by High-profile Contests

  • The Indian American has released a commercial on the overturning of Roe v. Wade, as well as one against Purdue Pharma for killing “a million people” including her son.

Indian American Dita Bhargava, a candidate for Connecticut state treasurer, is making headlines with her recently released TV commercials. Through these ads, the former Wall Street banker is changing the perception of the role of the treasurer as well as dealing with a difficult personal story. 

She is one of three Democrats seeking to replace Treasurer Shawn Wooden, who declined to run for another term. She faces attorney Erick Russell, and Karen DuBois-Walton, head of New Haven’s housing authority.

Although Bhargava did not get the convention endorsement, she was “the first Democrat in the race to qualify for a public campaign finance grant,” which she used to fund the two commercials ahead of the Aug. 9 primary election,” as reported by CT Mirror. 

The first ad Bhargava released asserts that the next treasurer can play a role in fighting the loss of reproductive rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Titled “Stripped Away,” the ad opens with a shot of a bare-shouldered Bhargava, followed by a quick succession of other women who stare wordlessly into the camera. “This is who had freedom over their own bodies stripped away,” she says. “This is who the Supreme Court left completely vulnerable. As Democrats, we need to fight harder. So I’ll lead the crusade for our right to choose as state treasurer. We’ll push companies that we invest in to guarantee employees access to safe abortions. This is who’s fighting back and why we need more women in office.”

In the second commercial, she recounts the 2018 death of her son, Alec Pelletier, from an accidental fentanyl overdose. In the 30-second video, Bhargava appears outside Purdue headquarters with a framed photo of her son above a caption reading “filmed without permission of Purdue Pharma.” She then goes on to say that the company “killed a million people, including our son, all to make more money.” She continues: “I’ll use Connecticut’s money to fight back and hold big corporations accountable. You want our investments? No profiting from addiction or guns and most of all you must support a woman’s right to an abortion. The video concludes with what appears to be a security officer, whose face had been blurred out, directing Bhargava away from the building as she says in voiceover “I approve this message. They didn’t,” she says.

Per CT Mirror, “the state treasurer is the sole trustee of Connecticut’s retirement funds, a portfolio valued at about $47 billion last spring,” adding that “historically the treasurer has used the investments as instruments of social activism, including divesting from companies doing business in South Africa during apartheid and, more recently, from Russian assets to protest the invasion of Ukraine.”

In a written statement provided to the media, Bhargava addressed why she is focusing on the issue of abortion access. “I’m focused on it because the state treasurer has the power to affect corporate behavior by the investments it makes. Or doesn’t make. And I promise you, when I’m treasurer, this state will not invest in companies that do not support a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion.”

Bhargava’s pro-choice TV commercial was first blocked by Disney’s Hulu, but it later reversed its stance. The Washington Post reported on July 25 that the Disney-backed streaming service was “refusing to run political ads on central themes of Democratic midterm campaigns, including abortion and guns, prompting fury from the party’s candidates and leaders.” 

According to a Jezebel report, Suraj Patel, a Democratic candidate for Congress from New York’s newly drawn 12th Congressional District, who is challenging two veteran lawmakers — U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney — had posted a letter of protest to Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Hulu President Joe Earley complaining about Hulu’s policy. 

A person familiar with Hulu’s policies who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Post that “in recent months, the company has reevaluated its policy implementation to give candidates greater flexibility to explain their positions.”

Meanwhile, Bhargava lauded Hulu’s decision. “Our activism, perseverance, and forceful challenge of corporate behavior resulted in the reversal of the decision,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “This demonstrates exactly the kind of tenacity that I plan to bring to the state treasury,” she added.

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“The ads have attracted a fair amount of attention to a race often sidelined by higher-profile contests like this year’s campaigns for governor and one of the state’s U.S. Senate seat,” the CT Mirror noted.

Born in Ontario, Canada, Bhargava grew up with two sisters, raised by a single mother following their parents’ divorce. She has a degree in electrical engineering from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She moved to the U.S. with her mother and sisters and became a citizen in 2004.

She moved to Connecticut in 2007 from New York, after marrying her husband, Dan Pelletier, who majored in engineering physics but was also a Wall Street banker. Pelletier now has his own software development company. The couple has two children — Arya and Kalyan. 

Her last private sector job was with RBS, but she also worked as a Wall Street trader and portfolio manager at Bear Sterns, Citadel Investment Group, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, and Dillon Read Capital Management.

She launched unsuccessful bids for governor and treasurer in 2018. She left the Democratic contest for governor when Ned Lamont entered the race, and decided to run for treasurer instead. She lost that race to former Hartford City Council president Shawn Wooden who scored a double-digit victory in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary.

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