Indian American candidates fill California primary ballots

Ritu Jha-

Several Indian American candidates are running in California’s primary Tuesday March 3, some incumbents and a few first-timers in American politics.

Congressman Ami Bera, Democrat from Elk Grove, is seeking re-election to serve a fifth term as the representative of California’s 7th Congressional District, which includes Elk Grove.. Sacramento and Rancho Cordova.

Dr.Ami Bera

Challenging him is fellow Democrat Jeff Burdick,  public affairs specialist and former journalist, and Republicans Jon Ivy and Robert “Buzz” Patterson. Green Party candidate Robert Christian “Chris” Richardson is also in contention.

Bera, who has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, believes that everyone in the country should be able to afford a doctor visit and medical care. During the town hall meeting in Elk Grove in January, he said that he gets yelled at frequently, because he hasn’t come out in favor of Medicare for All, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have ideas and solutions on how to get to universal coverage and how it can be made affordable.

California uses a top-two primary system, with all candidates appear on the same ballot. The top two vote-getters move on to the general election.

In California’s 17th Congressional District, Ro Khanna is seeking a third term in Congress. Khanna is a former U.S.

Ro Khanna

Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary and is working on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

Khanna, who received more than 75% of the vote in the 2018 general election, is being challenged by fellow

Democrat business analyst Stephen Forbes and Republican Ritesh Tandon, a businessman. Tandon, running for office for the first time, was brought into the race by the same team that endorsed Khanna once.

Tandon earned a degree in mechanical engineering from LD College of Engineering (India), an M.S. in computer engineering and an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University. His professional experience includes working as an entrepreneur and businessman

Tandon recently spoke at a community event on current policies, incidents, and decisions affecting Indians in India and the United States hosted by the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIISDS). During a panel discussion on Indo American Political Involvement, he said Indo Americans need to unite and raise their voices as one community with America First policy.

Ritesh Tandon

Tandon explained that he is running for Congress because he believes in equal and fair education policies and would like to promote admissions through fair competition, not via Affirmative Action.

He also spoke on legal and skilled-immigrant community policies and law-abiding immigrants, who are skilled and contribute greatly to society but had to wait for long periods of time  to get green cards. “It’s wrong,” Tandon said. “We need better, balanced, and sane immigration policies.”

Libertarian Joe Dehn is also in the race in the 17th District.

The 17th district encompasses parts of Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Newark, most of Fremont, and parts of San Jose.

Another first-timer running for the US Congress seat is Democrat Rishi Kumar, in California’s District 18.

Kumar, a Saratoga City Council member, has made his name after he challenged the San Jose Water Company and successfully rejected and reduce water hikes. During his term he has helped reduce burglaries by 41% in his neighborhood, according to his campaign. Kumar has twice been elected to the Saratoga council.

Rishi Kumar

Kumar was born in India, earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Bombay, India, and a graduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Connecticut.

Kumar’s professional experience includes working as a high-tech executive and for IBM and Cisco. He became an executive board member of the California Democratic Party in 2013, and he began serving as a delegate of the California Democratic Party in 2013.

Kumar, with a background of an activist, feels that Indian Americans can raise issues and get them resolved by participating in community-related programs.

Nisha Sharma

Another first-timer is Nisha Sharma, Republican running for US Congress District 11 seat.

Born in India and came to the US in 2004, Sharma, a realtor by profession, pointed out that there is a vacuum in women in top leadership, and it is the right time for them to come forward.

“I am running to resolve the homelessness crises and stop increases in taxes,” Sharma said. “But the problem is, that despite taxes, the infrastructure, and we are not getting it back.”

Sharma says she feels grateful for the opportunities her new home in the US has provided her.

“I believe in giving it back to the community,” she said. “So I want to serve them, and I want to be their voice. People are moving out of this beautiful state, and I don’t want that. I also want more women to come out and believe in women empowerment.”

State offices

Dr.Shomir Banerjee

In the California’s State Assembly 29th District, Democratic incumbent Mark Stone will face  Indian-American physician Dr. Shomir Banerjee on the Republican side in November’s general election.

Banerjee is a family medicine specialist who has been practicing for 11 years. Banerjee earned his medical degree from Wright State University and completed his bachelor’s degree in engineering at Baylor University. He also has  a master’s in engineering from the University of Cincinnati.

He said he is running in the Assembly race to “provide a refreshing new opinion at the state level that’s been missing for a while.” His background as a physician and engineer offers that new perspective, he said.

He wants to address homelessness with a focus on the medical and mental health aspect.

Ash Kalra

Assembly District 27 will see incumbent Assembly member Ash kalra, whose campaign slogan reads, “Solving problems large and small for you and your family ­­— that’s why you elected me to the California State Assembly. I take that responsibility very seriously.”

Kalra, who has been in the office for the three years, says he has gotten 27 bills signed into law that tackle real problems faced by families in San Jose and the state and he has more to do.

“I wish I could simply wave a magic wand to solve our problems, but there’s no substitute for hard work in Sacramento,” Kalra said in an email.

Kalra is facing Republican G. Burt Lancaster.

California Assembly District 25 has several candidates running, with first-timer Natasha Gupta facing Anne Kepner,

Natasha Gupta

Alex Lee, Carmen Montano, Anthony Phan, Jim Canova, Roman Reed,  and Anna Song.

Gupta wants to resolve the epidemic of homelessness in California, healthcare for all regardless of citizenship status,

The District 25 is the heart of Silicon Valley– encompassing part of Fremont, Newark, Milpitas, San Jose and Santa Clara.

Vipan Singh Bajwa, Democrat, is running in Assembly District 20 and has tough competitors in incumbent Bill Quirk , Alexis Villalobos and Republican Son Nguyen and root out every source of gun violence, extremism and illegal possession of assault weapons in California.

Born and raised in California, Bajwa’s campaign is focused on housing, education, the environment, public safety, the

Vipin Singh Bajwa

budget and healthcare.

He believes “effectively allocating public spaces for parks, natural habitats, housing, and commercial real estate can correct the job-housing imbalance that this district faces.”

The only Indian American candidate running for California State Senate, in  District 5, is Councilman Mani Grewal. Grewal, Democrat from Modesto, faces four other candidates, Susan Talamantes Eggman, also a Democrat; and Republicans Jesus Andrade, Kathleen Garcia and Jim Ridenour.


Presidential race

Amar Shergill, chairman of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“His campaign has built a diverse coalition with more votes, volunteers, and contributions than any other campaign,” Shergill said. “It’s clear that his focus on the needs of working families has resonated with Americans across the nation. I am particularly proud that he broke new ground by creating campaign materials in Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu and other South Asian languages, as well as live tweeting some of his debate performances in Desi languages.”



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