Rupande Mehta, first Indian American women in N.J State Senate

Nov/12/2020 / by Bhargavi Kulkarni

As an immigrant, Rupande Mehta is aware that representation matters. She wants to bring new leadership to her district and fight for fair representation “My story is a story of dreams. Coming from Mumbai, seeking freedom, I am running for office, because representation matters,” she says. “If we aren’t at the table, we are on the menu.”

The Mumbai-born Rupande is running in a special election to the New Jersey State Senate to represent District 25. The 25th district includes more than a dozen municipalities in Morris County as well as one municipality in Somerset County in North Jersey. Republican Anthony Bucco of Boonton Township, the incumbent, and Mehta are running for the one-year unexpired term that was created when Bucco’s father, Sen. Anthony R. Bucco, died last September. Bucco was named to his father’s senate post in a special GOP election in November. He subsequently stepped away from the assembly post he held for nine years. District 25 has been solidly Republican, with only a six percent Asian representation. A third of the voters are registered with the GOP, 30 percent with the Democratic Party, and most of the rest are unaffiliated, according to NJ Spotlight News.

If elected, Rupande will be the first woman state senator of South Asian origin in the state. In 2017, Vin Gopal became the first Indian American elected to the New Jersey State Senate. Observers said then that Gopal’s victory demonstrated that Indian-American candidates have mainstream political appeal and are capable of assembling broad coalitions of voters.

Mehta is part of a new wave of politically engaged women running for office.

“I am ready to take on the most conservative, who has no regard for public safety,” she says. She is confident that her experience and education have imbued her with leadership skills and a keen eye for detail.”

As a mother, Mehta is aware of how vital it is to provide every child with a quality education.

“As senator, I will fight to make sure LD-25 school districts are getting sufficient state funding to continue providing the best education in the country without the burden falling on municipalities and counties to raise taxes,” she says on her website. “Other priorities include fixing the state funding formula, environment, taxes and infrastructure.”

Two years ago, Mehta ran for Morris County freeholder, coming within two points of victory. She currently works as manager of strategic sourcing at Prudential Financial in Newark. She has an MBA and a master’s degree in public administration at Rutgers, where she was a fellow at the Eagleton Institute of Politics. In 2016, she interned in the office of then Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno.

“My time as an Eagleton Fellow gave me state-level exposure in government and public affairs and developing public policy,” she says. A 2019 Emerge graduate and a community and non-profit leader, Mehta founded The SAR Foundation, which works to train local and state organizations on issues of abuse and violence. She lives in Denville with her husband and daughter.

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