Kevin Thomas, First Indian-American State Senator, Takes Office

New York State Senate Majority Leader Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins swears in Sen. Kevin Thomas with his wife Rincy beside him. (Photo via Sen. Thomas’ office)

When Kevin Thomas (D) won on Election Day last year, he not only unseated state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R) who had served his Nassau County district since 1989, he became the first Indian American – and together with John Liu, the first Asian American – in the New York State Senate. Days after he was sworn in on Jan. 5 as the senator for the 6th District, Thomas secured numerous positions: chair of the Consumer Protection Committee, and a member of the Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Banks Committee, the Finance Committee and the Aging Committee, he tells Desi Talk in an interview with reporter Ela Dutt.

Thomas attributes his win to the voters who normally would not turn out to vote in the mid-term elections.

Meanwhile, Long Island was undergoing the cultural and demographic change that helped put him where he is. “South Asians and Indian-Americans make up 7 to 10 percent of East Meadow and the surrounding areas. But they don’t usually come out for mid-term elections. This time, I heard a lot of them telling me ‘we brought our whole families (to the polls) because of you’,” Thomas said. He beat his Republican opponent by more than 2,000 votes even after a recount, he recalls.

Thomas is among the “Long Island Six,” the newly-elected Democratic senators who helped the party take control of the State Senate for the first time since 2009. Republican senators, including Hannon, who dominated in the region prior to the election had been referred to as the “Long Island Nine.”

The ‘Long Island Six’ reflect the changing face of Nassau and Suffolk counties. Three of the winning candidates are immigrants – Sen. Kevin Thomas of Indian heritage, and two women, one of Iranian ancestry and another from El Salvador.

What is on Thomas’ agenda in the coming months? And what seat did he originally run for that he “was almost certain to lose”? Find out at Desi Talk.

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