By Sarah Yáñez-Richards
New York, Jul 25 (EFE).- There is a new generation of progressive politicians emerging in the United States embodied by young activists who say that they can relate to the experiences of the general public, and one such figure, Suraj Patel, is running in the Democratic primaries in New York.
“I’m the only one in this race who has the experience of an immigrant, who has the experience of being a first generation American, who’s had to work hard, run a business, sign both sides of the pay check, fight foreclosures,” he tells Efe in an interview.
“I think those are the kind of experiences people need in office today,” the 38-year-old lawyer and businessman adds.
To run for Congress, Patel will have to face off against the experienced Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler in the primaries for 12th congressional district in Manhattan, set to take place on August 23.
Patel speaks of how his parents arrived in the United States in the 1960s with “no dollars in their pocket.”
His father worked as a security guard before he landed a job as an engineer for the Metropolitan Transport Authority.
“My uncle got fired for delivering pizzas upside down. They did everything from working in warehouses to night shifts to working desk clerk to running a little store,” he says.
“We lived, 13 of us, in a one bedroom apartment above that little store. We slept in a line on the floor. Grandmother, grandfather, great-grandfather, father, mother, me, my younger brothers, my older brothers.”
Patel received his education at the prestigious universities of Stanford, Cambridge and NYU.
But he says his experiences as a first generation American allows him to connect with ethnic minority voters, including discrimination from fellow members of his own party.
“Representative Maloney herself said ‘oh well, Suraj Patel raises a lot of his money from Indian people with the last name Patel,’ well first off there are 300,000 Patels in the United States of America,” he says.
“You know it’s a dog whistle, it’s another way of saying ‘he’s other, he’s not one of us’.”
In order to reach Congress in the midterms, Patel will have to beat Maloney and Nadler in August then Republican Mike Zumbluskas in November, although the latter would theoretically be easier, as the district sits in a Democratic Party stronghold.
Patel has run against Maloney, a member of the House of Representatives for New York since 1993, on two occasions, losing by just 4% in 2020.
Both Maloney, 76, and Nadler, 75, have pointed to Patel’s lack of experience, but the aspiring congressman disagrees.
“If you’ve got experience in a system that’s broken, then it’s bad experience,” he tells Efe.
“People are looking for new, they’re looking for change. They do not want the status quo,” he adds. EFE