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Rediff.com  » News » Despite alleged slur, Yalamanchili wins Ohio primary

Despite alleged slur, Yalamanchili wins Ohio primary

May 11, 2010 02:14 IST
Surya Yalamanchili won the Democratic Primary for Congress from the 2nd District in Ohio, defeating David Krikorian. Yalamachili, a contestant on the 2007 edition of Donald Trump's The Apprentice, got 41 percent of the votes polled; Krikorian got 37 percent. A third candidate got 21 percent.

In November, Yalamanchili, 28, will face Republican incumbent, Representative Jean Schmidt.

"It was a tough battle; I am glad that it is over," Yalamanchil told rediff.com. "We are now getting ready for the bigger fight,"

He said the party will stand behind him and declined to comment about Krikorian's alleged attack on his name during the campaign.

"I don't want to comment about past things. We are moving forward to the most important phase of the campaign. Jean Schmidt is going to be a formidable competitor, but I don't think the task will be as big as the one we just overcame. The next five months will be like the primary on steroids," he said.

In an earlier interview, Yalamanchili told India Abroad that the last two syllables of his name would be a hit in chili crazy Cincinnati. His campaign Web site is www.votechili.com

Krikorian blamed his loss on allegations that he had made fun of Yalamanchili's name.'That clearly affected the final outcome,' he said. 'We tried to run a very positive campaign, but one of our opponents stooped to the level of playing the race card.'

The allegation was that Krikorian used to ridicule Yalamanchili by dramatically pronouncing his name to emphasize its foreign nature. Democrats strongly denounced that.

'Your comments on Surya's name are best insensitive and, worse, appear racist,' wrote Timothy M Burke and David Lane, the Democratic chairmen in Hamilton and Clermont counties respectively. 'It is deeply disturbing to us that you would use his name, which is obviously derived from his ethnic heritage, against him in a denigrating mannerÂ… We will be voting for Surya, just as 18 months ago we were delighted to vote for someone else with an unusual name--Barack Obama.'

Chris Redfern, chairman of Ohio's Democratic Party, called the words destructive. Political consultant Cliff Schecter called the remarks racist. Schmidt too condemned the remarks in a letter, saying, 'You owe Mr Yalamanchili and the Indian-American community an apology.'

At the Trump show, Yalamanchili was 'fired', but the reality show gave him some star power and name recognition, which helped in the election. He said a reality show is a lot like politics.

"These shows are all about posturing and backstabbing and being incredibly opportunistic to get what you want," Yalamanchili said. "If that doesn't describe the modus operandi of the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington, I don't know what does!"

The 2nd Congressional District encompasses seven counties extending from Cincinnati to Portsmouth. It is one leaning to conservatives, but the three-term Republican incumbent Schmidt is facing opposition and unpopularity. Barrack Obama got only 40 percent of the votes in the Presidential election here, to John McCain's 60 percent.

Yalamanchili grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to Cincinnati after graduating from college to work as a brand manager for Proctor and Gamble's Olay lotion franchise. His parents live in New Jersey.

Image: Surya Yalamanchili

George Joseph