Ward 2 resident Ankit Jain makes strides in the fight for representation and statehood.
Washington, DC – In Washington, DC, where residents lack voting representation in Congress, a historic campaign for DC Shadow Senator is gaining momentum as Ankit Jain, a Ward 2 resident, seeks to become the first Indian American elected official above the level of Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (a hyper-local advisory elected office) in the city.
Jain’s entry into the race for the position of DC Shadow Senator is motivated by a deep commitment to addressing the disenfranchisement of DC residents. In a city where congressional interference in local affairs has been a persistent issue, Jain aims to be a forceful and dedicated advocate for statehood, prioritizing the cause over personal considerations.
Jain plans to use his legislative advocacy experience and connections with pro-democracy organizations to advance DC sovereignty before Congress. He currently supports the work of the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) advocacy organization FairVote as an attorney–helping advocates write laws moving their jurisdiction to RCV and advising them on pitfalls they will confront in their efforts. Prior to that, he was an attorney at the Sierra Club, an influential environmental organization, for four years. In that role he engaged in litigation and legislative advocacy.
“I have not seen a lot of forward-thinking planning from leaders in DC about how to make statehood happen. I want to bring that to the position and have a clear strategy to make DC the 51st state,” Jain said.
Though lacking voting rights or an official role in Congress, the shadow senators and representative play a crucial role as influential leaders in the statehood movement. Jain, recognizing the significance of this position, emphasizes its potential to lead and organize the advocacy campaigns to achieve statehood and safeguard local legislation, which the US Congress currently has the ability to veto.
Reflecting on the recent launch of his campaign, Jain expressed satisfaction with the positive feedback received on both the launch video and the campaign website. The campaign has hosted well-attended events, and efforts are underway to garner support from both regular voters and those heavily involved in local politics.
The incumbent in the position, Michael D. Brown, has not yet said whether he will run for re-election. Two other candidates in addition to Jain are actively campaigning.
Jain’s campaign has successfully raised over $52,000 within the three months since its launch in late September, marking a record amount raised from donors for a Shadow Senator candidate according to online records since 2006. The funds, sourced from over 220 individual donors across all eight DC wards and suburban areas, showcase widespread support for Jain’s commitment to a comprehensive plan for achieving DC statehood beyond rhetoric.
Ankit Jain views statehood as a feasible goal, particularly when Democrats have full control of the government. However, he emphasizes the importance of a robust advocacy campaign to make it a reality. Jain notes that the position is vital in defending local laws, potentially preventing them from being overturned. “I think of Shadow Senators as the quarterback of the statehood community. They organize effective campaigns to protect a local law or to make statehood happen,” Jain said.
Grateful for strong support from his family, Jain highlights their involvement in various aspects of the campaign, from social media management to tech-related tasks. Jain’s candidacy is not only historic for potentially being the first South Asian elected official above the level of ANC in DC but also for his emphasis on better representation of the city’s large immigrant population. The city has a large immigrant population, but has seldom elected members of the immigrant community to office.
Advocating for increased involvement of younger people in local politics, Jain aims to encourage greater participation and awareness among young individuals. He recognizes the importance of connecting statehood to the everyday lives of residents, dispelling the perception that it is an abstract concept.
As Jain’s campaign progresses, the focus is on meeting as many people as possible to increase visibility. Jain will start collecting petition signatures to get on the ballot in January when petition forms are released to candidates. The overall strategy involves building awareness, gathering support, and actively engaging with voters throughout the campaign.
Jain’s vision goes beyond his candidacy, as he discusses the potential for a constitutional convention in DC two years after it becomes a state. He expresses interest in exploring ways to expand representation in the city, fostering consensus on changes to the Constitution that will enhance representation.
Ankit Jain’s campaign represents a significant step in the ongoing struggle for DC statehood, with his record-breaking fundraising signaling strong support for his comprehensive plan to bring about meaningful change and for the cause of statehood generally. As the campaign moves forward, Jain remains optimistic about the promising start and the potential to make history in the fight for representation.
Poonam is a multi-media journalist, and Managing Editor of India America Today (IAT). She launched its print edition in 2019 with IAT's Founder and Editor, the late Tejinder Singh.