Key Local and State Indian-Americans Democratic Races to Watch
Next Tuesday, more than ten Indian-American Democrats are on the ballot across the
country, primarily for state and local seats. While the media has focused its attention on the
federal races, these overlooked seats are important because the next generation of national
political leaders traditionally emerge from state and local positions [Johnson, New York Times,
10/31/06]. Raghu Devaguptapu, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC)
Political Director, notes, “Democrats nationally are poised for up and down the ballot. Polling and
research is continuing to show American‟s dissatisfaction with the current leadership on issues
ranging from the war, health care, job creation, and alternative energy.” The Indian-American
Leadership Initiative looks at some of the key races.
Rano Singh is the third and last Indian-American on the ballot for a statewide race this
year. The other two were Subodh Chandra, candidate for Attorney General in Ohio, and Shyam
Reddy, candidate for Secretary of State in Georgia.
Arizona (State Treasurer). Singh, 52, is the Democratic nominee for the Arizona State
Treasurer race. She decided to get involved in public service after a fellow Sikh gas-station
owner Singh Sodhi of Mesa was shot after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks [Jensen,
Arizona Republic, 10/25/06]. Singh has said the state‟s investment should be evaluated not just
for their profitability but also for “social equity and ecological integrity” [Jensen]
Currently, Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano has a big lead over her challenger. In
addition, incumbent Republican State Treasurer David Petersen has announced that he will
resign under a deal in which he pleaded guilty on a misdemeanor charge [Davenport, Associated
Press, 10/25/06]. The question remains whether Singh can translate Napolitano‟s momentum
and scandal-plagued Treasurer‟s office into victory? In a September poll, Singh trailed state
Senator Dean Martin 26 to 40; however, 34 percent of the voters remain undecided [Cronkite
Eight Poll, 09/26/06]. Martin has been endorsed by a number of Arizona papers.
State Legislative Races
This year, there are more than 6,000 state legislative seats in 46 states up for grabs. Of
those, a handful of races involve strong Indian-American candidates. Devaguptapu of the DLCC
observes, “For Indian-American Democrats, 2006 should be called the year of the Goyle/Goyal.
Both Jay and Raj stand great chances to get elected in tough districts because they are running
strong message-driven and budget-disciplined campaigns.”
Delaware (District 31). Democratic candidate Prameela Kaza, 57 is challenging
incumbent Republican Nancy Wagner in a rematch from 2002. The 31 District covers north and
west Dover and includes the city‟s historical district and government center. Kaza is a grant
manager for the Delaware Transit Corporation. In 2002, Kaza lost by almost a 2-to-1 margin.
Kaza has raised approximately $24,000, mostly from Indian-Americans, many from out-of-state.
Wagner has about $30,000 in her campaign coffers. Both are running clean elections.
[Montgomery, Delaware Online, 10/23/06]
Iowa (District 36). Swati Dandekar, 53, is running for her third term for the Iowa State
House. She was the first Indian-American woman to win a state legislative seat in 2002.
Dandekar is a 31-year resident of her district. In 2002, she defeated her Republican opponent
who asked in a local newspaper: "Will a person raised to function in the upper caste of India, the
most repressive form of discrimination on the planet, be able to shed such repressionist views
and fully and effectively represent the citizens of House District 36?'' In 2004, Dandekar defeated
her Republican opponent by a ten percent margin, garnering 9,700 votes.
This year, she is running against Nick Wagner, a Marion city council member.
Dandekar‟s race is important because Republicans hold a two-seat advantage in the state House.
Most political observers deem Iowa as one of the top ten state legislative races to watch [NCSL,
8/16/06]. If the Democrats control the Iowa House, expect Dandekar to become a committee
chair. Also expect Dandekar to emerge as a player in the 2008 Presidential race. In 2004, she
served as a co-chair for John Kerry‟s campaign in Iowa.
Kansas (District 87). One of two Midwestern races to watch is Raj Goyle, 31, who is
challenging incumbent Representative Bonnie Huy. This race has also gained statewide
attention because of Goyle‟s aggressive fundraising and grassroots effort. A headline in a
Kansas paper sums it all up: “Huy-Goyle Match is Local Race to Watch” [Castillo, Wichita Eagle,
Goyle worked for the Center for American Progress before moving back to Kansas. He
has raised more money than any other state house candidate and has outraised Huy by almost
$30,000 [Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission]. He has run a solid grassroots campaign
knocking on over 5,000 doors. And, he has won the glowing endorsement of the Wichita Eagle
which said “Raj Goyle is the standout pick in this district . . . Goyle, a Democrat, is one of the
most talented and promising candidates we've seen in some time -- in fact, he has star quality.
