[I]t was hard to decide who should be the APA Person of the Year in 2008. When looking at the future of Asian Pacific America, however, and thinking about the community’s growth out of the comfort of urban enclaves and into suburban and even rural America, the answer became clear: Swati Dandekar.
Dandekar, a Democrat born and educated in India, has been living in Iowa for over thirty years and has served three terms as a member in the Iowa House of Representatives. In 2008, she threw her hat in the ring to run for an Iowa state Senate seat that had voted Republican for almost 20 years. Reaching out to many rural Iowans with a platform based on education, quality health care, renewable energy and economic growth, she won 54.3 percent of the vote and is seen as a rising star of Iowa politics.
Swati Dandekar could have played it safe and stayed in her House seat because most incumbents are re-elected. Instead, she chose to reach for a higher office that required her to knock on doors in areas where she had not represented the people and where knowledge of Asian Indian Americans may not have been high. As a result of her successful gamble, however, she now has added clout as she battles for educational opportunity and other key concerns. And APAs now have a state Senate-level standard-bearer in a state not know for its high percentage of APAs.
I echo the newspaper’s statement that Dandekar took a big risk in running for Senate district 18. Even though she has attracted a lot of cross-over Republican voters while representing Iowa House district 36, seeking the Senate seat long held by Mary Lundby (who retired) was no sure thing.
Congratulations to Dandekar for picking up a Senate seat for Iowa Democrats while making Asian Pacific Americans across the country proud.