A record number of Indian-Americans, mostly professionals in their 30s and 40s, are attempting to enter the United States House of Representatives this year. Several are running strong campaigns, fuelled partly by a community flexing its financial muscle.
There is no Indian-American in the US Congress. There have only been two Representatives – Democrat Dilip Singh Saund from California and Republican Bobby Jindal from Louisiana. In 2008, there was only one serious Indian-American candidate, Ashwin Madia from Minnesota, who lost to the incumbent.
This year, it’s getting serious — their numbers have touched double digits and three candidates appear to be front-runners in seats that the Democratic Party believes it can wrest from the Republicans even though the party overall may suffer losses in the House and the Senate. And there’s one prominent candidate who is attempting to become the first-ever Indian-American woman Representative.
One major figure is Democrat Amerish Bera (44) better known as Ami. He has already clinched the party’s nomination for the November contest. A physician whose parents came from Gujarat, he seeks to displace a Republican incumbent in California’s 3rd district.
In an interview, Bera appeared confident despite the poor projections for Democrats because he believed that anti-Washington feeling could help him in his constituency: “It’s never easy to win a mid-term election, but (Dan) Lundgren (the sitting Republican Representative) has never been as vulnerable as he is now. If there ever was a year that people are angry with the status quo, this really is that year.”
Bera also said his Indian-American roots could help: “I’m running as a Democrat but our values tend to be pretty conservative, traditional values that most people can relate to.”
Bera raised nearly $140,000 more than Lungren in 2009, and he estimates “over 50 per cent” may have come from the Indian-American community while the base of support has now “broadened”.