Indo-Americans in Senate, Congress

first Hindu elected to Congress, Tulsi Gabbard,

Amid unprecedented Indian wave, record five Indian Americans won the recently held US elections and entered the Congress — American House of Representatives. However, the major jubilation came from Kamala Harris when she got elected to the US Senate defeating fellow-Democrat Loretta Sanchez. She became the first indo-American to be elected to the US Senate. The Dayafter gives an insight of the fellow Indo-Americans who have made to the US Congress.

KAMALA HARRIS

Daughter of an Indian American mother, Dr Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer specialist, and a Jamaican-American father, Donald Harris, a Stanford University economics professor, the Indian-Americans made a mark in Congressional politics with becoming the first to be elected to the Senate. Kamala Harris was elected from California to the Senate defeating fellow-Democrat Loretta Sanchez. The victory of Harris is significant because senators are elected by the entire electorate in their states and California is the most populous state in the nation with 18 million voters. The 52-year-old Harris, who traces her family roots to Chennai, is a lawyer by profession and was twice elected Attorney General in 2010 and 2014.

Harris graduated from Howard University and University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She worked as a Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County, California, from 1990 to 1998. She served as Managing Attorney of the Career Criminal Unit in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, from 1998 to 2000, and as Chief of the Community and Neighborhood Division in the office of San Francisco City Attorney, from 2000 to 2003. In 2003, she was elected District Attorney of San Francisco, defeating incumbent Terence Hallinan. She was re-elected in 2007 and served from 2004 to 2011. Harris was the first female, the first African-American, and the first Indian American attorney general in California. She would replace outgoing Democratic senator Barbara Boxer in her way to become the second black woman and first Indian American elected to serve in the United States Senate.

PRAMILA JAYAPAL

Endorsed by Bernie Senders, the Indian-American activist announced her candidacy in January 2016 after Congressman Jim McDermott announced his retirement. As a member of the Democratic Party, she has represented the 37th legislative district in the Washington State Senate since 2015. On January 3, 2017, she will be sworn in to represent Washington’s 7th congressional district in the 115th United States Congress, where she will be the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives and the first woman to represent the 7th District in Congress. Before entering electoral politics, Jayapal was a Seattle-based civil rights activist, serving until 2012 as the executive director of OneAmerica, a pro-immigration advocacy group.

Born in Chennai, India to a Tamil family and raised in Indonesia and Singapore, Jayapal came to the US in 1982. She has served on the Mayoral Advisory Committee that negotiated Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, and co-chaired the Mayor’s police chief search committee, which resulted in the unanimous selection of the city’s first woman police chief. Jayapal became a US citizen in 2000. She is the author of Pilgrimage: One Woman’s Return to a Changing India, published in March 2000. She lives in the Seattle neighborhood of Columbia City with her husband Steve and their son.

After State Senator Adam Kline announced his retirement in early 2014, Jayapal entered the race to succeed him. She was endorsed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray., and won more than 51percent of the vote in the August 5 primary, out of a field of six candidates. She went on to defeat fellow Democrat Louis Watanabe in November 2014.

RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI

The Indo-American had advised President Barack Obama on economic issues when he was a Senator, received a personal endorsement and a promotional video from Obama. He defeated Republican Peter DiCianni in a constituency that comprises Chicago suburbs and became the first Hindu Indian-American to be elected to Congress. Born in New Delhi, he is a technology entrepreneur heading two companies and has also served as Illinois state Deputy Treasurer and an Assistant Attorney General on special assignment to fight corruption. 

Krishnamoorthi attended Princeton University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He then received a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. After graduating from Harvard, Krishnamoorthi served as a law clerk for Joan B. Gottschall, and worked as a staffer on Barack Obama’s 2000 election campaign for the United States House of Representatives. Krishnamoorthi served as an issues director for Obama’s 2004 election to the United States Senate. Krishnamoorthi aided in the development of Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address. After losing twice in 2010 and 2012, Krishnamoorthi again declared his candidacy for the US House of Representatives. He won the March 2016 primary election with 57 percent of the vote, while Michael Noland earned 29 percent and Deb Bullwinkel received 13 percent.

RO KHANNA

Rohit Khanna popularly known as Ro Khanna became the District 17 congressman-elect defeating incumbent Democratic Congressman Mike Honda. The Indo- American teacher, lawyer and politician has served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the United States Department of Commerce under President Barack Obama. Khanna is a member of the Democratic Party and was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States House of Representatives in California’s 17th congressional district in 2014.

Rohit Khanna’s parents immigrated to the United States from India before his birth. His father is a chemical engineer who graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the University of Michigan, and his mother is a former substitute school teacher. Khanna was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1976. He received his BA degree in economics with honors from the University of Chicago in 1998, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He attended Yale Law School, receiving his law degree in 2001. He specializes in intellectual property law. During Barak Obama regime Khanna worked as Assistant Secretary in United States Department of Commerce and White House Business Council.

AMI BERA

The 51 year old Indo-American doctor had come under a cloud after his 83-year-old father, Babulal Bera, was found guilty of illegally funding his son’s election campaign and sentenced to a year in prison. Prosecutors, however, cleared Ami Bera of involvement in his father’s crime and he beat the odds to defeat his Republican rival Scott Jones. He defeated Republican Scott Jones, the sheriff of Sacramento County, in the general election by a thin margin of 2 percent. 

Having family roots in Rajkot of Gujarat, Bera was born in Los Angeles and raised in the neighboring Orange County city of La Palma. He has a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of California at Irvine, also earning his Doctor of Medicine degree there in 1991. He served as associate dean for admissions at the UC Davis School of Medicine and later served as the chief medical officer for the County of Sacramento. Bera entered the Congress in 2010 challenging three-term Republican incumbent Dan Lungren in the general election for California’s 3rd congressional district. 

TULSI GABBARD

Gabbard’s first name, ‘Tulsi’ comes from the name of the holy basil, a plant sacred in Hinduism. She is a vegetarian and a Hindu who follows Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a religious movement founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. She especially appreciates the Bhagavad Gita as a spiritual guide, and used it when she was ceremonially sworn in as a Representative.

Having served in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 2002 to 2004, Gabbard became the youngest woman in the United States to be elected to a state legislature at the time. She returned from a deployment to Iraq in 2006 and worked for U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka. The Indo- American politician and member of the Democratic Party who has been the United States Representative for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district since 2013. She was also a vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee until February 28, 2016, when she resigned in order to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Elected in 2012, she is the first American Samoan and the first Hindu member of the United States Congress, and, along with Tammy Duckworth, one of its first female combat veterans.