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Indian American Bal Sharma makes a run for Kansas legislature

December 23, 2011 21:01 IST

Dr Bal Sharma has not given age a moment's thought in his determination to run for the Kansas legislature from District 54 in Topeka as a Republican.

He acknowledges that Topeka is a far cry from the village of Kot Sukhia in Punjab where he was born and Bambiha Bhai Ke, Punjab, where he was raised, but said his desire to win was "the beauty of the American democratic system where all of us can dream and often realise our dreams to the fullest whether in public service or the private sector."

Sharma, 64, said, "I always have been a Republican, and have strong affiliations with the party in Kansas and have been a strong GOP (Grand Old Party) donor and contributor. Many of the Kansas senators are my friends and I have been very involved with the campaigns of the governor, lieutenant governor and Senator Jerry Moran. I am running for the Kansas House of Representatives with support and guidance from many of my friends and senior Kansas senators and Lieutenant Governor Dr Jeff Collier."

Sharma's district has a population of 17,000, but the number of Indian Americans is insignificant. "Maybe 30 Indians live in my district at the most," he said.

His opponent in the August 2012 primary is Ken Corbet. The incumbent, Joe Patton, who has been in the Kansas House for six years, is running for the Kansas Senate in 2012.

Sharma said, "I am hoping to win, as I have lots of supporters in the mental health profession in my state with whom I've interacted for years as part of my profession. I am confident they will all be behind me all the way."

He said he had started the initial spadework for his campaign, for which he needed "to raise almost $20,000 to $25,000."

He added, "I am going to be working very aggressively to win this primary and then the House seat. I have written to almost 60 of my good friends in the state and out of state for donations."

Sharma said his priorities would be to work closely with Republican Governor Sam Brownback and Collier "to help alleviate the staggering and colossal budget in the state, reduce the fiscal deficits, fix the Medicaid system and help Kansans have access to a better and more affordable health care delivery system."

He said, "My other priorities are to advocate for limited government, better schools, elevating primary and secondary education, expanding mental health care, working on substance abuse issues (particularly in correctional facilities), making sure Kansan veterans are taken care off and also helping with cancer treatment issues." The latter issues are very close to his heart.

Sharma, who moved to the US after receiving his master's degrees in pharmacology from Punjab University, Chandigarh, explained, "I went to medical school at the American University of Caribbean in the West Indies. I also did a three-year psychiatry training at the University of Missouri, a post-graduate fellowship from Yale University and two additional fellowships in geriatric psychiatry, at the University of Kansas, and in psycho-oncology, at the Anderson Cancer Center in Houston."

He said, "I have worked in Kansas for almost 13 years, as a psychiatrist and medical director at the Correctional Mental Health Center, Larned State Hospital and the Valeo Behavioral Health Care, Topeka; and a similar stint at the Wyandot Behavioral Health Care, Kansas City. I've had years of experience in the state psychiatric and state security hospitals, the Sexual Predators Treatment Center and the mental correctional facilities in the state. I bring all of this experience and expertise to the table."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC