5

Corbett lauds Indo-Americans – but why?

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett issued a news release this morning saying she celebrated India’s Republic Day today by honoring several prominent Indian Americans from her district in a special ceremony on the Senate floor.

“On this important day, we pay tribute to India’s independence, its constitution and its thriving democracy, and we remember those who sacrificed their lives to make the Republic of India a reality,” Corbett, D-San Leandro, said in the release. “I thank the Indo-American community in my district for sharing the joy of this wonderful celebration with us and reminding us of its significance, and for its dedication to core community values of family, service, knowledge and peace.”

Hmm. I don’t recall Corbett ever having moved before to recognize Republic Day in the Legislature. In fact, I checked my archive of all releases received from local lawmakers (in Corbett’s case, back to the start of 2009) and the only hit I get on anything regarding the Indo-American community is her honoring Union City’s Paddy’s Coffee House – owned by Bombay native and Fremont resident Paddy Iyer – as her district’s 2011 small business of the year.

Now, far be it from me to ascribe ulterior political motivations, but might Corbett’s recent praise of the Indo-American community have anything to do with her exploring a run in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, which has a significant Indo-American population? And, by the way, where an Indo-American candidate shattered fundraising records by pulling in $1.2 million in the last quarter of 2011, even though he insists he’s not challenging incumbent Pete Stark in 2012?

Nah, that can’t be it. Indo-Americans do contribute a lot to the communities in her district, and there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that. Besides, Corbett told me in October that she’s committed to finishing her state Senate term, which expires in 2014: “I think it’s important for people to complete their terms and finish what they set out to do when they were first elected.”

Then again, Stark, 80, told me yesterday that because fellow Democrat and Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell is challenging him this year, “there will be others” who jump into the race during the mid-February through mid-March nomination period for the June 5 primary.

“Understandably, they’ve told me if one person gets in, they all have to get in,” he said, lest he suddenly fall ill and Swalwell be the only other Democrat on the ballot. “From my standpoint, that’s great – you get four or five candidates in there and I win. They’ve all got to hope that I win, because they wouldn’t want any of the other wannabes to win and knock me out – they’d all be second-string then.”

Anyway, for the curious, India’s Republic Day commemorates Jan. 26, 1950, when the Constitution of India took effect and officially became that nation’s ruling document. Corbett flew the flag of India on the Senate floor for the occasion, and recognized several Indian American businessmen and public officials from her district, including acting Fremont Mayor Anu Natarajan, one of the first Indian American woman mayors in the nation.

UPDATE @ 10:57 A.M. THURSDAY FEB. 2: Just talked to Corbett about something else, and she said that she has commemorated India’s Republic Day every year she has been in the state Senate. She also said she attends several commemorations of the day each year in the district. So… my bad. She also said she has not yet decided whether to run for the 15th Congressional District in 2012 or in 2014.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.