The first Sikh to serve as a Member of Congress in the United States, and indeed the first Asian American, was Dalip Singh Saund (pictured right) in 1957. He served as a Congressman representing the Democratic Party in California’s 29th Congressional District until 1963.
At the municipal level, it has already been documented on this blog that there have been three Sikhs who have recently held mayoral or head of city council positions across the United States. However, with the year 2012 being an election year in this country, it is a timely opportunity to identify Sikhs seeking public office in this election cycle.
Presently, I am aware of three Sikhs who are campaigning for public office at the state and/or federal levels:
Harmeet Kaur Dhillon (profiled on this blog last year) is running as a Republican Party candidate for California State Senate in Senate District 11. Last year, she was nominated as the Chair of the San Francisco Republican Party. She also previously ran for California State Assembly in 2008, although her bid as the Republican candidate to represent the San Francisco area was unsuccessful in this largely Democratic constituency.
Sarabjit Kaur Cheema seeks to become the Democratic Party candidate for California’s 20th State Assembly District, which includes the Fremont, California area (an area with a large population of Sikhs and Indians). As a turban-wearing Sikh woman, Sarabjit Kaur currently is a Board Member for the New Haven Unified School District. In June, Sarabjit Kaur faces a primary for the nomination to contest the assembly seat against the Democratic incumbent.
At the federal level, Ricky Gill is running as the Republican candidate for US Congress in California’s 9th Congressional District which includes San Joaquin County (home of Stockton, California and another large population of Sikhs). Born and raised in this area, Ricky Gill (who once served on the California State Board of Education) draws much of his support from the health and agribusiness sectors.
To contest for a seat, let alone be elected in any capacity, is a remarkable undertaking for members of our smaller community. I hope to identify more such candidates across the country as I become aware of them.