He's that good.” Along with money, grassroots, and the endorsement, Goyle has one other thing
going for him: popular Democratic Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is on the ballot and could
swing this district in his favor.
Predictably, the race has been heated. Huy has criticized Goyle for his outside
contributors, including those from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for American
Progress, even though two-third of his contributors are from Kansas. Goyle has hit back arguing
that Huy is out of the mainstream, where she has refused to crack down on repeat DUI offenders
and sexual predators [Castillo, 11/02/06].
Maryland (District 17). Majority Leader Kumar Barve, 48, is seeking an eighth term in
District 17. Long viewed as the Dean of Indian-American Democrats, he is the longest-serving
Indian-American, first elected in 1990. The Washington Post endorsed Barve noting that he “is
especially valuable as the deft House majority leader who has been chairman of the county
delegation” and a “top-flight” legislator who knows “how to press for progressive programs”
[Editorial, 9/11/06]. Recently, the Montgomery County Gazette newspaper endorsed him saying
“Barve is the House majority leader with connections around the state” [Gazette, 10/25/06].
Maryland (District 39). In the September primary, Saqib Ali, 31, beat out incumbent
Delegate Joan Stern by waging a vigorous grassroots campaign [Ciavarra, Gazette, 09/20/06].
Next week, Ali could become the first Muslim American elected to the Maryland House. He would
also help Maryland enter the record books by having two, possibly three Indian-Americans state
legislators [political observers believe that Dilip Paliath, who is running for the State Senate as a
Republican, stands a good chance of being elected]. Like Barve, Ali has been endorsed by the
Montgomery County Gazette: “[W]e choose the Democratic newcomer Saqib Ali. We believe he
has the energy, the community involvement and a diverse perspective needed to understand his
constituents” [Gazette, 10/25/06].
Minnesota (District 50). Satveer Chaudhury, 37, is on the ballot again this year,
marking ten years of service in the Minnesota legislature. Chaudhury was first elected to the
Minnesota State House in 1996 and then to the State Senate in 2000, becoming the first Indian-
American state Senator. This year, Republican Rae Hart Anderson, a health care professional is
challenging him. In endorsing Chaudhury, the Pioneer Press observed, “We believe Chaudhury
has earned another term in the Senate . . . We appreciate his interest in finding consensus on
environmental and outdoor sports issues. „Every bear hunter should be hugging a white pine,‟'
Chaudhary told us. „Every environmentalist should be buying a pheasant stamp.‟' While it isn't
always easy to bring off, coalition-building is what the Legislature needs. Experienced legislators
like Chaudhary are often in a position to work toward these smaller agreements, which could
improve the effectiveness of the Legislature as a whole” [Pioneer Press, 10/26/06]
Ohio (District 73). The second Midwestern election to watch is that of another Goyal.
Jay Goyal, 26, is running for a seat vacated by a term-limited Democrat. The seat was once held
by Senatorial candidate Sherrod Brown. Goyal is an engineer and vice president of his family
business, Goyal Industries. He has knocked on over 10,000 doors. Phil Holloway, the
Republican challenger, has 24 years as an aide to retiring United State Representative Michael
Oxley and previously served as a Mansfield City Council member. The Mansfield New Journal
recently endorsed Goyal because “the legislature needs new ideas and fresh approaches to
solving problems.” They were also critical of Holloway‟s political ads attacking Goyal as having a
tax “plan” that could tax prescription drugs, gas, and school lunches. More drama in District 73
took place this week when Holloway held a press conference stating that he would remain in the
race, despite the admission that he has thought about suicide [Martz, Mansfield News Journal,
There is one local race IALI has identified.
Texas (Fort Bend County Treasurer). Neeta Sane is running to become Fort Bend
County Treasurer. The treasurer serves as the watchdog for the county funds. She is running
against against Jeff Council, an insurance salesman. Recently, Sane distributed a flyer
attempting to link Council to a scandal involving a previous Republican Fort Bend County
treasurer [Pollock, Herald-Coaster, 10/26/06].
Jay J. Chaudhuri, President
(919) 423-5281 (mobile)