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Democratic Indian-American Raja Krishnamoorthi Wins 8th Congressional District of Illinois

Krishnamoorthi served as deputy treasurer of Illinois in 2007 after he was appointed special assistant attorney general in Public Integrity Unit by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan

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by Himani Kumar 

Chicago, November 8, 2016:  It was finally a victory for Raja Krishnamoorthi as he won the 8th Congressional District of Illinois on election night yesterday and became a Congressman.

With this, he became the second Indian American to join the U.S. Congress after Amy Bera from California. It  was indeed a  victory for people belonging to the middle-class section in the society.

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His journey started in 2010. On Tuesday night, Krishnamoorthi has beaten republican candidate Pete DiCianni to win the 8th congressional district seat,  that  was occupied by Tammy Duckworth to whom Raja lost in 2012 in the Democratic Primary for the 8th district house seat.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift.. a present,’’ Krishnamoorthi said, quoting cartoonist Bil Keane at the Wyndham Garden in Schaumburg, where the victory party was celebrated before the race was called.

“I’ll work for the middle class, small businesses, and increase employment,” Raja added resonating with the people, as he was a small business owner himself and told that he knew their problems.

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Krishnamoorthi thanked his family, his friends and campaign manager Noah Wasserman after winning the seat. “You can call me Raja…not Congressman Raja…, he added,” trying to strike a chord with the common man. “I’ll work for the Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains and others,” he added.

“It is a coming out of the South Asian community tonight,” he said as his family members gather on stage and flouted the Cubs’ “Fly The W” flag  commemorating the recent win by the Cubs baseball team.

Several prominent members of the Indian and American community were present at the event.

“Raja’s coming to power is good for employment and for our community,” Hema Shastri of Bensenville said.

Her father-in-law Dr C. L. Shastri was instrumental in building the Manav Seva temple in Bensenville in Illinois, one of the oldest temples built in the United States.

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“American Indians need at least five Congressmen in the White House and we just have one Congressman Amy Bera from California, compared to our population of 1 percent in America,” Raja’s wife Priya, an anesthesiologist said.

Anuja  Gupta helped with building the  first retirement community for Indian people in Schaumburg called “Verandah” that was inaugurated on October 1, this year. “There are enough older Indians in Chicagoland,” she said. “It’s exciting for Raja to win,” Gupta said. “ I hosted a fundraiser in my house and raised $14,000 for his campaign.”

Krishnamoorthi served as deputy treasurer of Illinois in 2007 after he was appointed special assistant attorney general in Public Integrity Unit by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

A Harvard law school  graduate, he was once also a partner at law firm Kirkland and Ellis.

Krishnamoorthi currently also is the  president of Bolingbrook’s Sivananthan Laboratories. The company focuses on research, development and commercialization of military night vision technology, solar cells, radiation detectors and biosensors to detect weapons of mass destruction.

Krishnamoorthi joins Kamala Harris from California, Ro Khanna from California’s 17th District and Pramila Jayapal from Seattle among the Indian Americans entering U.S. Congress. There is still no call in the race between Amy Bera from California and Scott Jones.

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Issues Over Heritage In Illinois Election Campaign

"We vote by the type of person and what that person can do and not by anything else"

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Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois. VOA

In an Illinois congressional district where just six percent of the constituency is Indian American, the incumbent Democrat Congressman is being challenged by another Indian American.

“I see it as American versus American,” Jitendra Diganvker, or “JD” — the Republican challenger for the Illinois 8th district, said.

“Yeah we happen to be Indian,” he added dismissively.

“It is a good thing that members of minorities are running as Democrats or as Republicans,” the incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi said.

The Illinois 8th District is 51 percent Caucasian, 28 percent Hispanic,14 percent Asian, and four percent African-American, according to the most recent U.S. Census data. Of those Asians, about half are Indian, according to the campaigns’ estimates.

Views and policy

In this diverse district, voters care about issues more than identity.

“I don’t care about them being Indian American. I just hope that whichever one wins that they support and help the people,” said Michelle Sims, an employee at the DuPage Community College. “And if you’re Indian then, hey, that’s fine. Just help the people.”

