Text by Aishwarya Kumar Lakshminarayanapuram and Bian Elkhatib, video by Bian Elkhatib
e was 14 when he moved to the U.S. from India. He did not know any English. And he grew up on the northwest side of Chicago with his mother who cleaned homes for a living.
That was Harish Patel 16 years ago. Now, he is running for state representative of the 40th district against incumbent Jaime Andrade. Both Andrade and Patel are Democrats. If elected, he will be Illinois’ first Muslim state representative.
Addressing an enthusiastic and young crowd of followers on Feb. 27 in Logan Square, Patel talked about the importance of standing up for the rights of minorities and immigrants in the current American society.
He pointed to his Palestinian-American campaign manager Reema Ahmad and said, “It is the same country where Reema can run my campaign and Trump can say stuff that he does. That’s the same country. That’s the contradiction that boggles my mind.”
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Patel’s main focus if he wins is self care and community care. His pledge centers on the need for mental health care centers and fully-funded schools. He wants to make sure that the future of a child does not depend on the zip code of his house.
Robert Murphy, 39th ward committeeman, endorsed Patel and said that he was excited that young people like him are working to improve the city.
Young volunteers and supporters applauded as Patel promised to work toward changing the landscape of Illinois politics.
Calling him “extremely motivated,” field director Laura Reimers said that there is a need for an independent voice in Springfield who will stand up against the forces that won’t work toward ending the budget impasse.
“Harish takes progressive stances on a lot of issues that are important to the community,” Reimers said.
Social worker and volunteer Brian Solem agreed, and said that the incumbent, Jaime Andrade, has not served the community well.
“I have been canvasing, meeting with my neighbors to introduce them to Harish and I have gotten really great feedback and I feel like we are building the support we need to get Harish elected in the primary,” Solem said.
Jaime Andrade was attending a session in Springfield and was unavailable for comment. According to his website, Andrade is concerned about education funding and the state budget. The primary elections are March 15, and the general election will take place on November 8.