Kamala Harris made history on Tuesday by becoming the first India-American elected to the US Senate.
And Raja Krishnamoorthi on Tuesday night became the first Indian-American elected to Congress this election cycle, winning from Illinois.
There are four more Indian-Americans in the fray for the House – Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, Peter Jacobs and Ami Bera, who is seeking a third term.
Harris is currently California’s attorney general. Her mother is from India and father from Jamaica, so she is often called both an Indian-American and an African-American.
No Indian-American had been elected to the Senate before, while there have been three from the community elected to the House of Representatives – Daily Singh Saund, Bobby Jindal and Ami Bera.
Now the community has a Senator as well.
On her website she cites as motivation this quote from her mother, Shyamala Harris, “You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.”
Indian-Americans are hoping to dramatically increase their presence in Congress this time, and Harris and Krishnamoorthi’s election would be a good start.
“I like to joke that I want to increase the number by 100%,” Krishnamoorthi likes to say, referring to doubling the number of Indian-Americans in Congress from one.
This is Krishnamoorthi’s second attempt. His first, in 2012, ended miserably.
Born in New Delhi – at Willingdon Crescent (renamed the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital), he pointed out – he came to the US with his parents when he was three.
He grew up in Peoria, Illinois and, after school, studied mechanical engineering at Princeton and law at Harvard, like President Barack Obama, whom he went on to serve.
Krishnamoorthi met Obama in 1998 and worked as a “low-level policy researcher” on his 2000 campaign for the US House, when he tried to unseat a powerful incumbent.
That campaign didn’t go to well for Obama. “In 2002, he told me he had one race left in him and he said would you be my policy director,” Krishnamoothi recalled, adding he jumped at the offer.