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2010 Election: Ami Bera for Congress

by Sneha Goud

Dr. Ami Bera is running to represent the 3rd Congressional District of California as a Democrat against incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Lungren.  For the past 15 years, he has served the Sacramento region as a physician and educator.  I spoke to him recently about his campaign.

Seeing how successful you have been in the medical field, what made you want to run for office?

I was always fortunate to do other things in medicine and thought I could enact change behind the scenes. [Bera has served as the Associate Dean of Admissions of the University of California-Davis and the Chief Medical Officer of Sacramento County.] In the last few years, I became disillusioned by elected leaders. There are problems in the education system, higher education, economy…I felt elected leaders were skirting the real issues. It’s important to find compromise again and move beyond partisan issues.

Your parents immigrated to California in the 1950s when the number of Indians in this country was very small.  How did your upbringing affect your professional life and political views?

I grew up in a very small Indian community. The values I had growing up – strong sense of family and community, working hard – are not just Indian or American values, they transcend both cultures.  They are the same values I am raising my daughter with even though the world is a different place now.

What would you say is the biggest issue affecting your constituents?

Jobs are the biggest issue. If people don’t have a job or feel secure in their job they can’t think about anything else. We need to create a stable job market…away from a consumer service based economy to a manufacturing economy. I see anxiety about jobs in new college grads, young families, and retirees.

Barack Obama’s presidential victory was largely credited to attracting young voters and having a strong online presence.  How have you utilized social networking to reach young voters in your campaign?

Young volunteers and an online presence were very important to our campaign. We have a large number of high school and college graduates [volunteering for the campaign], over 2000 facebook friends. We have had 2800 individual donors…we understand the importance of small as well as large donors.  We visited high schools and college campuses – as an educator, I have always enjoyed talking to students.

How have you reached out to the Indian community in your campaign?

Early on, Indians were excited but didn’t really understand the campaign work because they had never been involved beyond voting.  As the campaign gained momentum and media attention, various community leaders got involved and encouraged involvement. We have a large number of South Asian volunteers. It was humbling to watch excitement build among the community. Most exciting was my parents finally feeling accepted into American society.

What advice do you have for young people interested in politics?

Understand why you are going into politics. Make sure your spouse or partner is involved – it’s a family effort.  Reach out to political organizations, like the Indian organization IALI (Indian-American Leadership Initiative).  Reach out to those of us who have run and have experience…it is our responsibility to mentor the younger generation. I am firmly committed to being a mentor.

As our conversation wound down, Dr. Bera offered me a campaign update.  Congressional Quarterly currently categorizes California’s 3rd Congressional District Race as a toss-up, meaning the race could go either way.  According to his website, Bera’s opponent Rep. Dan Lungren has less than 50 percent support in a new poll that shows Bera within single digits.

“Our race is vital to hold on to House control.  Any readers who have never worked on a race, this is a fun campaign with a lot of events coming up,” said Bera, who encourages any young person with an interest in politics to volunteer on a campaign. “Wherever you are, you can help with a campaign.”

Interview has been condensed for space and clarity.

Learn more about Ami Bera at beraforcongress.com


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