A well-known barrier for women entering the political scene – in New Jersey and across the country – has been the long-held leadership roles by men, which over time has created the impression that politics is a male-dominated scene. Over the past several years, we have seen that tide shifting, and on Monday, June 10, that barrier became a little lower in Union County, NJ when several women were elected to serve as chairs for their respective township Democratic Committee. When the Union County Democratic Committee next convenes, there will in fact be three South Asian American women on its 21-member Executive Committee – that’s the most ever on a County Committee in New Jersey. Despite Census data demonstrating that Indians constitute the largest Asian ethnic group in the state, there has been slow movement in equal representation across elected positions in local and state government.
Of this historic moment, Anjali Mehrotra, elected Chair of the Mountainside Democratic Committee, said, “I am excited for our Democratic organization and grateful for this opportunity to serve the party in my town and at the county level. We often call the Democratic Party ‘the big tent’ and nothing underscores that message better than having diverse faces represented in its leadership. I’m thrilled to have these two women with me as we take our seat at the table.”
Both Anjali Mehrotra and Rupa Kale ran for Borough Council in their respective towns in 2018. They both faced a challenging task taking on established incumbents in Republican controlled towns that had not seen any Democratic activity in decades until the 2017 cycle. Ms. Mehrotra came close with 48 percent of the vote whereas Ms. Kale came up short by merely 0.6 percent.
Reflecting on her experience Rupa Kale, elected Chair of the New Providence Democratic Committee commented, “I’m a strong believer that if you want to strengthen your community you have to insert yourself into the roots of the community. From being a Borough Council candidate last year that came very close to winning to now being elected Chairwoman in New Providence has been an amazing honor. I am excited about the opportunity and look forward to serving the needs of all Democrats in New Providence.”
Rupa Motwani, elected Chair of the Westfield Democratic Committee, helped lead the get out the vote (GOTV) effort for the municipal election of 2017, which resulted in a Democratic majority in Westfield for the first time in fifteen years. She is the Campaign Director for the four 2019 council races. “It’s important for minorities to get involved at all levels of representative government in order to ensure their voices become integrated into the American chorus. I am excited to harness the energy in Westfield to create a lasting Democratic footprint in the town. One where we are always faced with an embarrassment of riches – riches of committee members, candidates, volunteers, and most importantly, VOTES.”
Union County Democratic Chair, Senator Nick Scutari stated- “One of Union County’s greatest strengths has always been our diversity. I congratulate Anjali, Rupa and Rupa on being elected leaders within the Party, and I look forward to working with them to continue building towards a more inclusive and reflective Democratic Party in Union County.”