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US Congress polls: Bad day for Indian Americans in the fray

Last updated on: November 07, 2012 22:12 IST

The defeat of Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula from the 7th Congressional District in New Jersey is not entirely unexpected, even though official results may be delayed for days because of hurricane Sandy.

Chivukula was a reluctant candidate from a district which favours Republican candidates. But the Democratic Party persuaded him to contest against two-term Congressman Leonard Lance, a Republican.

Chivukula agreed as to do so as he is loyal worker of the party.

The final days of the election saw the fury of hurricane Sandy, which forced him to abandon his office and move it to his home in another area. He could not mount an organised campaign when it was needed most as few could go out and knock on the doors of the voters.

The good thing is the fact that the election changes nothing. Chivukula remains an assemblyman. The experience he gained while campaigning in a congressional district could be beneficial for the future.

"This last week has been very difficult for the people of New Jersey. But we are as one, and we will continue," Lance said at a victory party.

Unlike most Indian Americans who jump into the election fray without support from any quarters, Chivukula, who has a proven track record of public service, was persuaded by the Democratic Party, especially Somerset County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Peg Schaffer, to contest the election. The party found a viable candidate in him and pressured him to take up the challenge against incumbent two-term Congressman.

"The chances of winning the election is fifty/fifty as there are two candidates," the ever cautious Chivukula, who never boasts of anything, said when he started his campaign. The 7th district, once competitive, got friendlier for Republicans after redistricting.

"Well, unless you try you never know," was Chivukula's response.

"I am thrilled that a man with Assemblyman Chivukula's talent, intellect, and experience, is willing to run on the Democratic ticket against Rep Leonard Lance," Schaffer said earlier.

Chivukula has served in the New Jersey Assembly for 10 years. He has earlier served as mayor (2000-2001), deputy mayor (1998-2000) and councilman (1997 to 2005) of Franklin Township, where he lives now. 

One of the few scientists in the 120-member New Jersey Legislature, he has emerged as the legislature's go-to lawmaker on complex technical issues.

In New Jersey's 6th District, Congressman Frank Pallone, a staunch supporter of India and Indian Americans, won the re-election after defeating Tea Party challenger Anna Little for the second time.

Pallone, 61, was first elected to Congress in 1988. He was one of the lead authors of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as 'Obamacare', which made him a Tea Party target.

Meanwhile, Dr Syed Taj, who was expected to win from the 11th District in Michigan, trails his Republican opponent Kerry Bentivolio. Dr Taj was endorsed by major newspapers and several organisations.

With 281 of 304 precincts reporting, Bentivolio claimed 51 percent of the vote and a seven-point lead over Taj, who has not conceded yet.

George Joseph in New York