A recent article in the Washington Post listed at least three races in which Indian Americans were involved among 60 most important House races in the country. They include Dr. Ami Bera running from California’s 7th District against long time Republican incumbent Dan Lungren; Dr. Syed Taj, another Democrat, running from Michigan’s 11th District against Kerry Bentivolio, a reindeer farmer; and Republican Ricky Gill, a 25-year old from District 9 in California running against long time incumbent Jerry McNerney, a Democrat.
War Veteran Struggles Against Republican Incumbent A recent mail from Manan Trivedi, the Democratic candidate for the 6th District in Pennsylvania, said he raised way more in the latest quarter than his opponent, long time Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach.
Trivedi, who served in the Iraq War, says that is a sign the race is tightening.The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee lists Trivedi among its “Red to Blue” races and has poured money into anti-Gerlach ads and mailings, but has now pulled some ads scheduled for television in the last few days of the campaign because the DCCC has re-evaluated his chances, Philly.com reported. Trivedi’s spokesperson, Daren Berringer told News India Times that Trivedi’s campaign had always been self-sustaining raising $100,000 more than Gerlach this last quarter. A press release from Trivedi says in the last three months, he raised $437,000 compared to Congressman Gerlachs’s $333,000.
“Money continues to come into our campaign, which is why we were able to out-raise Gerlach. Over 12,000 people contributed individually, an average of $35,” Berringer said. “We are up on TV and we have always been running our own ads – as a self-reliant campaign,” Berringer dismissed news reports suggesting that DCCC was pulling back. He also points to the history of the district to showcase Trivedi’s chances. “President Obama won this district in 2008 and Senator Casey won it. Both are doing very well in their re-election,” and Trivedi could rise on their coattails, he indicated.
But Philly.com reported that as of Sept. 30, Gerlach had more money in his war chest -- $728,000 to Trivedi’s $283,000. Gerlach is an incumbent who by definition has an easier time winning again. Add to that the design of the redrawn district makes it more rather than less Republican.
Trivedi notes how the redistricting was engineered to throw his home out of it. “By a mile," Trivedi said in an interview with newsworks.org. "We still get our pizza delivered from the district. My post office is in the district."
Gill and McNerney Slugfest in California’s Most-Watched Race Like some of the other Indian American candidates in Congressional races, Republican Ricky Gill, 25, has been an impressive fundraiser which is what got him national attention in his race from District 9 in California against long time incumbent Jerry McNerney.
A Lodi News-Sentinel report of Oct. 18, notes Gill raised some $2.3 million, most of it from individual contributions from people within the district, compared to $1.9 million by McNerney, out of which $690,000 is from PACs, the paper said quoting from Federal Election Commission reports.
Gill, who just graduated from law school, still has some $1.1 million to spend over the next 10 days before Nov. 6, – $108,000 more than what McNerney has, the paper said. All this prompted the Republican National Committee to recognize Ricky Gill as a “Young Gun” and got him time on the podium at the Republican National Convention in August.In the only debate between the candidates Oct. 15, Gill, who lives in Lodi, took shots at McNerney as being out of touch.
Even then, as a political science professor told capradio.com, the debate failed to reveal the positions of the two candidates."I think if anything what's surprising is just the pervasive negative tone in the terms of the debate and the incessant need to constantly hammer the opponent rather than actually respond to the question or speak to the issues," University of the Pacific political science professor Keith Smith told capradio.com. From the outset in his campaign, Gill has projected his image as a “hometown” boy in touch with his constituents. Whereas McNerney had to move from Pleasanton to Stockton to get into the district lines of the redrawn 9th, which also covers San Joaquin Valley, an agricultural area in which Gill might do well.
His parents are both physicians and also own 1,000 acres of farmland growing cherries and wine grapes, the Wall Street Journal reported. Polltracker.talkingpointsmemo.com, which purports to give latest poll results put McNerney at 46.3 percent and Gill at 40.7 percent, drawing the average from four polls conducted by both parties since July.
N.J. Assemblyman Rallies Community to Defeat Incumbent It is turning out to be a tough race for New Jersey Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, the Democratic candidate for Congress from the state's 7th District. The only Indian-American in the New Jersey state Assembly faces incumbent Republican Leonard Lance in his congressional race. In a state that has one of the largest concentrations of Indian Americans in the country, the community wants to send one of its own to Congress.
Since May this year, an average of three fundraisers a week have been held for Chivukula, and according to his campaign, at least 60 percent were hosted by Indian- and Asian-Americans around the country and in New Jersey. According to an Oct. 22 Wall Street Journal report on the District 7 race, more than 22 percent of Chivukula’s $406,000 raised in the second quarter, came from outside New Jersey, most of it from South Asians, with fundraisers in Dallas, Virginia and Philadelphia.
But the incumbent Lance has a storied family history in elected office and held mainly moderate positions even though now, Chivukula says, he has veered to the right to appease Tea Party supporters. Nevertheless, by October Chivukula had raised some $740,000 to Lance’s more than $1 million, the Journal reported. According to Lance supporters, the redrawn District 7 has a large wealthy and Conservative voting bloc which would work in favor of the incumbent. District 7 consists of parts of Essex, Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Union and Warren counties. Its ethnic breakdown includes 11 percent Hispanic, 6 percent Black, 11 percent Asian, with Indian-Americans making up some 7 percent, according to Chivukula’s estimates.
The assemblyman's supporters point out that he has been re-elected several times from his mostly Caucasian district and is not a newcomer to politics. Before he was elected to the state Assembly, Chivukula served as mayor of Franklin Township.
His campaign has recruited more than 500 volunteers to make calls and get out the vote, at least 40 percent to 50 percent of the volunteers are Indian-American, Chivukula told News India Times.
