Indian-American Anita Malik to face David Schweikert in Arizona congressional race

India Abroad
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Three days after voting ended in the Democratic primary in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District on Aug. 28, all of the mail-in and provisional votes were finally in, and Anita Malik who was holding on to a wafer-thin majority over Heather Ross, emerged victorious.

The final count had Malik — who was the underdog — receiving 22,522 or 42 percent of the total ballots cast, beating Ross — who had the support of several labor unions and high profile Congressional endorsements such as from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer— by a margin of 2,402 votes.

Ross received 20,120 or 38 percent of the votes, and Garrick McFadden, came in third with 10,761 or 20 percent of the votes.

Malik will now go up against the four-term Republican incumbent Peter Schweikert on Nov. 6.

In a statement late on Aug. 31, after Ross conceded, Malik said, "Arizonans deserve someone who will work hard to represent them and build a stronger future for our community, our state and our country.”

"As the daughter of immigrants — people who believed in the promise of America — I want to help everyone have that opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families,” she said.

Malik said, “I’m proud that my campaign reflected a broad, grassroots coalition of Arizonans who came together to support our vision of creating jobs and ensuring the ability of families to work, live and thrive in the 6thCongressional District.”

“I am so grateful for the army of volunteers and supporters who powered our campaign. We face so many challenges in our state and in our country, and I intend to be part of the solution and a public servant the people of Arizona can trust,” she added.

Malik also said, “I especially want to thank Garrick McFadden and Heather Ross for joining me in talking about the issues that matter … and establishing a solid foundation for winning in November.”

Ross, a nurse practitioner and Arizona State University professor, in her statement said, "Although I am disappointed in the result of this primary, I thank all of my supporters from the bottom of my heart. For the first time, we had a competitive Democratic primary and gave the people of (the 6th District) something to vote for.”

In an interview with India Abroad, an elated Malik, 42, a one-time journalist turned local businesswoman and digital media entrepreneur, said, “It’s been a long but exciting week.”

“We are excited for November, but there is much to do at a very fast pace,” she acknowledged.”

Malik said, “We are so grateful for the win,” and pledged, “Our campaign is and will continue to be about listening, hearing the voices of the district. I stand for people not party politics--for an idea that if we join together we can do something substantive to improve the lives of all our children and to fix the moral crisis our country has sunk into.”

“I am energized by the response from the voters, and we are ready to take on a tough race in November,” she said.

On being the underdog with less backing, Malik, born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she lives with her husband James Miller, a digital marketing consultant and musician/songwriter, and their two children, Wade Ashoka, 4, and Krishna, 2, argued, “Campaign finance reform is a key priority for me. I believe we must level the playing field in elections, and I think our win shows voters are ready for the same.”

“Money can't be and wasn't the deciding factor,” she asserted. “Campaigns should be about efficiency and spending that has a direct impact on voter engagement.”

Malik also said she was “ecstatic” to be making history by being one of two Indian-American women Democrats from Arizona –along with Dr. Hiral Tipirneni—who was uncontested in District 8 — hoping to flip their red districts blue.

 “I'm ecstatic to be in this November election cycle with Hiral Tipirneni. She has become a friend in this process and was supportive last week as we waited for the results,” she recalled.

Malik said, “We didn't know each other before last year when we both announced congressional runs, but now we are poised to make history together. Representation matters, and I would be proud to be one of two Indian American congresswomen from Arizona.”

“That's something many of us would have never imagined,” she added.

Malik also said that she was counting on support from the Indian American community for her campaign to help her make it to the finish line ahead of the Republican incumbent in November.

"We need support from the Indian community now across the country, to contribute toward our race, to speak up about representation and spread the word. I reject corporate PAC money, so every dollar makes a difference in our grassroots effort,” she said.

Democrats are optimistic about Malik’s chances over Schweikert because the incumbent is also under an ethics investigation over allegations of misspending and other issues

Malik has embraced a progressive policy agenda on worker benefits, job creation and inequality and her priorities include support for transitioning to a single-payer health-care system, paid parental leave, guaranteed paid sick leave and adjusting the federal minimum wage with inflation, and has bemoaned that the current federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, hasn’t been adjusted since 2009.

She also strongly favors raising the income limit that is taxed to help fund Social Security as a way to shore up that program’s finances and ensure its viability and survivability and also wants to engage more of the private sector by incentivizing them to to match contributions to employee-retirement programs.

Gautam Raghavan, executive director of the Indian American Impact Fund, said, told India Abroad, “We’re very excited about Anita’s victory. By every measure, Anita’s victory is a huge political upset against a candidate who was both better funded and received broader institutional support.”

He said, “In our conversations over the last few months, Anita regularly told me about her team’s targeting and digital efforts — and it’s clear that strategy paid off.”

Raghavan noted, “I’m proud that the Indian American Impact Fund board voted immediately and unanimously to endorse Anita and have already cut her a check from our political action committee.”

“Anita joins Hiral, along with Aftab Pureval, who is running in Ohio’s 1st District and Sri Kulkarni, in Texas’s 22nd District, among our endorsed Congressional candidates,” he said.

Raghavan also pointed out, “It’s remarkable, and my opinion inspiring, to have two Indian American women running for Congress in districts that have incredibly small Indian American or Asian American populations — and in fact, have only been represented by white men, and some women, in Congress.”

“That they prevailed speaks to their qualifications, and how hungry voters are for new leadership and new ideas,” he argued.

Raghavan said, “Of the 41 Indian Americans who ran for Congress this year, only eight were women. Of those, only Hiral and Anita — in addition to incumbent Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal — are left on the ballot this November.”

“It’s not because of a lack of qualified Indian American women leaders. But if we want to ensure that Indian American women are included in the ranks of elected officials at every level, we have to do more to recruit and urge them to run, provide them with early support, and consistently show up for them,” he said.

Raghavan said, “That’s why Impact is proud to work with organizations like Emerge, New American Leaders, and EMILY’s List that prioritize recruiting women to run for office, and why we’ve signed up as a partner for the SHE THE PEOPLE Summit later this month in San Francisco, where hundreds of women of color will gather to talk about building political power.”