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Politics: Support one of our own for the right reasons

May 2006
Politics: Support one of our own for the right reasons

In the political saga of Georgia, the last gubernatorial race produced a result of historic significance. With the election of Sonny Perdue, the Republican Party broke a spell of over 130 years. Not in that long had the Democrats let up on their hold on the State capitol.

While it is too early to tell, there are indications to suggest that the upcoming race may produce another historic landmark, albeit at a lesser seat than that of the Governor. If all goes his way, Shyam Reddy, the biggest fundraiser amongst his fellow competitors, may well become the first ever Indian American to become the secretary of state (SOS) of Georgia.

At first glance this seems quite a stupendous prospect. After all, isn't this the Deep South where the immediate past gubernatorial race was largely defined by an issue of native heritage with racial overtones—that of the Confederate flag? And isn't it true that rural voters overwhelmingly overturned a veteran incumbent in favor of a candidate who promised to address these sentiments? So, how and where does a brown American figure in such a political landscape?

Yet, in many ways, Reddy is the quintessential American. He is the son of immigrants, but is born and raised in Dublin, Georgia; he has a picture-perfect family with wife, Renee, and a hound dog by the name of Peaches. He is a mergers and acquisitions lawyer who is also the election expert at his firm. "Between corporations and elections, that's pretty much what a Georgia secretary of state does," says a local paper, highlighting his credentials for the job.

Most importantly, it is his message that has won over voters across the spectrum. Defining himself as the "new brand of Southern Democrat," and as someone who is "fiscally conservative, yet socially responsible," Reddy seems to have hit the right nerve. Moreover, his message appears to be more than just a piece of political sloganizing. His background and persona seems to sustain his message. According to a comment on the "Political Insider," a blog on the Atlanta Journal Constitution website, "Reddy is compelling, and if he can get your ear, he'll get your vote."

The very thought of a fellow Indian at a high political office is exciting. Yet, whether it is a Reddy in Georgia or a Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, when an Indian is vying for such high stakes, it also raises up the notches on the civic responsibility of Indian American voters. Will we blindly support a candidate just because he is "one of us"? Giddy with the prospects, will we lose all sense of our civic responsibility of insisting on the best candidate for the job? Or, when it does not conflict with the prior, our special interests as Indian Americans?

It is from this perspective that supporting Reddy seems like a guilt free proposition, one that need not be driven by rank cronyism, but by merit. Let's hope the community will rally together in creating a historical marker in Georgia's political landscape.

Parthiv N. Parekh

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