WASHINGTON, D.C. – A former Obama administration official and ex-congressional staffer has declared his candidacy for Virginia’s House of Delegates from District 87. If elected, Suhas Subramanyam would become the first Indian-American in the state’s legislature.
Subramanyam, an attorney by training, runs S2 Impact, a technology consulting firm that advises companies and nonprofits on law, technology and government regulations. He announced his bid on Aug. 28, one day after Democratic incumbent John Bell declared he was vacating his seat to run for state Senate, challenging GOP incumbent Dick Black, a conservative far-right Republican in District 13.
District 87 comprises parts of Sterling, where Subramanyam and his parents, both physicians, reside. The district also includes Ashburn, South Riding, Aldie, and Haymarket, all parts of Loudoun County and Prince William County, which in the past decade has seen an exponential influx of Indian-Americans and Indian immigrants—mostly Telugus, most of whom work in information technology and other high-tech jobs creating a mini-Silicon Valley in northern Virginia.
In 2017, Subba Kolla, an Indian-American Realtor, challenged Bell unsuccessfully. Kolla, who had been one of Virginia’s first Indian-American delegates to the Republican National Convention in 2016, broke a fundraising record for a non-incumbent candidate for the House of Delegates, raising $284, 693 in the first quarter of the year. Donations plummeted, however, after Indian-American Democrats questioned his support for Trump in light of the president’s anti-immigration policies.
Subramanyam has got into an early fundraising lead and reports more than $93,000 in cash and in-kind contributions in the first filing deadline of 2018—more than any other Democratic member of the House of Delegates. He said he serves the community as a member of the Rotary Club of Ashburn, as a representative on the Loudoun Health Council and as a volunteer firefighter with the Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department. He said he plans to continue Bell’s work fighting for affordable healthcare and making the region attractive to business.
Here are excerpts of his recent interview with India Abroad:
Q: What made you jump into the fray? Was it Delegate Bell's decision not to seek re-election—and/or did anyone or a group of people urge you to run?
A: I am running because the next delegate for the 87th District must ensure that as our community continues to grow, we have a strong voice in Richmond who understands our diverse needs and knows how to get results. I am ready for the challenge. Whether it’s our long commutes, children’s education, or challenges faced by small businesses, together we can address these issues and continue the legacy of a brighter, sustainable future for Loudoun and Prince William. You are correct that Delegate Bell is not seeking re-election, but no group or person pushed me to enter this race. Rather, I am running because of my experience getting results in government and because the issues I see and experience in the community are personal. I have learned from my work in the community that the best policymaking comes from understanding the issues on a personal level.
Q: Are you jumping into the race a little late or was it a case of the opportunity presenting itself with Delegate Bell vacating his seat to run for the Senate?
A: The election is in 2019, and we believe we have started early enough to have the resources to get our message out to the people of the 87th District. Our campaign has already taken off in ways we couldn't have imagined. We are so thrilled for all the support in the community and expect the momentum to continue into next November.
Q: Can you speak to your experience in the Obama administration and your earlier avatar in the Senate Judiciary Committee? What specifically was your portfolio in the administration and on Capitol Hill?
A: Much of my experience in the Obama Administration involved addressing some of the biggest problems in the technology policy world, such as how we are going to keep people safe from cybersecurity threats or how we as a country are going to take advantage of and address challenges relating to emerging technologies like AI (artificial intelligence) and blockchain. I also worked projects where we used technology to streamline government services, save taxpayers money, and give citizens a better experience with government. On Capitol Hill, I clerked for Senator Dick Durbin on the Senate Judiciary Committee where I worked on reintroducing the DREAM Act and helped Senator Durbin and his team work on proposing a range of criminal justice reforms. On the Hill, I also served as a legislative aide handling legislation related to health care--including the Affordable Care Act-- veterans, agriculture, food safety, and education. I worked on legislation that helped deliver access to millions of Americans and brought much-needed benefits and job training programs to veterans across Virginia.
Q: Will you have a primary, or do you go straight into the general? And what are your top priorities on your agenda that you are going to pitch to voters in your district?
A: I do not know if I will have a primary. If there is a primary, the election will be held next June. Some of my top priorities include fixing the traffic problems in northern Virginia, giving our kids a great education, and getting the most for our tax dollars. We also need to enact policies at the state level to keep our kids and families safe from gun violence. We also need to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable health care and that women have the ability to make their own health choices.