New Jersey native Hirsh Vardhan Singh, 34, an avowed Trumpite, is running again — this time to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Cory Booker.
In 2017, he made a gubernatorial bid, claiming to have raised $900,000 that would have qualified him for the GOP primary debates, but the New Jersey Election Enforcement Commission (ELEC) refused to permit him to participate, saying it had no records of his fund-raising. In 2018, he wanted to challenge Sen. Bob Menendez but opted instead to run for Congress in the 2nd District, but lost in the primary where he was pilloried with one opponent questioning loans Singh took out to finance his campaign.
This time around, he says the power brokers of the state GOP are all in his corner and predicts he will beat Booker who has broken all of his promises he made to get elected, and predicted the fact that he’s now trailing badly in the presidential polls makes the incumbent vulnerable in 2020.
In an interview with India Abroad, Singh, born and raised in Atlantic City, and an engineer by training, now turned entrepreneur, who announced his run against Booker on April 24, while acknowledging that the majority of Indian-Americans in New Jersey are Democrat, expressed confidence that he can convince them to vote for him, alleging that Booker is bad news for a community that values education, entrepreneurship, and less taxes and draconian regulations.
In announcing his candidacy, Singh said, “Help me fix Jersey. Spread the news, we’re here to win. Today, I launch my campaign for U.S Senate. For the People of New Jersey. Let’s remove Cory Booker.”
At the outset, Singh, when asked to respond to the contention by many longtime political observers and analysts that his jumping into the political ring again, was yet another quixotic venture, countered that in 2017 when he ran for governor, “We used our own money and we put about a million dollars in the primary and on a technicality, they were able to remove me from the debate stage. Then all the media said I was no longer a top-tier candidate.
“Then last year, when I ran, the primary ended up having eight people in it and they attacked me from day one, and so, I did not have uniform party support,” he said, but argued that he was still “able to get 30 percent, losing only by a couple of percent points — about 1,700 votes, which is very small when you consider a Congressional district.”
Singh said, “So, it was really unfortunate, but this year, unlike before, I have united the party support behind me.”
In the interview with India Abroad, Singh, in asserting that the GOP establishment in the state was solidly behind him, said that among the GOP powerbrokers supporting him were Republican National Committeeman Bill Palatucci, the right-hand man of (former) Governor (Chris) Christie, Republican National Committeewoman Ginny Haines of Ocean County, which is the Republican bedrock of the state.
“And, the main three powerbrokers — one in Somerset County, Al Gaburo, one in Atlantic County, Dennis Levinson, and one in Hudson County Jose Arango, are all supporting me,” he added, and argued, “the five of them combined, unite the entire party because there’s a lot of extension from these individuals because why they were brought in was to show a united party.”
A conservative news outlet shorenewsnetwork.com, that has been unrelenting of its castigation of Booker and has showered kudos on Singh describing him as “millennial Indian- American, engineer, and businessman” who is “a welcome departure from the stereotypical ‘stuffed suit,’”Booker, predicted Singh was “Cory Booker’s Worst Nightmare,” and ran quotes from Palatucci, Haines, Gaburo, Levinson and Arango praising him.
Singh argued that New Jersey was not a blue state but “a purple state,” and taking strong exception that Booker’s “established base,” would make him invincible, pointed out that the state had “elected Chris Christie (a Republican) twice and a second time with over 60 percent of the votes, which shows that the electorate is very intelligent and in the general election, they select candidates based upon what they think is in the best interests of the state.”
He said that Booker had betrayed his voters who had supported him “specifically on his intention of supporting education and urban areas — introducing school choice so that people in the inner cities have opportunities to succeed.
“But when he decided to run for president, he abandoned that idea,” Singh alleged, “and he has now lost all credibility with those in New Jersey that are trying to improve an education system.”
He said he was going to take on Booker on policy issues and priorities such as education, infrastructure and the transportation gridlock. “The number one thing right now in New Jersey is our infrastructure — we have the most traveled roadways, the most utilized airports, we have the most used ports, we have the most used railway between New York City and Washington, D.C. in the entire country.”
