Thursday, May 20, 2010

Asian-American Heritage: Queens District Leader Maintains Political Prowess by: Shazia Khan -

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In recent years, a small number of South Asians have made unsuccessful runs for elected office. But in the 25th Assembly District in Queens, where some five percent of registered voters are South Asian, one Indian-American has garnered repeated wins. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.

She's affectionately known as the "lady with the sari" in Democratic circles. And in an apartment turned office in Flushing, Uma Sengupta's re-election campaign is underway.

Sengupta serves as one of several Democratic leaders of the 25th Assembly District which covers parts of central Queens. She was first elected in 2002 and has held the office for four terms. The community organizer and educator who immigrated from India in 1970 is at present the only South Asian in a local elected office.

"I felt we are immigrant to this country, our children are going to live they're children are going to live, so it's very important for us to know how the government works here," Sengupta said.

As a district leader, Sengupta's responsibilities include organizing voter registration drives and votes on party endorsements.

Numerous awards and pictures with some of the country's top Democrats are displayed on the walls of her office, just two doors down from her three bedroom condo.

A personal goal of Sengupta is to see an increased participation of South Asians in government -- everything from registering to vote to running for political office.

"They do the fund-raising, that I have seen it, but like day to day's programs going to the meetings what is happening with the new health care what is happening to the new immigration bill all these places when I go for the meeting I see I'm the only one," Sengupta said.

Though she would like to see more South Asians in elected office, Sengupta however is supporting Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in the upcoming race for the 14th District U.S. Congressional seat and not her fresh face challenger, Indian-American Reshma Saujani.

"Mrs. Maloney experience you can go and see her website, her experience and you'll see Resham's experience and you yourself compare and you tell me which candidate is suitable," Sengupta said.

As for herself, she says has no plans to run for higher office.

"Because the things which I'm doing it, I'm quite satisfied with that one," Sengupta said.

She says she hopes other South Asians continue to aspire for more in government.