The Indian American community in Illinois reacted positively to Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi winning the Democratic primary for the November mid-term elections, with some leading supporters saying he could, in fact, become the Republican Party’s top target this fall.
Krishnamoorthi, aiming for a fourth consecutive term to represent Illinois’s 8th congressional district, defeated fellow Indian American and former campaign volunteer Junaid Ahmed in Tuesday’s primary. Krishnamoorthi won 25,467 (71%) votes while Ahmed garnered 10,258 (29%). The 48-year-old incumbent will face Republican Chris Dargis on November 8. Mohammed Faheem, another Indian American, will be the independent candidate. The Schaumburg, IL based Faheem is CEO of Center of Strategic Solutions.
Dr. Vijay G. Prabhakar, founder-president of American Multi Ethnic Coalition and president, World Federation of Tamil Youth said Krishnamoorthi’s decisive win in the 2022 primary “reflects his inclusive leadership and stellar record of Congressional bills he has introduced in the house.” VGP, as he is popularly known, said, “The November face-off with Dargis will be a challenge as the GOP recently declared Raja’s seat as their No. 1 target.”
Sunil Shah, long-time Krishnamoorthi backer and chairman of the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA), Chicago, told indica, “We have been with him during his ups and downs, when he first ran for comptroller and unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2012, and then again in 2016 when he won.”
Soon after the victory party, Shah said, “We are optimistic about his ideas, his thought process and his support for women’s abortion rights. He is a person of principle. He is someone with ideological courage and he gets along with everyone. He doesn’t discriminate between Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian constituents.”
Some supporters, including Shah, were not comfortable with the attacks on Krishnamoorthi by journalist-activist Pieter Freidrich, who allegedly said “Death to Krishnamoorthi” outside his office. Friedrich denies this and has asked the congressman “to prove otherwise.” Friedrich, who sloganeered outside Krishnamoorthi’s office, allegedly said “Murdabad,” an Urdu term that literally translates to “Death to…” but is routinely used in India to mean “Down with…” at political or other rallies. Friedrich, a long-time critic of the Hindu right-wing organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has threatened Krishnamoorthi with legal action.
Shah said Friedrich’s alleged call “has surprised us all,” but, “we are going to see him (Krishnamoorthi) win with a big margin in November.”
Neil Khot, who along with American Multi Ethnic Coalition (AMEC) and Indian American Business Coalition (IABC) hosted a fundraiser on June 25 for Krishnamoorthi told indica that Krishnamoorthi will need to take a strong stand on supporting India and Indian-American causes.
“We don’t need jobs or handouts; we need a leader who can stand when anyone condemns India on a global level,” Khot said. “Krishnamoorthi is a good hardworking leader, and is always there when we want him on things such as immigration and social security. We want India to be represented strongly and not in the sidelines. We are confident of his reelection, and we are proud of him and his work.”
Khot indicated that the recent event raised $20,000, saying Krishnamoorthi’s campaign funds are close to $1.4 million. “He can potentially become a senator,” Khot said.
Another Krishnamoorthi supporter, Syed Hussaini, president, Standard Home Care and village trustee at Village of Hanover Park, IL, told indica, “I always remember what Raja frequently says – ‘If you don’t have a chair at the table, you are on the menu’. I have contributed to my village as development commissioner and now I am a trustee because of him. He motivated me to serve the community we live in.”
Hussaini, like Krishnamoorthi’s primaries opponent Ahmed, is from Hyderabad, the capital of the south Indian state of Telangana. Hussaini said he had advised Junaid not to run against Krishnamoorthi. “If Raja is not doing his job, we will look for someone else, but if he is dedicated, why should we look to replace him?”
According to Ballotpedia, Ahmed criticized Krishnamoorthi over his campaign funds. “We are being represented by a political class who are more interested in representing the needs of their corporate donors… than in representing the needs of the hardworking families of the 8th district,” Ballotpedia reported Ahmed as saying.
In a campaign debate, Krishnamoorthi said, “I raise as much as I can, because I go after special interests in Washington. You can ask the rental car companies, the meat processing companies, the oil and gas companies that I’m now investigating what they think of me.”
Born in New Delhi, India, Krishnamoorthi came to the U.S. as a child. He has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Princeton University and a graduate degree in law from Harvard Law School. He worked for then Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008. He had earlier served as policy director for Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign and later took part in developing the now-famous Obama keynote at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Meanwhile, in the Illinois State Legislature primaries, two Indian Americans representing the Democratic Party, made it to November face-offs – Nabeela Syed for the 51st District and Kevin Olickal for the 16th.
Syed, who is just 23, announced on Twitter around midnight on June 29, that she had won the primary election. If she wins in November, Syed will be the first South Asian American in the Illinois state legislature.
“My name is Nabeela Syed. I’m a 23-year-old woman of color running for State Representative in the suburban community I was born and raised in. And I just won my primary election with 72 percent of the vote,” tweeted Nabeela. She will
run against Republican incumbent Chris Bos in the mid-terms.
Born and raised in Palatine, in Cook County, Illinois she attended public schools, and worked as a community organizer. In her campaign statement, she said, “I’m running to build a better Illinois for residents today and tomorrow — an Illinois with a strong economy, sustainable infrastructure, and affordable healthcare and higher education.”
Olickal, 29, calls himself a progressive Democrat committed to fighting for middle-class and working families, “ensuring that every community has a voice in government.” After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology at Ohio State University, Olickal returned to Illinois, saying he wanted to commit his career to public service. He is currently enrolled at Loyola University Chicago School of Law School to earn a Juris Doctor degree.