Record Number Of Indian-American Women Running For Public Office In 2016

By Ronak D. Desai – March 17, 2016

Forbes / Asia

This year, Indian-American woman from both the Democratic and Republican parties are seeking elected offices in record numbers at both the state and federal levels.

Indian-American women have already established an impressive track record of public service despite their relatively small numbers. In 2010, Nikki Haley (R-SC) made history by being elected the first female Indian-American governor in the United States. She is regarded as a rising star by those inside and outside the Republican Party and has been floated as a possible Vice-Presidential pick in the upcoming presidential election.

Aruna Miller (D-MD) has served in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2011. After re-election in 2014, Miller was appointed to serve on the Appropriations Committee where she is Chair of the Oversight of Personnel Subcommittee and Vice-Chair of the Transportation & Environment Subcommittee.

The Seattle City Council witnessed the election of Kshama Sawant in 2013. Born in India, Sawant earned her PhD from North Carolina State University. She successfully ran for the city council as a member of the Socialist Alternative Party, making her first socialist to win a city-wide election in Seattle since Anna Louise Strong was elected to the School Board in 1916.

In Iowa, Swati Dandekar (D-IA) was a member of the state legislature for several years before being appointed to the Iowa Utilities Board by Governor Terry Branstad. She began her public service career twenty years ago as a member of the local school board.

Anu Natarajan served on the Fremont City Council for more than a decade before becoming the city’s vice-mayor. Reshma Saujani served as New York City’s Deputy Public Advocate before founding the popular technology non-profit Girls Who Code.

There are few public servants more popular than California Attorney General Kamala Harris. The daughter of a Jamaican-American father and an Indian-American mother, Harris has spent more than two decades of her life dedicated to public service. She is now seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Poll after poll has indicated that she is likely to prevail in both the primary and general elections.

The bench of Indian-American women already in public office runs deep. But what accounts for this ostensibly unexpected phenomenon?

Vishakha Desai, Senior Adviser to Columbia University and President Emerita of the Asia Society, explains “although is exciting to see the rising number of Indian American women on the American political stage, it is not surprising. Most of them are daughters of first generation of Indian immigrants who came to seek higher education degrees in professional fields, ranging from medicine and engineering to finance and science. These rising political stars are raised to succeed in whatever endeavor they pursue.”

Now, with elections just months away, Indian-American women are well-positioned to win even more state and federal offices around the United States. Here is a look at some of the most promising candidates.

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