Indian American candidates fare well in NYC Council elections

New York: A record number of Indian-Americans ran for NYC Council in the Democratic primary this Tuesday and two of them stand a good chance to get elected after the ranked choice votes (RCV) are tallied and absentee ballots counted.

In District 25 in Queens that spans parts of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, civil rights lawyer Shekar Krishnan took the most first choice votes: 30.8 percent.  He was way ahead of the second placed Carolyn Tran, former chief of staff of the incumbent Daniel Dromm, who received 17.7 % votes. Krishnan entered the race as a favorite, having garnered the endorsements of many elected officials, including Dromm. He could become the first South Asian elected to the chamber.

In District 32, Felicia Singh (36.23% vote) had a thin margin over Michael Scala at 34.96%. Singh, the top fundraiser in the race, will have to wait for the results of ranked-choice voting to determine the outcome. A teacher, she is the daughter of working-class immigrants and “running to bring equity and justice to my district”.  If she wins the primary, she will face GOP’s Joann Ariola in the November general election in a seat held previously by a Republican.

In District 26, Amit Bagga secured 17.65% first choice vote, coming a close second to Julie Won who received 18.47%. Bagga is former deputy director of the city’s 2020 census campaign. He has been backed by the Working Families Party, progressives like Cynthia Nixon and state Sen. Jessica Ramos, and several labor unions. He’s been involved in advocacy around queer issues since the age of 14, and has worked on efforts to fight anti-queerness within the South Asian community.

In District 23, again in Queens, Linda Lee (31.20%) had a 5 point lead over Jaslin Kaur who was at 26.37% in the first choice votes counted till Wednesday.  Remarkably, the contest saw three other Indian Americans: Sanjeev Jindal, Koshy Thomas and Harpreet Singh Toor, who all remained in single digits. Jasleen Kaur’s endorsements from the Democratic Socialists of America, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders could bolster her strong showing going forward. She is daughter of Sikh immigrants – her father drives a yellow cab in New York while her mother works at a grocery store.

Significantly, New York City, despite being home to a large and vibrant Indian American community, has never  elected a city council member of South Asian origin. New York State, however, has two Indian Americans in the Senate, and one Assembly member.

“This is a unique opportunity for South Asian Americans to use our collective power and build representation at every level of government,” said Neil Makhija, executive director, IMPACT, a prominent Indian American advocacy group and political action committee.

Image courtesy of (Campaign Photos)

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