Indian American Darshana Patel wins California Democratic nomination

Himani  Sanagaram-

Indian American Darshana Patel, 49, won the Democratic nomination from the California Assembly District 76, while Kristie Bruce-Lane won the Republican nomination from the same constituency. Patel beat Joseph C. Rocha. Both women will vie to replace the termed-out Brian Maienschein in the California State Assembly.

“I am excited,” Patel said. “Lots of young Indian people are helping out in the political campaign. We can’t have token representation but real representation. It was a tight race. It is a Democratic-leaning district as shown in the last presidential elections. Our voters are excited to come out,” she added.

A research scientist, a trustee of the Poway Unified Board of Education in California for two years, a mom of three daughters, Patel hopes to represent the Indian community and voice their concerns. In the current election, she secured second spot with 19,014 votes (32.1%) while Bruce-Lane led with 29,825 votes (50.3%). The third competitor, Joseph Rocha received 10,457 (17.6%).

Patel’s husband works in a startup company.  She is the first Hindu woman to win in the state of California and the first woman of color to win from her district. She lives in Rancho Penasquitos. She was endorsed by Dr. Jasmeet Bains from the 35th District of California.

“I am not taking anything for granted, I am a hard worker,” said Patel. She said that she would work on issues related to the environment and housing. “We have to build more low- and middle-income housing in high transit areas i.e. the development of housing in high transit urban areas. We also need to protect the environment,” she said, referring to the climate change and wildfires that have occurred in California and Texas. She also supports a transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy.

“My father came here for the American dream. He gave us the opportunity and encouraged us to participate in the local elections, host meetings, vote, and pay attention to politics. My brothers are engaged in politics and their civic duties.,” she said.

The primary elections saw a huge Asian turnout compared to Latino voters. “We need to increase the participation of Indian Americans, who should be donating, attending events, campaigning, and voting. We need to see the excitement grow,” she said.

An exuberant Patel was hopeful about AI. “I have a STEM background and we have to be careful. People’s identity and civil rights should be protected and we need to ensure that children are protected. We have to make sure that there is a proper balance between technology and public safety.”

She also supports LGBTQ rights. Patel is proud that she is representing the Indian community and thinks about the future generation referring to her daughters. “We have to represent our community, we have to think about the next generation — look at data and try to find solutions that are backed by scientific data,” she said.

Patel thinks she can fight against former President Donald Trump’s policies by supporting Biden. “Biden is a strong nominee to represent the Democratic party,” she said.

Some other issues she is fighting for are affordable housing, education, employment (good-paying jobs), and the environment.

Her journey has not been easy for supporting LGBTQ rights. She said she received some threats while she was a school board member and even during this election from homophobic voters.

When she was in the school district she supported Attorney General Rob Bonta who filed a lawsuit against Chino Valley Unified School District challenging its policy requiring school staff to out trans and gender non-conforming students to their parents.

He wanted to stop the school district policy that requires school staff to tell parents if their child asks to be identified by a different gender or name, or accesses a bathroom or program that don’t align with the gender on their official records.

In total, she spent $350,000 for her campaign. “Just sending the mail (flyers, etc.) six or seven times, cost us $35,000. It is not an easy job to raise funds but it all came from neighbors, individuals and grassroots fundraising like sending emails,” she added.



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