The Indian-origin lawyer’s association with President Obama dates back to 1998Among the Obama team members to have offered support for him is David Axelrod
Raja Krishnamurthi had left India as a toddler, but 42-years later, still understands Tamil, the language his parents speak.
“Reply, I do in English,” Mr. Krishnamurthi told The Hindu by phone from Chicago. “There can be confusion, otherwise,” he chortled. “It has always been a one way affair. But I still understand Tamil extremely well.”
Mr. Krishnamurthi is the Democratic nominee for the 8th Congressional District of Illinois and appears firm on the path to be a member of the U.S. Congress by winning the November general elections. The U.S. Congress now has only one member of Indian descent — Ami Bera, who is seeking re-election from California.
Long name, short time
“I have a long name and a short time to introduce myself,” his campaign ad, ‘Meet Raja’, shows him telling, as he meets voters in parking lots, diners and shopping malls. “I am Raja and I am the progressive candidate,” he tells them, and makes a specific commitment to support social security. “My parents are on social security. It is a personal issue.”
Engineer, lawyer and entrepreneur, Mr. Krishnamurthi’s political initiation came through his association with President Barack Obama. “It was in 1998 that I first met him,” he says about Mr. Obama who was then an Illinois State Senator. “In 1999, I worked for his campaign as a low level researcher,” he recalls.
Mr. Obama’s 1999 campaign for Congress did not take off. However, in 2002, Mr. Obama invited Mr. Krishnamurthi to join as the policy director of his Senate election campaign. “‘I have one more race left in me,’ the President told me then. I jumped onboard,” said Mr. Krishnamurthi, who also worked as an adviser to Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
It was Mr. Obama’s trailblazing political ascent that inspired Mr. Krishnamurthi. “The President’s Senate victory in 2004 and his subsequent rise was clear proof that if you are hardworking and committed, nothing else matters,” he said.
Mr. Krishnamurthi challenged sitting Congresswoman and seasoned Democrat Tammy Duckworth in the last election cycle but could not succeed. Ms. Duckworth is not seeking re-election this time as she is running for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. Mr. Krishnamurthi is to contest against Peter DiCianni of the Republican Party in November.
Born in Delhi where his maternal grandfather worked with the Indian Defence Ministry, Mr. Krishnamurthi spent his early childhood in New York, where his father had come for a Ph.D. He grew up in Peoria, Illinois, where the senior Krishnamurthi taught industrial engineering for 40 years.
Mr. Krishnamurthi has an engineering degree from Princeton University and a law degree from Harvard. Having founded a small business organisation that deals in renewable energy products, he believes that the future of American middle class is in small businesses.
He has been endorsed by three biggest newspapers in Chicago, apart from several prominent individuals and groups. His campaign has been a huge success in terms of fund raising as well — $1.6 million and counting.
The Obama crowd
Though President Obama has not been in direct touch — sitting Presidents do not get involved in elections — many from the original Obama crowd have announced support. This includes David Axelrod, the key strategist of his presidential campaigns.
Reviving the American middle class is Mr. Krishnamurthi’s key campaign plank and as a person of Indian origin, he cannot escape the question on H-1B visas, a major debate in the ongoing campaign.
“Donald Trump wanted to eliminate the H-1B visas but then someone whispered into his hears that doing so would wipe out the IT and high tech industry. Some of these folks are misinformed. We have to do our part to educate them and at the same time, we also have to cultivate local, indigenous talent in the U.S. These are the jobs of the 21st century and unless they are trained in these jobs, they will not be able to climb the economic ladder,” Mr. Krishnamurthi said.
“There has to be win-win solution. If we have some cool, calm discussions about it, we can address a lot of concerns on both sides. Right now there is a lot of rhetoric around it,” he added.
Printable version | May 2, 2016 6:52:31 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/a-tamilian-in-chicago-running-for-congress/article8544428.ece