FOUR Indian-Americans, including a Muslim woman and a former White House technology policy advisor, have won state and local elections held in the US on Tuesday (5).
Indian-American Ghazala Hashmi, a former community college professor, created history by becoming the first Muslim woman to be elected to the Virginia State Senate, while Suhas Subramanyam, who served as the White House technology policy adviser to former president Barack Obama, has been elected to the Virginia State House of Representative.
In her maiden attempt, Hashmi, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Republican State Senator Glen Sturtevant for the Virginia’s 10th Senate District, drawing national attention.
“This victory is not mine alone. It belongs to all of you who believed that we needed to make progressive change here in Virginia, for all of you who felt that you haven’t had a voice and believed in me to be yours in the General Assembly,” she said after her historic victory.
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who was the first woman presidential candidate, congratulated Hashmi.
“I also want to shout out @Hashmi4Va, the first Muslim woman elected to the VA State Senate. As she said yesterday, her victory ‘belongs to all of you who believed that we needed to make progressive change here in Virginia, for all of you who felt that you haven’t had a voice’,” Clinton said in a tweet.
Hashmi, who had moved to the US from India as a young girl with her family 50 years ago, responded, saying, “I am deeply honoured by your words, Secretary Clinton. You broke so many glass ceilings for women in public service.”
Hashmi was raised in a small town in Georgia and saw firsthand how community-building and open dialogue can bridge cultural and socioeconomic divisions, uniting people from all walks of life. She earned a BA in English from Georgia Southern University and a PhD from Emory University.
She and her husband, Azhar, moved to the Richmond area in 1991. Hashmi has spent the past 25 years as a leading educator in Virginia’s college and university system. She currently serves as the founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at Reynolds Community College.
“After flipping the Senate, I’ll have Democrats by my side to fight to protect Virginians from the climate crisis and senseless gun violence, and work to expand our access to affordable health care and funding for public education. I can’t wait to work together in the state Senate,” Hashmi said.
Subramanyam, meanwhile, entered the Virginia State House of Representatives from the Indian-American-dominated district of Loudon and Prince William.
“My promise to the people of Loudoun and Prince William: I will always listen to you, work tirelessly for you, and do everything I can to empower you. The campaign is over, but my work for you has just begun,” he said.
His mother, a native of Bengaluru in India, had immigrated to the US in 1979. She landed in Dulles airport to start a new life and went on to become a physician and raise a family.
Subramanyam served on Capitol Hill as a healthcare and veterans policy aide, and spent time as a technology and regulatory attorney.
Former US president Barack Obama had named him his White House technology policy adviser.
In this capacity, he led a task force on technology policy that Obama charged with addressing some of the country’s most challenging technology issues, including job creation and displacement in the technology sector, regulating emerging technology, and addressing cybersecurity and IT modernisation in the public sector.
In California, Indian-American Mano Raju won his election to remain San Francisco’s Public Defender.
Raju attended Columbia University as an undergraduate where he researched Critical Race Theory under Professor Kendall Thomas.
After an influential fellowship at the Oxford Center for African Studies, he relocated to Berkeley in the 90s to pursue his Masters in South Asian Studies and later his JD at Berkeley School of Law, where he interned in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.
In North Carolina, incumbent Dimple Ajmera won a convincing re-election to Charlotte City Council. A former Certified Public Accountant, Ajmera immigrated to the US from India along with her parents when she was 16.
At that time, she spoke no English. Proving her tenacity, she went on to graduate from the University of Southern California (USC) and later became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).