Ami Bera: The Doctor Makes House Calls In the final run up to the voting day Nov. 6, he is knocking on doors and “doing some retail politics” says Dr. Ami Bera, Democratic candidate from California’s 7th District pitted against a long time Republican incumbent. Because now “If all those who support us get up and vote, we will win,” he told News India Times. On Oct. 25, less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 elections, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics changed its analysis of California’s 7th District race – from “toss-up” to “leans Democratic,” giving Dr. Ami Bera something to tout against his Republican contender, Rep. Dan Lungren.
“If there is one state where Republican House chances appear to be slipping, it’s in heavily Democratic California, which is why we’ve added Reps. Dan Lungren (R, CA-7) and Jeff Denham (R, CA-10) to Rep. Brian Bilbray (R, CA-52) in the “leans Democratic” column, meaning we believe all three incumbents are underdogs in their battles to return to Congress,” says the Center for Politics, immediately sparking a mass mailing from the Bera camp. The Washington Post noted in its Oct. 19 piece, that District 7 had attracted probably the most outside money, more than $6 million, most of it to help Bera defeat Lungren.
Though Bera’s spokeswoman did not provide figures for how much of the funding had come from Indian Americans, the community has rallied behind the California Democrat whose race has been classified by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as “Red to Blue”. Things appear to be looking up for Bera who lost in 2010 to Lungren despite his fundraising prowess and party support.
This time the DCCC has increased its involvement, and Bera also got a boost when former President Bill Clinton’s visited him a few weeks before election. And the Sacramento Bee switched sides endorsing Bera on Sept. 30, on grounds that its 2010 endorsement of Lungren had not paid off. “Two years later, the verdict is in.
Bera has matured, and Lungren has failed to meet local expectations. Even worse, Lungren has voted on a litany of bad bills to block the president's economic stimulus, roll back environmental protections, repeal health care reform and limit women's reproductive choices,” the Bee asserted. Bera, it said, had obvious expertise in health care and could help California implement reform and help Sacramento County get more medical clinics; that compared with Lungren, “Bera also exudes more compassion for the plight of the middle class.”Bera said this year’s race is different from 2010 for several reasons.
The redistricting has brought in more Democrats, about 7 percent, into the district, he says. That’s the margin he lost by in 2010 – 43.2 percent against Lundren’s 51.1 percent, he notes; He also has one of the biggest field operations in the country with some 1,500 volunteers fanning out; “Plus, the Republicans have been in charge in Washington and have done a dismal job legislating. They have not addressed the problems, the recession, the debt and the deficit,” he said.
Could Dr. Syed Taj Stage Upset Victory in Michigan? The Michigan newspaper Windsor Star said on Oct. 18, that the Democratic Party was making the same mistake it made six years ago when it failed to adequately support a candidate who could have defeated a Republican in the 7th District.
Now it was ignoring Dr. Syed Taj, an India-born physician, who is running as a Democrat on a liberal agenda, and doing very well by all counts against newcomer, Republican Kerry Bentivolio, in the greater Detroit area’s District 11, no thanks to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The newly redesigned district was fashioned to favor former Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, who withdrew from the race this summer after a scandal involving signatures on candidate registration forms. The newly redrawn District 11, “is shaped like an irregular spiral, taking in a collection of mostly white, mostly moderately affluent Wayne and Oakland county suburbs,” designed for McCotter, windsorstar.com notes. The paper criticizes what it calls a “near libertarian” ideology of Bentivolio.
It calls Dr. Taj, “one of the strongest candidates” the Democrats have run in recent years. It said Dr. Taj, a former head of medicine at Oakwood Hospital with a “lilting” Indian accent, “a charismatic personality with an infectious grin.”Yet, the DCCC has ignored him, the paper claims, except for helping Dr. Taj with some funds for mailings. Dr. Taj dismissed these reports as “rubbish” in an interview with News India Times.
The 66-year-old says the DCCC is doing all it can and even sent two staffers to streamline the campaign. He is more excited by the endorsement he received from the American Medical Association’s political action committee. “They (AMPAC) know I am a viable candidate. They are supporting four doctors around the country, two Democrats and two Republicans.” Dr. Ami Bera (California’s 7th District) is among them.DailyKos, a liberal news outlet, in its Live Digest report notes, “This is deeply unexpected:
The American Medical Association is spending $228K to produce and run TV ads on behalf of Democrat Syed Taj, making them the first outside organization to get involved in this open-seat race on his behalf.”Taj has done well for his race from small donations. He told News India Times his campaign had raised around $650,000 in donations from 1,700 individual donors.
He admits things are fluid and polls are not absolutely clear though one shows him 3 points behind Bentivolio with a 5 percent margin of error. “Which means I have closed the gap. We are still going door-to-door,” he said having just returned from a United Auto Workers meeting and getting down to some phone banking. The Detroit News says the DCCC has channelled barely $1,500 to Taj’s race, and notes the district favors Bentivolio. Realclearpolitics.com has listed Michigan’s 11th as a “toss-up”. It calls Bentivolio “an odd fit” for the district, and Taj “less than impressive as well.”“This race is a mess, and it is probably only the GOP tilt of the district that is saving the GOP here,” Realclearpolitics concludes.
The Washington Post is also uncertain on the fate of this district. It ranks Taj’s race as the 60th in a list of 60 races that could change hands on Nov. 6. “MI-11 (R): Reindeer farmer — yes, you read that right — Kerry Bentivolio (R) appears headed to Congress this fall after the fall of Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R), but it’s not a sure thing against Democrat Syed Taj,” the Post report says.