Indian-American community leaders pledged to support the "Upendra Chivukula for Congress' campaign at the Royal Albert Palace in Fords on Sunday, May 20th . A second major event is planned for June 3rd at the same location.
Congressional candidate Assemblyman Upendra J. Chivukula is challenging two-term incumbent Republican Congressional candidate Leonard Lance from New Jersey's District 7 as the unanimous choice of the Democratic Party. He will be uncontested in the June primary.
"The Indian-American community has made great economic strides but we lack political representation in Washington. We have a historic opportunity to send an Indian-American of the caliber, experience and expertise of Upendra J. Chivukula to Congress," said Hari Eppanapally, in his opening remarks.
Eppanapally serves as chairman & CEO of Concepts in Computing, Inc., and as overseas coordinator of Lead India 2020, an organization promoted by former Indian President Dr. Abdul J. Kalam.
Community leaders pledged to rally behind Chivukula with three T's -- Time, Talent and Treasure.
Hart Singh, chair of the campaign's IT Committee pointed out that Indian-Americans led the Information Technology boom in the United States and should now leverage their expertise to raise funds on-line for Chivukula.
Representatives of national Indian-American organizations attended the first major gathering of the community in support of Chivukula's Congressional bid, in their individual capacity.
Chivukula announced that sending an Indian-American to Congress would provide effective representation for the community at the national level.
"I have been gratified to represent the Indian-American community in New Jersey and to rally your increasing engagement in the political process. Today, we are part of the fastest growing racial group in the nation and yet we do not have a single representative in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives. Political empowerment comes through participation and representation. It is time to send an Indian-American to Congress to address our special needs, issues and concerns," Chivukula said.
A veteran state lawmaker and experienced municipal official, Chivukula has served in the New Jersey General Assembly for 10 years and previously as mayor (2000-2001), deputy mayor (1998-1999) and councilman (1997 to 2005) of Franklin Township, Somerset County.
The only Indian-American lawmaker in the 120-member New Jersey Legislature, he has been a strong advocate for issues and concerns of the entire community.
"Take immigration for instance When we call the offices of U.S. Senators and members of Congress on immigration matters on behalf of our constituents, we are often told that they cannot do anything and that they are waiting for comprehensive immigration reform. We've been waiting too long. Once I am elected, I will fight to make immigration reform a reality," Chivukula said.
His decision to run for Congress followed a call by the Democratic Party for a viable candidate to challenge Lance, criticized for being clearly out of touch with his constituents. Peg Schaffer, Chairwoman of the Somerset County Democratic Committee approached Chivukula to run and subsequently rallied chairs of all the counties of Congressional District 7 to make him the unanimous candidate.
"He is going to need a lot of support to campaign across 565 square miles and 95 municipalities in six counties. You should be proud to know that he is held in the highest regard by Democratic leaders across the state. When I shared with the county chairs in CD7 that I thought Chivukula should run for Congress, they were very supportive and unanimous in their view that he is a credible and formidable candidate," Schaffer said.