Indian American community has a good showing in California primaries


Ramachandra Kudamala[Above photo] walked quickly to the polling station at Dougherty Station Library in San Ramon, California holding a ballot envelope in his hand. He had just a few minutes left before the polling station closed. He dropped the ballot into the large blue bag and looked around, pleased.

Kudamala had made his choice in the June 7 primary election in California, which otherwise had a low turnout of in-person voters.

“I recently became a citizen and it’s my first primary. I have been in this country for 22 years and got naturalized citizen in 2015 but was not sure if I should vote,” Kudamala told indica, who is a computer engineer.

Kudamala, a Democrat, hopes the priorities of the government and local elected officials will be to fix the roads and address transportation, the water shortage due to drought. But he was particularly worried about the education system.

“We are number one in technology and live in the Bay Area. We are lacking a [n education system,” said Kudamala, who has two sons, one who is a middle school, and the other who is a senior in high school.

Another concern for him is that California has stopped the use of the SAT test for college.

Jaya Mitra at Dougherty Valley High School, San Ramon.

“College admission has become like a black box. Though we live here and pay taxes, getting admission in California colleges is a pain… I want my kids to get a good quality education and they cannot get admission to the University of California college. The chances are hardly 1 or 2 percent.”

He also expressed concern about the increase he sees in shootings and kidnappings.

Jaya Mitra, who mailed in her ballot, told indica, “We want the best for our state to flourish… We want the governor [Gov. Gavin Newsom,] to work to stop companies to move out of California.’

According to poll inspector Adriana A at Dougherty Valley High School, “The turnout was okay but people opted more for mail-in ballots. Very few voted on site. The surprising thing is that people turned up to vote. That is a good thing, post-pandemic.”

The midterm election across California saw a rise in both Congressional and Assembly races.

Indian-American Democrat incumbents US representatives Ami Bera and Ro Khanna both won their primaries.

Bera, of Elk Grove and a sixth term in Congress from the Sixth Congressional District of California, bagged over 26,533 votes (54.6 percent) of the votes against his Republican rival, Tamika Hamilton, who received 7,907 votes (16.2 percent).

Khanna, who entered the House of Representatives for the first time in 2018, received an overwhelming 36,967 votes (65.3 percent) in the open primary for the 17th Congressional District of California. His closest rival, Republican Ritesh Tandon received 14,321 votes (25.3 percent).

Tandon, who in 2020 lost to Khanna, while again headed to the election, had said, “I will never stop fighting for our community. We are on to November!

“As a man of faith, I believe we should serve others and stand up for those unable to fight for themselves. It is time we reject special-interest politics and embrace community service.”

Assembly District 25 Democratic incumbent assembly member Ash Kalra was the top vote-getter with 70.3 percent votes whereas his Republican contender Ted Stroll earned just 10,220 votes.

Democrat incumbent Anna A. Georges Eshoo is the U.S. representative from California’s 18th congressional district, serving since 1993. She was past 48.8 percent and her Saratoga-based Councilmember Democrat Rishi Kumar received 12,351 votes. Kumar ran unsuccessfully in the 2020 election.

On heading to the November election Rishi Kumar told indica, “This primary election this year was brutal with eight solid candidates in the mix. We are delighted to emerge top-2 (again) and make the general election, beating two other formidable Democrats, three Republicans and an Independent.”

“I am proud of our volunteers – hundreds of high school and college students who brought their A-game, pushing a grassroots campaign to deliver Ethics in Politics to Washington. For the first time ever in this district’s congressional election, the incumbent has gotten the vote and support of less than 50% of the electorate – which bodes very well for our November run,” Kumar said.

Asked what would be the first task now said, “We are excited! Our team is already back on the campaign trail as we only have 5 months left to win this and send the first tech-savvy congressional leader to Washington from Silicon Valley.”

Sri “Steve” Iyer, a Republican, received 3,642, coming third in California Congressional District 14 election against incumbent Eric Swalwell, who was ahead with 62.5 percent vote. Major Singh, with no party affiliation, received 997 votes.

Amar Shergill, the California Democratic party progressive caucus chairperson, told indica that he was pleased to see Democrat Dr. Jasmeet Bains did very well for a first-time candidate against an experienced politician in Assembly District 35, which looked like a very competitive race in November.
Bains received 3,063 votes whereas her rival, Democrat Leticia Perez, received 4,260 votes.

Shergill added that Rishi Kumar would advance to the November election against Congresswoman Eshoo.

“Kumar has been the subject of controversy lately due to his unusual stances regarding politics in India,” Shergill said. “Given the increasingly bigoted brand of religiofascism practiced by the Indian government, Kumar’s support for Modi, the RSS, and the BJP will be an issue as he compares his extremism against the moderate politics of Congresswoman Eshoo. Kumar is clearly out of step with California Democrats that have passed party resolutions condemning Modi and his government.”

First-timer Shrina Kurani, an engineer and entrepreneur who ran for California congressional district-41 stood third got 14.9 percent of the vote, Ken Calvert got 43 percent and Will Rollins got 35.5 percent.

Shrina’s father Hemant Kurani told indica, “Shrina has created a movement in the region for young women and inspired them to run for office.”

“I believe her loss was due to a low turnout of voters,” said Kurani, who himself ran for Riverside City council seat in 2008.

Hemant Kurani said that his daughter knows what it takes to run a campaign since, as an 11-year-old, she had gone knocking on doors and making calls for his campaign and because as an engineer and entrepreneur she had quit her job to run for Congress.

Anika Srivastava, a communications coordinator at the South Asian Network, a southern California non-profit advocacy organization, told indica, “SAN has contributed its efforts in spreading awareness and resources to support our community with voting this year. We encouraged voting while engaging with people at outreach, informing them that all registered voters received their mail-in ballot last month. We also created an informative post with various links and important information that they may need as well.”

Rajiv Bhateja, co-founder of They See Blue, told indica that typically his group does not get involved in primaries.

“We reserve our energies for the general election,” he said. “That said, we are heartened by the results so far, not only in the governor’s race, but also in several Congressional (House) primaries.”

He added: “Looks like Democrats are well-positioned for this November in California. We will, of course, be working on several races throughout the country, to do our best to hold the House and extend their leverage in the Senate.”