A Jamaican-American university student, Amara Creighton, says she thinks it is great that two minority candidates are running and have support, regardless of their ethnicity.

“I think what’s more important is their views and their policies,” Creighton said. “I mean, it doesn’t really matter to me what their minority is as long as they’re standing up for us and doing good for us.”

This rare instance of two candidates of the same minority running against each other is reflective of a larger trend throughout the United States – record numbers of Indian Americans are running for office and winning their elections.

In 2016, four Indian Americans — one of them being Krishnamoorthi, were elected to the U.S. House and a fifth was elected to the Senate — outnumbering in just one election the total number of Indian Americans to serve as U.S. representatives.

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Incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi goes by his first name, which his constituents can more easily pronounce. VOA

Krishnamoorthi, a businessman and former deputy state treasurer, was elected to his first term in the House of Representatives in 2016. He succeeded Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who was elected that year to the U.S. Senate.

Diganvker is a small businessman, Uber driver, and ardent member of the local Republican party. As the underdog, he is running as a “day-to-day” guy, and says he decided to run because he feels his opponent is out of touch with middle-class, hardworking families in his community.

But his opponent, who is completing his first term in Congress, says he is far from out of touch with his community. He visits each weekend to see his wife and children when Congress is in session.

Though both candidates are immigrants, their views on immigration policy differ. Krishnamoorthi, the Democrat, has been critical of Trump’s policies to decrease refugee allowances and speaks out against family separations at the border.

“We shouldn’t separate parents from children,” he told VOA. “That’s an abomination.”

Though Diganvker, too, opposes family separations at the border, he favors Trump’s promise to build a wall along the border with Mexico and supported the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries.

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Republican challenger Jitendra “JD” Digavnker says he is running as a “day-to-day” guy. VOA

“I’m also an immigrant. I followed the legal process and I believe in merit-based immigration,” he said, adding that merit-based immigration “brings the right skill set of people into our country.”

Krishnamoorthi, however, said that his parents legal immigration to the United States has not hardened his immigration stance.

“The fact that my parents came here legally and someone [else] did not, doesn’t mean that we should be inhumane or disrespectful, doesn’t mean we should treat them with anything less than dignity,” he said.

Diverse constituency

Both Congressional candidates are Hindu, but have wooed members of various religions in the community.

“When you come to this country there is no race,” said Farrukh Khan, a Muslim halal-shop owner in Schaumburg. “We should not go for the race, we should go for the people who more care about you and your community. Hindu or Muslim doesn’t matter.”

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Halal shop-owner Farrukh Khan says that he is unconsidered by the religion of either candidate. VOA

So as not to lose a customer, he did not indicate which man he will support in the November election.

Myrna Frankel has volunteered for Krishnamoorthi since his first campaign, an unsuccessful bid for Illinois comptroller in 2010. They know each other through the Jewish Beth Tikvah Congregation in Schaumburg where the congressman, who lives a few blocks away, sent his children for nursery school.

“He considers himself a JewDu – half Jewish, half Hindu,” she recounted with a laugh.

Myrna’s husband, Robert, said that this diversity and community relationships are typical of their community.

“Our state senator is from Mexico. Our state representative is from Puerto Rico. Our junior senator is of Thai background,” he said.

“We vote by the type of person and what that person can do and not by anything else,” he said.

Also Read: Democrats Gain Fundraising Advantage In The US Midterm Elections

When it comes to policy, voters in the Illinois 8th seem to heavily favor the incumbent. Early polling by Five Thirty Eight shows a “99% chance” that Krishnamoorthi will win. Rasmussen’s most recent poll shows a “Strong Dem” leaning in the midterm. As of June 30, Krishnamoorthi had raised more than $4 million compared to Diganvker’s $29,000.

But the challenger isn’t intimidated.

“People can give him $10 million and that’s not going to scare me,” he said, adding that despite recent polling, his campaign is “1,000 percent sure” that he will win in November. (VOa)