5 Indian-Americans win big in local, state elections

Ghazala Hashmi 

Two Indian-Americans made history in Virginia by winning their bids for the state legislature in the Nov. 5 election. Ghazala Hashmi became the first Muslim woman to be elected to the Virginia State Senate, while Suhas Subramanyam was elected to the Virginia State House of Representative. Their win has helped the flip to blue.

In North Carolina, Charlotte City Councilor Dimple Ajmera, was re-elected, while in New Jersey, State Rep. Raj Mukherji, handily won his seat in Assembly District 33. He was the only Indian-American elected to the state. Mukherji, a former deputy mayor of Jersey City, was first elected in 2013.

"This victory is not mine alone,” news reports quoted Hashmi as saying. “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.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former presidential candidate congratulated Hashmi. "I also want to shout out @Hashmi4Va, the first Muslim woman elected to the VA State Senate,” Clinton said in a tweet. “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.” Hashmi replied to Clinton, saying: “I am deeply honored by your words, Secretary Clinton. You broke so many glass ceilings for women in public service."

According to her profile on her website, Hashmi moved to the U.S. as a young girl with her family 50 years ago. She 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 Ph.D. from Emory University.

She and her husband Azhar moved to the Richmond area in 1991, and 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.

Subramanyam, former White House technology policy advisor to President Obama, ran on a platform to improve education, healthcare and traffic in the region and across Virginia. "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,” he said after the Nov. 5 election. “The campaign is over, but my work for you has just begun.”

5 Indian-Americans win big in local, state elections

Suhas Subramanyam 

Subramanyam, an attorney by training, runs S2 Impact, a technology consulting firm that advises companies and nonprofits on law, technology and government regulations. He served on Capitol Hill as a healthcare and veterans policy aide, and spent time as a technology and regulatory attorney.

In North Carolina, incumbent Ajmera won a convincing re-election to Charlotte City Council. A former Certified Public Accountant, Ajmera immigrated to the U.S. 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).

Meanwhile on the west coast, Manohar ‘Mano’ Raju won his election to remain San Francisco's Public Defender. This March, Raju, created history by becoming the first South Asian American to head a Public Defender’s office in a major American city—or for that matter in the entire nation. On March 11, San Francisco, California Mayor London Breed named Raju to take over the helm of the city’s Public Defender office following the sudden death of the incumbent Jeff Adachi on Feb. 22 of a massive heart attack at age 59.

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.

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