A Year of Firsts in Local American Elections

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It’s been a year of firsts in America’s politics especially in the results coming in from local American elections. These are some of our home-grown representatives leading the change

“If you are not at the table,” said Neera Tanden, senior advisor and staff secretary to President Joe Biden at an Indiaspora event last month, “You are on the menu.”

If the current year in American politics is anything to go by, it would appear that Americans of South Asian origin have firmly secured their places.

South Asians have been gathering pace as a formidable force in politics, government and civic life in America as voters and influencers although their large scale participation is only just gathering momentum. This can be seen in President Joe Biden’s cabinet, with the inimitable Kamala Harris as vice president. Harris, a favourite of the South Asian bloc and a household name in India, is the first ever Indian-origin, African American woman to be sworn in as the vice president of the United States.

The year of firsts continues with recent news from local races across the country. Earlier this month, American of Tibetan-Indian origin Aftab Pureval became the first Asian American to hold Cincinnati’s mayoral post and 25 year-old Bangladeshi immigrant Azrin Awal the first Muslim woman to be elected to city office in Minnesota. Bangladeshi American Shahana Hanifwon a seat in Brooklyn as the first Muslim woman elected to the New York City Council.

These individuals have come through in spite of several factors standing in their way, from the unequal representation of their communities to hate directed at their identities. Here’s a little about them:

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Shahana Hanif

Council Member-Elect, Brooklyn’s 39th District, New York City Council.
Shahana Hanif is endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Working Families Party, and a survivor of lupus. Educated in public schools, Hanif, now 30, is an activist, community organizer, and public servant. According to [time.com], she had “…earned a reputation for her grassroots work around housing, immigrant rights, language access, domestic violence and COVID relief. She is still serving in council member Brad Lander’s office as director of organizing and community engagement.” Hanif’s politics are remarkably left-leaning and very grounded in her community.

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Azrin Awal

Council Member-Elect, Duluth City Council.
Duluth’s first Asian American and Muslim City Council member Azrin Awal, who identifies as a Muslim, Bengali, Asian-American, and queer woman, has come up at a young age in an area where the Asian community makes up just under 2% of the population. Just 25, and a first generation college student of Public Health at the University of Minnesota’s Duluth campus, Awal plans to work on issues of housing, racial and class equity, transportation access and environment.

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Aftab Pureval

Mayor-Elect, Cincinnati and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts.
While in the running for Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, Aftab Pureval raised over $210,000 in funding, beating the incumbent Tracy Winkler. His reforms and strides forward were met with both support and criticism, but eventually saved $203,000 despite increasing the base pay of his office workers to about $16 an hour. He went on to hold the position for two terms, ultimately setting his sights higher. Once dubbed “a rising young star”, Pureval was elected over Democratic contender David S. Mann with 66% of the vote and is now Mayor-elect of Cincinnati.

Images Courtesy: Elects’ social media.