Indian Americans cheered Kamala Harris before her VP debate

By Surekha Vijh

Washington: Daughter of an Indian mother, Senator Kamala Devi Harris made history  when she faced Vice President Mike Pence at the debate stage in Utah on October 7. All eyes were on her as she is the first South Asian / African American woman to participate in a national election debate.

“Even though it is a vice presidential debate, it is all about making the case for why we need Biden and Harris in this moment,” said a Harris campaign supporter. “The debate is more about Donald Trump and Joe Biden.”

Many Indians Americans, especially Tamilian residents of Greater Washington area, were jubilant about the prospects of Harris becoming the next vice president. Many said their families back home were excited about her, who is like their own daughter, entering the White House with Biden. Many even prayed for her victory in the temples. Some of the Caribbean/Jamaicans of Indian heritage were doubly excited as she shares both ancestries.

“I’m sure she will do great in her debate and can’t wait to see her, it will be a proud moment for all Tamilians and Indians,” said Subhashini Ramachandran, a Tamil IT professional and Mclean resident.

Joe Fernandez, another Washingtonian, who also hails from Tamil Nadu, said it seemed that they knew Kamala as a “girl from our neighborhood.”

Harris, according to her campaign supporters, was preparing for the highest profile moment in her political career by studying both Trump and Pence’s past positions. She talked to people who both knew Pence well and have debated him in the past.

They said she prepared to tackle Pence in viable ways unlike him who does not show much emotion on the debate stage. Her strategy was to make the debate more about Trump and Biden and how Trump mishandled the coronavirus pandemic.

Because of the pandemic, Harris and Pence were separated by plexiglass in the debate and were kept more than 12 feet apart.

Harris’s preparatory staff for the Wednesday debate included Rohini Lakshmi Kosoglu, the first South Asian American chief of staff in the Washington D.C. office of Senator Harris. Rohini, a Tamilian, whose parents Dr. Wijeyadevendram Ravindran and Shobhana Ravindran, hailed from Jaffna in Sri Lanka, said she was enormously proud of her boss. She said the country at this point of inflection needed Biden and Harris to heal. Rohini Kosoglu has been working with Senator Harris for a decade, initially as a deputy chief of staff.

Karen Dunn, a senior Democratic supporter who had been earlier focusing on Biden/Harris debates, was now leading Harris’ preparations vis-a-vis Pence.

To prepare for the debate, Harris also consulted Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who, as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, debated Pence in 2016.

The debate offered Harris an opportunity  to make a definitive case for why the Biden-Harris ticket would be better qualified to handle the coronavirus pandemic in the country after their election.


Image courtesy of (Photo courtesy AP)

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