Tag Archives: primaries

Why Do I Feel a Kinship With Ash Kalra?

Why do I feel a kinship with Ash Kalra, D-CA 27?

Maybe because we are both Indian, Canadian-born, Bay Area transplants? Though 20 years my senior, Ash Kalra speaks my language. He mirrors my experience, taking a non-traditional path of social justice. 

Not an engineer or a doctor? You are already a deviant. Let’s take it one step further, pursuing career paths that are not lucrative or linear, that of community-based work – perplexing, shameful. These pressures are not unbeknownst to Ash. A UCSB graduate in Communications, Public Defender turned Assemblyman, paying off his law degree takes a backseat to his passion for uplifting others. 

“My whole career has been about reducing suffering” – a poignant sentiment. Kalra has settled on this theme for his life’s work. Serving California’s 27th assembly district, Ash Kalra is the first Indian American to serve in California’s state legislature. 

In his three years in office, he has been prolific, having 27 bills signed. He has fought for affordable, low-income housing and against homelessness as a co-author of SB 50 and AB 330. He is also the Chair of the Labor and Employment Committee for the State Assembly and has championed for Union rights. Kalra takes action to protect the environment, co-sponsoring bills such as the Clean Air Act, Coyote Valley Conservation Program, Deforestation-Free Procurement Act. He has been honored by the ACLU of California as a Civil Liberties Champion- one of five legislators in the Assembly who received a ‘perfect score’ on championing civil liberties issues. 

But I wanted to know more than just his political platform. He is speaking for Indian-Americans on a large scale, does he feel representative of who I am – a San Jose raised, Indian-American, low-income woman? My shoes are small and hard to fill. Is Ash Kalra ready for this responsibility?

Books on a coffee table in Ash Kalra’s office.

After having met him, I would say yes. His work moves beyond just progressive bill measures; he educates Assembly Members and constituents on Indian heritage and history. What I’m finding is that Ash Kalra’s movements transcend just education and are his way of life. 

Ash articulates that growing up Hindu, the very ideals and morals that his parents ingrained in him when he was young, were antithetical to their views about his career pursuits when he was older. 

That hits home. 

Atithi Devo Bhava,” this translates to “Guest is God” and it is a phrase that is thrown around Indian households. Giving back to those around us and foregoing materialism is an inherent part of Hinduism. So why is this, that which becomes second nature, at odds with an inquiry for a career, lifelong happiness, and ultimately success?

Ash gets it. He gets the consistent struggle of being Indian AND American. He may be the role model I’ve been seeking for so long but had a lack of exposure to. He is genuine, well informed, engaged but most importantly, doesn’t shy away from his culture. He redefines the vision of an Indian-American. 

When I asked him about the political responsibility of the Indian-American in the Bay Area, Ash emphasized that “our responsibility is to our community” and that we must remember that as Americans. It can be confusing for immigrants, split between two cultures. We will never feel connected to this country if we don’t become engaged community members, yet, at times we feel disconnected due to the lack of representation. Ash reminds us that civic duty goes beyond being Indian American. And if we never start, we will not conceive the reality we seek. 

Being the first Indian-American in California State Legislature, there are many antiquated archetypes that are projected on him and people that look like him. When I ask him about this, he dispels the myths about Indian model minorities in one statement, “the myth erases those that are struggling”. Indian-Americans are working jobs in the labor sector and they are quickly becoming the highest growing undocumented population in the US. There are many Indians that need people that look like them, to give them a voice. To shed light on their misgivings. To create policy that is inclusive of them. 

I asked him one last question before I left, and this one is for my SVC- Palo Alto Youth and Government kids who were in Sacramento just a few weeks before, taking over the Capitol building, sitting in the very seat that Ash Kalra was in a day before: Is cereal a soup? 

Kalra gives me a hard NO. 

I disagree. 

Though we align on almost all things, I guess even we can have our differences. A gentle reminder and a sentiment Ash mentions earlier, we need to be inclusive of people that may seem unlike us. 

Ash Kalra is the now, forging the path for people like me. 

He keeps moving but not away from his community or upbringing. He can very easily be found eating at Loving Hut, listening to Iron Maiden, before heading to a walk for candidates supporting the Labor Council. 

Ash Kalra is up for re-election this Presidential Primaries cycle on March 3, 2020. He represents California’s 27th State Assembly district which encompasses Downtown San Jose, East San Jose, and parts of Southeast San Jose. Kalra has served one term of his two-term limit as State Assemblyman. To learn more about him and his platform, check out his site and his voting record.


Srishti Prabha is the current Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for women and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

New Vote Centers Open For Santa Clara County Primaries

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Full-service early voting locations will begin opening this weekend throughout Santa Clara County, giving voters 10 days to cast a ballot in person before the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election. That’s a total of 11 days — including two weekends – to provide voters greater convenience and flexibility in how and where they cast a ballot. 

Under the new Voter’s Choice Act being implemented for the first time in Santa Clara County this year, voters from anywhere in the County can visit any one of approximately 110 Vote Center locations, as well as the Registrar of Voters’ Office to cast a ballot, drop off a Vote by Mail ballot, receive a replacement ballot, register to vote, get language or accessibility assistance, or receive any of the services usually available at the Registrars’ Office. 

“We understand that many voters prefer to cast a ballot in person, and are committed to providing that option,” said Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey. “Now, voters residing anywhere in Santa Clara County may vote near where they live or near where they work, and at a time and place to match their busy schedule.” 

Early voting in Santa Clara County began February 3 at the Registrar of Voters’ Office. Beginning on the same date, the Registrars’ Office mailed every registered voter in the County a Vote by Mail ballot with a postage-paid return envelope. 

Approximately 22 of the new Vote Centers will open on Saturday, February 22, 10 days in advance of Election Day. The remaining 88 Vote Centers will open on Saturday, February 29, three days in advance of Election Day. All voting locations will be open on Election Day, for a total of approximately 110 locations. 

In addition to the staffed Vote Centers, nearly 100 drop boxes are available — many open 24 hours — for voters to return completed Vote by Mail ballots. 

Board of Supervisors: Mike Wasserman, Cindy Chavez, Dave Cortese, Susan Ellenberg, S. Joseph Simitian County Executive: Jeffrey V. Smith 

Vote Center and ballot drop box locations, including dates and hours of operation, are available online at www.sccvote.org under the Vote in Person, Vote Center and Official Ballot Drop Box Sites Information tab. For a searchable database of Vote Centers, Ballot Drop off locations, to track your ballot and more information go to our e-services site

Members of the media who would like to cover the Early Voting Centers opening this weekend should call the ROV Media Line at (408) 282-3008 or email rov.media@rov.sccgov.org to facilitate interviews. 

For more information, contact the Registrar of Voters’ Office at (408) 299-VOTE (8683) or toll-free at (866) 430-VOTE (8683), or visit www.sccvote.org.

Presidential Primary Poll: Make Your Voice Count

The U.S. Presidential Primary Election cycle starts with Iowa on February 3rd, 2020. This marks the nascence of the election year and an exciting time for politics. What is the average Indian American thinking during the elections? Are you politically engaged or are you tired of the non stop political talk? Please help us find out by completing this two minute survey and have your voice heard!

CLICK HERE TO TAKE OUR SURVEY