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The Next-Gen Leaders: Indian American Candidates Win Local Elections in New York and Ohio

The Next-Gen Leaders: Indian American Candidates Win Local Elections in New York and Ohio

  • Priya Tamilarasan was elected city attorney of Gahanna; while Vik Vilkhu was elected Brighton town justice and Minita Sanghvi won second two-year term as Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner.

Apart from winning major state House and Senate seats in Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, several Indian Americans triumphed in state and local elections in Ohio and New York. It was a demonstration of the community’s growing political influence, engagement and organization. Some candidates like Sarika Bansal of Cary, North Carolina, overcame brazen acts of racism targeting their Indian American heritage and prevailed at the polls. 


Priya Tamilarasan

One of them was Priya Tamilarasan, who was elected city attorney of Gahanna by 53% of the votes. Her win against incumbent Ray Mularski “showed how important development issues can be in a suburb,” the Columbia Dispatch noted. Noting that “the people of Gahanna want a change,” she told the publication that she wants “to improve communications with residents and implement changes to mayor’s court.” Tamilarasan has been a practicing attorney in the Columbus area for over 12 years, and specializes in criminal defense and family law, according to her website. She has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers Association as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer for nine years and by Superlawyers as a Rising Star for seven years.

New York

Minita Sanghvi

In New York State, Minita Sanghvi ran unopposed for a second two-year term as Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner.

An LGBTQ woman of color, and a fierce advocate for equal rights, she also works as a professor in the Department of Management and Business at Skidmore College. According to a report in WAMC Northeast Public Radio, Sangvhi has filed paperwork to run for State Senate in 2024. She is seeking to run in the 44th Senate District, a seat that is currently held by Republican Jim Tedisco, WAMC said. 

Vik Vilkhu

Democrat Vik Vilkhu was elected Brighton town justice in Monroe County, making him the first Indian American judge to be elected to a trial court in New York State.

He currently is a Partner at law firm Relin, Goldstein & Crane. He has practiced before trial courts throughout New York and all four Federal District Courts in the State of New York. He lives in Brighton with his wife Abbie, two step-children, Sammy and Sebby, and an overweight bulldog named Oscar. 

Meanwhile, in nearby Pittsford, Democrat Naveen Havannavar is going head-to-head with incumbent Republican Kate Bohne Munzinger for a town council seat. As of Nov. 8, the race was too close to call with both candidates receiving 25% votes, according to WXXI News. 

Naveen Havannavar

North Carolina

The future of two Indian American women seems uncertain in North Carolina as Sarika Bansal, a candidate for Cary Town Council, and Renuka Soll, a candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council, await results.

Bansal is facing off with Republican Rachel Jordan in a runoff for District D, and is 67 votes ahead of her opponent, The News & Observer reported. But, neither candidate is calling the race. Bnasal was challenged to a runoff despite topping the ballot on Oct. 10, but just falling short of the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. She is the only person of color running for a town council seat in Cary.

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Soll, who is vying for the fourth seat on the council is currently on 16 votes behind Elizabeth Sharp, who’s currently in fourth place, The Daily Tar Heel reported. Theodore Nollert, Amy Ryan and Melissa McCullough have won the other three spots. 


However, it wasn’t all good news for some candidates. In a Democratic primary held on Nov. 7 for Florida House District 35, attorney Rishi Bagga lost his bid to businessman Tom Keen. Democrats chose Keen with 35.21% of the vote over Bagga with 34.89%. Keen will face Erika Booth in a special general election on Jan. 16, open to all voters, The new District 35 was drawn as part of the Florida Legislature’s 2022 redistricting process and includes Eastern Orange and Osceola Counties. 

James Jeyaraj, deputy mayor of Auburn, Washington, was unsuccessful in his attempt to ouster his Republican challenger for a seat on the Auburn City Council Position 3. According to KIRO 7 news channel, Jayaraj, an independent, garnered 2,370 or 39% of the votes, while Tracy Taylor Turner got 3,641 or 61% of the votes. Born and raised in Singapore, he moved to Spokane, Washington in 1985 to continue his education and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1993. James began his career in Spokane at Honeywell and was later recruited by Seattle-based aerospace company, Korry Electronics, as a production planner. He continued his work in the aerospace industry at The Lighthouse for the Blind, where he works currently.

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