How Indian-American candidates fared in the US elections

Make room.
Make room.
Image: Samuel Corum/Pool via Reuters
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Even as the world awaits the results of the US presidential elections, Indian-Americans have some reason to celebrate.

The “Samosa Caucus” comprising five Indian-American Democratic lawmakers—Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois, Ami Bera and Ro Khanna from California, Pramila Jayapal from Washington, and senator Kamala Harris—have had a promising run in the elections.

Four of these candidates were re-elected to the House of Representatives during the Nov. 3 elections. It will be Bera’s fifth term and everyone else’s third. (Members of the House are elected every two years and represent individual districts.)

Here’s a brief look at their election causes:

Krishnamoorthi: The 47-year-old has been the representative for Illinois’s 8th congressional district since 2017. His policy promises include support for small businesses, rebuilding infrastructure, protecting Social Security and Medicare, making college more affordable, expanding access to paid sick and parental leave, and guaranteeing equal pay.

Jayapal: The Chennai-born Democrat represents Washington’s 7th District, which includes most of Seattle and its surrounding areas. Since the first time she was elected in 2017, Jayapal has fought the Donald Trump administration’s inhumane policies of separating children from their parents and helped craft legislation to expand legal immigration to America. Some of the other causes that the 55-year-old champions are income inequality, healthcare, education, and clean energy.

Bera: He has been serving California’s 7th congressional district since 2013, making him the longest-serving Indian-American Congressman. Bera is a first-generation immigrant born-and-raised in California. He currently serves as chairman of the subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is also vice-chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Khanna: Serving in the heart of Silicon Valley, the 44-year-old lawyer taught economics at Stanford University, law at Santa Clara University, and American Jurisprudence at San Francisco State University prior to serving in Congress. The Fremont resident’s policy focus is to ensure the tech sector takes centre-stage in the US economic policies to create more jobs and growth. He also served in president Barack Obama’s administration as deputy assistant secretary at the US Department of Commerce

If Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Harris win, everyone in the cohort would hold office. At the time this article was published, Biden had a substantial lead in the race and Trump was suing several states, likely to lay the foundation to contest the outcome.

Cutting election losses

While it held steadfastly, the cohort was not able to grow its footprint further.

Hiral Tiperni, running for House in Arizona, lost with a thin margin. The Mumbai-born doctor and cancer research advocate who moved to the US at the age of three built a campaign rallying behind a broad spectrum of issues including Medicare, reproductive rights, second amendment rights, equality for the LGBTQ+ community, and racial justice, among other things. Had she been elected, she would have become the second Indian-American woman after Jayapal to make it to the House.

After narrowly losing in 2018, Sri Preston Kulkarni ran for House in Texas again this year. The 42-year-old former Foreign Services worker, who lists making healthcare affordable and accessible as a big campaign issue, was hoping to turn Texas blue this time.

Andhra Pradesh-born Manga Anantamula, a vocal supporter of India’s controversial Article 370 and Citizenship Amendment Act, lost the race for a House seat in Virginia. While Sara Gideon, running for Senate in Maine,  and Rik Mehta, contesting for Senate in New Jersey, also came up short. (Senators are elected for six-year terms and represent their entire states.)

Here’s a report card for the winners (🏆) and losers (💣) of the US Congress and Senate races:

Making moves

The House and Senate elections may have been a mixed bag but the state-level contests brought more good news. Indian-American politicians made quite the sweep—a dozen were elected, including five women.

“This year’s election represented a giant leap forward for the Indian-Americans’ role in US politics,” Neil Makhija from the Impact Funds, which had raised $10 million during this election cycle, told The Week. He added that this election featured a record number of Indian-American candidates running in state and federal races. And Kamala Harris, of course, became the first Indian-origin leader to win the vice-presidential ticket.

Even as citizens, Indian-Americans have emerged as a force to reckon with. Around 2 million of them voted, with half a million coming from battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. They also donated more generously than ever before to this year’s campaign, with two-dozen prominent Indian-Americans raising upwards of $100,000 each.