Former Bell Labs engineer Upendra Chivukula today formally started his campaign for the 7th Congressional District of New Jersey in front of a packed crowd.
Upendra addressed supporters and press along I-287 in Bridgewater, across the highway from the Somerset County Vocational and Technical High School. He used this location to stress the need to end the partisan gridlock that has frozen Congress, noting that this week alone student loan interest rates were set to automatically increase and road infrastructure funding was set to automatically lapse because of partisan bickering.
"In Washington DC, we have a Congress that is too concerned with politics and less concerned with good ideas. The guiding principle of any person seeking to hold office should be the application of solutions over partisanship. The problem isn't that we do not know the solutions for what is going on, it's that we have a Congress that isn't listening to us," said Upendra Chivukula, "I tell you as an engineer and your next Congressman that every problem has a solution."
Upendra was joined at the podium by his wife Dacyi (a public school teacher) and his children Suraj and Damianty (both graduates of Rutgers University), whom he said serve "as a constant reminder of what my efforts have always been about: a better life for all who will work and sacrifice for it, and a better future for our next generation."
Upendra Chivukula understands more than most the value of education, which he called "the great equalizer." Originally from an economically distressed part of India, he came to the U.S. in 1976 for better economic opportunities, eventually earning an engineering degree from the City University of New York (CUNY). Without the means to pay for his degree, he worked nights and got a scholarship with work-study involving tutoring American students in english. "The fact of the matter is that I stand here today because of the economic opportunities afforded to hardworking people in this country" he stated.
After graduating, he went to work at AT&T Bell Laboratories, currently located in the 7th District, where he had security clearance to consultant on U.S. military projects across the country. It was at Bell Labs that the basic technology for cellular phones, weather satellites, and solar panels came to life.
"Now I stand before you today 12 years since I retired from Bell Labs," he stated, "I was able to do so by working hard, investing heavily in my own retirement and living extremely frugally. Many of you here have already lived your American Dream through hard work and sacrifice. I will go to Congress to make sure that the promises made to you are promises kept. That means the promise of Medicare to those who have worked hard and played by the rules must be secure."
Upendra first ran for public office in 1997, being elected to the Township Council of Franklin Twp., NJ, the largest municipality in Somerset County. He was elected as Deputy Mayor of the Council in 1998, and as Mayor in 2000. After retiring from the private sector, in 2002 Upendra ran and was elected to the New Jersey Legislature, in the 17th Legislative District. At the time, he was the first Indian-American elected to the New Jersey Legislature and only the fourth Indian-American to be elected to any state legislature in the country, which he admitted was an "improbable rise from poor immigrant to professional engineer to Deputy Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly."
His colleagues in the Assembly recognized Upendra's unique leadership qualities, and elected him as a Deputy Speaker and Chair of the Telecommunications & Utilities Committee in 2007. Upendra is also currently the Vice Chair of the Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee and a member of the Transportation, Public Works, and Independent Authorities Committee. "In my public life, I have worked with Democrats and Republicans alike to pass meaningful legislation," said Upendra, "providing educational opportunities, tax cuts that help businesses grow, and securing retirement for hard working people."
"If you want to end the bitter partisanship and fix our country's problems, then we together can face the future" he finished. "Many people say it can't be done. I stand here before you and say it can. Many people will say that our time has passed. I stand here before you and tell you it hasn't. Today, I stand before you and announce my candidacy for Congress."