WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two Indian-Americans — Suhas Subramanyam and Dr. Ghazala Hashmi — won their Democratic primaries for Virginia’s House of Delegates and state Senate respectively on June 11, and if they prevail in the November general election, would create history by becoming the first Indian Americans to ever serve in the Virginia state Legisature.
Subramanyam, a former Obama administration official, who served in the White House as a technology policy adviser, won handily in a four-way race for Virginia’s 87th District, polling 3,050 votes or 47.25 percent of the ballots cast, beating out Pakistani American Hassan M. Ahmad, who received 1,500 votes or 23.24 percent of the ballot.
Another Indian-American, Akshay Bhamidipiti, who also ran in the same district finished fourth after Joanna L. Gusman, receiving 699 votes or 10.83 percent to the latter’s 1,029 votes or 18.68 percent respectively.
The district, a suburb of Washington, D.C., incorporates much of Loudoun County — the richest county in the country with a significant population of Indian Americans, who are mostly Telugu — and a small part of Prince William County, which also has a fair number of Indian Americans.
The race had attracted national headlines because all of the four candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for this open seat were first generation Americans.
Incumbent Democrat John Bell had declared his intent to vacate the seat to run for the Virginia State Senate from District 13 and had strongly endorsed Subramanyam, who threw his hat into the ring on August 28, 2018, a day after Bell made his Senate run announcement.
Meanwhile, in the Democratic primary for Virginia’s state Senate from District 10, Hashmi, an experienced educator and advocate, who has spent over 25 years working within Virginia’s college and university system, and current serves as the founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CETL) at Reynolds Community College, who immigrated to the U.S. from India over 50 years ago, beat Eileen M. Bedell, a civil litigation lawyer, receiving 5,245 votes or 49.40 percent to Bedell’s 4,344 votes or 40.92 percent respectively.
Zachary Brown, a law student at the University of Richmond, came in a distant third, receiving 1,028 votes of 9.68 percent of the ballots cast.
Hashmi will now take on the Republican incumbent, Sen. Glen Sturtevantin November in a district that includes parts of Chesterfield County and the city of Richmond, plus all of Powhatan County.
If she wins over Sturtevant, who was elected by about 1,500 votes in 2015, edging Democrat Dan Gecker in a district has since trended Democratic in voting at the statewide level, not only will Hashmi, who earned her Ph.D in English from Emory University, but moved with her husband in 1991 to the Richmond area, become the first Indian American to serve in the Virginia Senate but also the first Muslim American to serve in the state legislature.
In another key race for the Virginia Senate in District 12, a Richmond suburb, Veena Gupta Lothe, a civil rights and immigration lawyer, was routed by Delegate Debra H. Rodman, who received 7.047 votes or 59.99 of the ballot, overwhelming Lothe who could muster only 4,700 votes or 40.01 percent.
The Indian American Impact Fund that had endorsed both Hashmi and Subramanyam, showered kudos on both for “decisively winning their primary election bids for the Virginia State Assembly.”
Deepak Raj, co-founder of Impact and chair of the Impact Fund, said, “We were proud to have endorsed Dr. Ghazala Hashmi and Suhas Subramanyam in their primaries and we look forward to supporting them in general election to ensure that they become the first Indian American representatives to serve in the Virginia state the legislature.”
He also thanked Lothe and another Indian American Ibrahim Moiz, a corporate attorney and former House of Delegates legislative aide who lost in his primary challenge to Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling), for the city’s school board, “for their courage to run.”
Raj said, “While they did not prevail, they have inspired countless other individuals and we hope that they will run again.”
“In a time when Americans are being ambushed by divisive dialogue, Dr. Ghazala Hashmi and Suhas Subramanyam are exactly the kind of representatives we need that will work to bring inclusiveness, compassion, and experience to the Virginia General Assembly,” added Raj Goyle, co-founder of Impact and a former member of the Kansas House of Representatives.
Impact Fund is a political action committee that works with experienced operatives, campaign strategists, and donors to endorse candidates based on their viability and commitment to advocating for the needs and values of the Indian American community.
Another longtime Democratic political operative, Varun Nikore, who is the executive director of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Progressive Action, told India Abroad that “it was an exciting night for our Asian American candidates, Qasim Rashid (a Pakistani American, who won the primary in District 28 for the state Senate), Suhas Subramanyam and Ghazala Hashmi who all won resounding victories in their Virginia primaries.”
He noted, “Each one of their district makeups are a bit different and while we are optimistic about carrying them over the finish line, they will need resources and activated and engaged community to assure victory in November general election.”
Nikore added, “In thinking ahead towards next year’s Presidential election, the fact that we could potentially have three South Asians as sitting office holders in these local seats will help to drive turnout of Asian Americans in a critical year for Democrats.”
“We need to ensure that palate of Richmond represents growing diversity of Virginia,” he said.