He also said that “Forty-three percent of the New Jersey population comes from a non-European ancestry and because it’s the most diverse state in the entire country, the Asian Americans are heavily represented with about 280,000 registered to vote, of which the Indian-Americans have about 180,000 registered voters, and that only about 45 percent of the actual number of Indian-Americans who are eligible to vote.”
While acknowledging that Indian-Americans in New Jersey may have supported Booker for president with some significant funding as shown in the first quarter figures released by the FEC, Singh said, “Anyone who’s invested in Cory Booker’s campaign right now, is actually very disappointed and underwhelmed by his performance. He’s nationally only polling about two percent.”
Singh claimed that “our Indian-American community doesn’t care much about party, but what you stand for and there are Indian-Americans that are in the local government here at numerous positions and we all have generally the same policies. We are economically conservative because the Indian- American community is very entrepreneurial, the most educated, and the wealthiest minority in the entire country.
“So, when you have high taxes that hurts our community the most, when you have bad regulations that hurts our businesses the most…we really need the representation to balance with that and our community knows that and understands that and it doesn’t matter to them —Democratic, Republican or Independent.”
Singh was unapologetic for his support of President Trump and declared, “I’ve never seen a president of leader in the United States ever show as much respect to the Indian-American community as the respect that President Trump has not only for the Indian American community, but also India.”
If this was what had attracted him to Trump, he said, “I am attracted to the fact that he’s getting the results in helping out this country more than we’ve ever seen in history — we have an economy going in the right direction with the lowest unemployment for women, for Hispanics, for African Americans, in the history of the country, and Asian Americans are doing very well in this economy.”
Singh denied the contention that Trump was a racist, a bigot and a xenophobe and anti-immigrant, and asserted, “Anyone who believes he’s anti-immigrant has been lied to.
“Not even the slightest,” he emphasized, and said, “sometimes being politically incorrect, allows narratives to be pushed that is unfortunate.
“He (Trump) is very much in alignment in support of legal immigration and honestly a lot of the brain trust in America comes from immigration of Indians coming here to become Americans, and they make this country better, brighter and stronger.”
Singh said Trump, “is very pro-immigrant. He is against those illegally entering the country,” and drawing an analogy with India,” said, “what we see happening with the terrorism in India too, makes controlling the border essential.”
“He(Trump) is very much in alignment in support of legal immigration and honestly a lot of the brain trust in America comes from immigration of Indians coming here to become Americans, and they make this country better, brighter and stronger.”
“So, there’s no way, he’ll be against immigrants,” he added, and pointed out, “even his wife is an immigrant. He’s a businessman, and he’s supported what is beneficial and merit-based immigration supports our community.”
But he said, “In today’s day and age, you are going to be attacked, and people are going to lie about you, no matter what, if you are going to try and get into the political space.”
Singh said, “The Indian American community really needs to take this lesson that when we get attacked in the public, we should disregard it, because the truth is very different than what’s making the most noise.”
He also said thanks to Trump, U.S.-India relations were moving “in a positive direction.”
“President Trump has positively supported relations between the U.S. and India, actually signing deals for the transfer of technology from the U.S. into India to help India’s economy,” Singh said. “So, there’s a symbiotic relationship being developed …and to help improve that we need individuals who understand the Indian American diaspora, but also how India works.”
He said, “Historically, the U.S. has aligned with countries outside of India and with the current China-Pakistan relations and the threat of terrorism around the world, for economic stability and for national and global security, strengthening of the bonds between the U.S. and India are of utmost importance.
Singh’s parents Tribhuvan and Nandita Singh, who hail from Uttar Padesh, immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970’s, and according to him, while growing up he would regularly visit India to meet with, among others, “my nanaji (grandfather) Hukum Singh, who actually was a Lok Sabha member, who represented the Kairana District, where my mother was born.”
He said his grandfather passed way in February 2018.