About The Author
Brian Santhumayor of Nanthoor, Mangalore, has a Bachelors Degree in Engineering and MBA in Marketing and works as an Account Manager for an enterprise software company in Manhattan. He volunteers by fundraising for numerous non-profit associations in the US and has won numerous awards and commendation for his charitable efforts.
This was one of the most widely contested mid-term elections in the United States with control of the House and Senate up for grabs and the voters seeing a spate of nasty and ugly attacks by candidates. The negative campaigns did not even spare the famous actor and activist Michael J. Fox who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Historically, Indian Americans have tended to vote overwhelmingly Democratic, according to the few exit polls that have targeted this community. Despite the fact that New Jersey has the fifth largest Indian population in America, it was surprising to see very few Indians participating in the many campaign rallies and meetings that I attended over the last few months. Even in Edison, NJ roughly every third person is of Asian Indian ancestry.
The voters have repeatedly expressed discontent over the economy, the scandals, the corruption, the Iraq war, and the cost of health care, gasoline prices and illegal immigration. To me and many other voters in the Garden State, NJ – the million-dollar question was-Could Jersey go Red? Over the last several weeks, I attended a number of campaign rallies that saw democrat Robert Menendez, a longtime congressman chosen last year by Governor Jon Corzine to fill his freshly vacant senate seat face off against Tom Kean Jr, a state GOP senator and scion of one of New Jersey?s most revered political families. The candidates painstakingly explained their stance on stem cell research, environment, Iraq war, homeland security and a myriad other important election issues.
Senator Robert Menendez and NJ Governor Jon Corzine (former CEO of Goldman Sachs) have actively courted the Indian-American community for their support. The Indians in NJ specially remember Menendez for his help to the community after the dot-buster gang terrorized Hindus in 1987. In 1990, he sponsored the Ethnic Intimidation Act, which provided extended prison terms for bias-related crimes. Both of them have attended recent Deepawali and Navarathri festivals in New Jersey and have received tremendous support from the NJ Indians.
Brian with Frank Pallone(L) and Upendra Chivukula(R)
At a recent Menendez rally in Paramus, NJ, I had the opportunity to meet with Senator Hillary Clinton who touted her fellow Democrat’s homeland security efforts since Gov Jon S. Corzine appointed him in January to complete his US Senate term. "After 9/11, Bob Menendez led the fight to secure our nation," Clinton said.
A few days later, I was fortunate to attend another rally and meet Illinois Sen. Barack Obama who has attracted enthusiastic crowds across the country as he campaigned for fellow Democrats. "Six years of the Bush administration have taken a toll on the country with divisiveness and scandal fostering an air of cynicism nationwide"obama said. He called on New Jersey voters to set aside their disgust with politics and embrace the Democrats and their "other idea of politics , that we are all in this together and that we have a mutual responsibility for each other." As I greeted and shook hands with Senator Barack Obama after the rally, it was not hard to see why Barack Obama is such a rising star and a potential candidate for the Democrats’ presidential nomination in 2008.
After several months of campaigning and despite the drumbeat of negative ads that helped Kean pull almost even with Menendez in the Senate race, Rob Menendez was still the favorite to win the senate seat. Tonight as I trooped into the large ballroom at the Hilton Hotel for an anticipated victory party for Menendez, we watched with baited breath as the senate results poured in from different precincts. At the victory party, I was interviewed by TV Asia, which is an Indo-American TV channel.
I also met with two of India’s favorite politicians – Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula who is the first South Asian American elected to NJ State Assembly and Congressman Frank Pallone who is the senior Democrat in New Jersey’s congressional delegation. Pallone founded the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans in 1993, and served as the Democratic co-chair from 1993-1998. He continues to serve as a member of the Executive Committee of the Caucus whose mission is to promote better U.S.-India ties and to be a voice for more than 2 million Indian-Americans in the US.
At 10 PM the verdict was finally in – Robert Menendez was declared the winner. The crowd erupted into loud cheers as all the political heavy weights took to the stage for a victory speech by Robert Menendez. As the night drew to a close, the Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives for the first time since the 1994 Republican revolution, while control of the Senate hangs in the balance! To echo the words of Rep Nancy Pelosi, the hard-charging California Democrat in line to become the nation?s first female House speaker "From sea to shining sea, the American people voted for change.? As an Indian American, I hope the results of these elections will be the beginning of a change and a brighter future for our state and country!
Author: Brian Santhumayor- USA