Several South Asians for the first time made to the city council seat in the November 6 election.
Raj Chahal won from district 2 in Santa Clara, Rashi Kesarwani won the city of Berkeley Council’s District 1, Nitesh Patel won from the city of La Palma, Harry Sidhu became mayor of Anaheim in Southern California, and Rishi Kumar of Saratoga retained his seat.
Kesarwani said running for office at any level is challenging – mentally, physically, and emotionally. But now that she has won, she plans to make her top priority the housing crisis in the area.
“I will be focused on tackling Berkeley’s shortage of affordable homes and addressing homelessness,” Kesarwani told indica.
Kesarwani addressed the risk she took in not taking donations more than $50.
“I was fortunate to have an opportunity to opt into Berkeley’s new Public Campaign Finance Program,” she said. “This meant I was limited to accepting a maximum donation of $50 per person. But the city provided public matching funds at a rate of 6-to-1 for Berkeley donors. This allowed me to raise about $55,000.” Berkeley is about 20 percent Asian, according to the 2010 Census; but the Indian American community is relatively small.
Chahal, the Santa Clara planning commissioner, earned 2,164 votes while his immediate competitor received 1,522. While the first ever Indian American on the council, he said he ran as a mainstream candidate on his track record of serving the community for almost 10 years.
Chahal admitted the election was challenging, especially because his opponent had endorsements from the mayor and six councilmembers.
“In a small district of roughly 8400 registered voters approximately $50,000 was spend against me in the campaign, the majority of this special interest money,” he said. “I had to fight the establishment and the money power.” He stressed that he got no any special interest money, PAC funds or help from the developers who have an interest in Santa Clara.
“I was able to walk almost 80 percent of my district. Many residents were surprised that an actual candidate was knocking at their door. Some had almost lost faith in the democratic process and thought their vote did not matter, I spent much time explaining that unless they voted they would not be heard,” Chahal told indica. He now aims to get residents involved in the decision-making process, and also to get drive affordable housing and fair rent initiatives.
Kumar who ran on the campaign tagline “Getting things done” told indica that his background in tech informs his can-do approach.
“The world of hi-tech is all about delivering results. I brought that same result-oriented approach to city government in Saratoga,” he said, before discussing his efforts to bring down and keep down water bills in Saratoga, and to cut crime by rejuvenating Neighborhood Safety Watch programs
Another winner Patel of the city of La Palma, in Orange County, California is a resident for the past 15 years got elected as Council Member. Thanking his family, friends and supporters said, “This victory belongs to everyone that supported me and helped me to get elected. I am humbled and honored and I look forward to serving the citizens of La Palma.”
Meanwhile in Southern California, Harry Sidhu, a businessman and community
leader and a former mayor pro-term of Anaheim city in Orange County, won the mayoral seat. Sidhu, a Republican and has unsuccessfully ran for California Senate in 2008 and Assembly in 2016, on winning the mayor seat said, “I am honored and thrilled to lead the charge in unifying our city once again. The residents of Anaheim know that it’s time to move past the divisiveness and get back to working with all residents, businesses, and workforce that make Anaheim what it is today. We must return to the understanding that we only succeed when we all succeed. For Anaheim to thrive, we must work together and that starts anew today.”