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.

  • CuteStuff

    Let’s remember that Khanna has raised more money from inside the District than Stark, Corbett and Swalwell combined. It would be a tactical mistake for Corbett to get in now – Corbett would go head to head with Swalwell for the second spot likely giving it to Swalwell since he is from the Tri-Valley. Much better for her to wait until ’14 and go head to head with Khanna. Don’t know what is so difficult about it other than ego.

  • John W

    Very subtle!

  • Lars54

    I think Stark is just blowing smoke here, Rho Khanna has said he won’t run in 2012 if Stark files – he made Sherman like statement in SF Chronicle, so forget Khanna. State Senator Corbett won’t run either, she will will wait until Stark retires in 2014. As a sitting Senator she has little incentive to run in 2012, she’s not termed out for a few years.
    By making this claim – that multiple candidate will run in 2012 – the wily Stark is just trying to confuse things, the more muddled and confused things are the better for Stark. The money people – who finance campaigns – will hold back, which benefits Stark, who is incumbent.
    I see the race breaking down to Pete Stark vs. Dublin City Councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Erick Swalwell. Both Corbett and Khanna are too chicken to take on the incumbent Stark, neither have “Profiles in Courage” in their home libraries. They will wait for Stark’s mythical “retirement” which is supposed to happen in 2014, but will probably happen much later than Stark is claiming.
    So Stark is in no hurry to retire, but he’s got Corbett and Khanna breathing down his neck so he’s come up with this totally unbelievable story that going to “retire” in 2014, he is saying he just wants “one more term”, even though he’s been in Congress 40 years!
    The one “race” Stark doesn’t want is a Stark-Swalwell contest which is on tap for 2012. For 40 years now Stark has been basically running uncontested, but now he’s got a really good candidate as an opponent – best candidate to run for Congress in NorCal in a decade.
    I’ve been watching boxing for 50 years, champions always get beaten, sooner or later. Father time, as Charles Barkely says, is undefeated. Pete Stark is a skilled politician – the total pro really – but he has got some heavy competition now, with Erick Swalwell. Swalwell is running a great campaign, he’s charming everybody with his ideals, his passion, this is a terrific young candidate.
    Stark, in contrast, has charm of rabid pit bull. He’s 80, cranky, way-over-the-hill, I think he’s vulnerable to get knocked off in 2012. I think it’s great Josh Richmond giving this campaign some coverage!

  • Elwood

    “Swalwell is running a great campaign, he’s charming everybody with his ideals, his passion, this is a terrific young candidate.”

    And the sun rises and sets in his rectum.

    Just ask Lars54,he’ll be happy to tell you.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Maybe senator Corbett will go on a hunger strike a la Mahatma until Sacramento fixes the budget.