Chaudhuri Ups The Ante In Upcoming Primary For North Carolina Senate

By Ela Dutt

 

JayAs the race to the March 15 North Carolina Democratic primary heats up, Indian-American candidate for state Senate Jay Chaudhuri upped the ante against his opponent, garnering a slew of labor endorsements. If Chaudhuri wins the primary from the heavily Democratic District 16, he would be as good as elected before the November general elections, making him the first Indian-American state Senator in North Carolina.

But it may turn out to be a competitive race as rival Ellis Hankins who was the head of North Carolina League of Municipalities for 17 years, gears up to announce his own endorsements over the coming week, he told News India Times.

Chaudhuri announced Feb. 4, he was endorsed by the North Carolina AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the Triangle Labor Council, the Raleigh Police Protective Association and the Raleigh Professional Fire Fighters Association. The District 16 seat opened up when incumbent Josh Stein declared his run for state Attorney General. To date Chaudhuri has raised almost $290,000 from 571 contributors.

Hankins told News India Times his cash-on-hand is $130,000 from the Dec. 31 filing and that “a good bit” had been raised since then. “This is a very competitive Democratic primary,” he acknowledged.

Chaudhuri said he hoped the latest endorsements would increase the grassroots machinery he has working on his campaign including some 40 volunteers who have helped make some 62,067 calls and door knocks to voters. Hankins said he had “lots of volunteers” engaged in putting up neighborhood signs, and preparing for monitoring early voting sights and carrying out polling etc.

District 16 includes parts of Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville and western Wake County. Morrisville has a rising number of Indian-Americans and Chaudhuri hopes they will come out to swell his numbers on primary day. Chaudhuri said the labor groups’ endorsement recognized his career fighting for working families.”I have a track record of getting things done including taking on multibillion dollar companies to protect children on the Internet, and helping recover more than $100 million from life insurance companies,” he told News India Times.

Both candidates are focused on public education and raising teacher pay. Chaudhuri’s economic platform to be announced shortly, includes growing the local economy and reducing inequality, cutting taxes for working- and middle-class families, and ensuring women receive equal pay for equal work. He has been endorsed by nine current and past elected officials, including former state Treasurer Janet Cowell, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, state Representative Gale Adcock, Wake County Commissioner John Burns, Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson, former Raleigh City Council Member Rodger Koopman, former Raleigh City Council Member Randy Stagner, Morrisville Town Council Member Steve Rao, and former Morrisville Mayor Margaret Broadwell.

His opponent has also been endorsed by a few public figures including former Mayor of Raleigh Smedes York, who praised Hankins for 17 years of working with elected officials to improve communities and his dedication to public education. “Several (endorsements) are about to be announced and several organizations are about to consider (my candidacy),” Hankins told News India Times.

Chaudhuri has a Masters in international affairs from Columbia University and a law degree from North Carolina Central University. He was a legislative aide to Democratic U.S. Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin. From 2001 to 2009, he was special counsel to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, where he is credited with developing major policy initiatives such as drafting the statewide strategy to combat methamphetamine; spearheading the AG’s Campus Safety Task Force after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2006; being involved in the national multi-state investigation of MySpace and Facebook, helping negotiate an agreement between 49 state attorneys general and MySpace to create a task-force on online safety tools.

From 2009 to mid-2015, Chaudhuri was general counsel and senior policy advisor to State Treasurer Janet Cowell, where he managed all corporate governance and legal matters for the department which handled the $90 billion pension fund among other things.

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