Washington: Sixty years after Dalip Singh Saund created history to become the first Indian American to be elected to the US Congress, California physician Ami Bera repeated the feat in a tight race.
Democrat Bera’s victory on Thursday over sitting Republican Dan Lungren nine days after the election makes the son of Indian immigrants just the third Indian American elected to the House of Representatives, after Saund in 1952 and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who won a House seat in 2004.
Bera, 45, defeated Lungren 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent in his second attempt after having failed to unseat the Republican two years ago.
Bera, from Elk Grove, led three-term Republican lawmaker Lungren by 184 votes on Nov 6 election night. His lead grew to about 3,800 votes on Tuesday and swelled to almost 5,700 votes on Thursday, according to the latest vote count.
The race was to fill California’s 7th District Congressional seat representing the suburbs of Sacramento.
“It will be an honour to serve Sacramento County in Congress,” said Bera after his victory.
“Now is the time to find common ground and move forward to rebuild an economy that works for the middle class. Congressman Lungren deserves our appreciation for his long record of public service.”
Bera, who was raised in La Palma, California, has a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of California at Irvine, earning his MD there in 1991.
He served as Associate Dean for Admissions at the UC Davis School of Medicine and later as the Chief Medical Officer for the County of Sacramento.
Bera has cited health care, education and economic recovery among his top legislative priorities.
Bera attended freshman orientation as congressman-elect, even while votes were still being counted. Candidates in these tight races are commonly invited to the orientation by the Committee on House Administration, which is overseen by Bera’s opponent, Lungren.
Bera and his wife, Janine, have one child, a daughter. They reside in Elk Grove, California.
Five other Indian-Americans lost their Congressional races. But Tulsi Gabbard became the first Hindu American and one of the first female combat veterans in the US Congress with her victory in Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district.