Hi Daily Kos Fam,
I wanted you to hear it from me: My name is Nikhil Bhatia, aka “Brown Donkey,” and I’m running for Congress in the Illinois 7th Congressional District.
I am a long, long-time member of the Daily Kos family. I’ve been obsessing over election news since the Swing State Project days of 2006, when I was a college kid and a fundraising intern on a Congressional race. A lot has changed in 17 years. I’ve gotten older, got married, had two kids, moved to the East Coast and back, and seen 4 different Presidents. Through it all, my passion for the progressive movement has stayed the same.
As you might guess from my moniker, I am brown. Specifically, I’m an Indian-American and son of immigrants. Mom and Dad did not grow up with much. My dad’s family were refugees who fled their village during India’s partition. My mom’s family lived in disputed Kashmir without heat. They were able to build a better future our family through the power of education: they became doctors and moved to the United States after marriage so my siblings and I could be born here.
I realized quite early on that Chicago is about as segregated as it gets. Cross one street and public schools can go from opulent to terribly under-resourced. I’ve spent my entire adult life in urban education, trying to give black and brown students the same opportunities I had growing up. America worked for me. I want it to work for everyone’s kids. But after having done 9 years as a teacher, 5 years as a middle school principal, and studying nights to get a masters in public policy, I can say this with certainty: America is NOT working for all of our kids. Something needs to change.
I teach middle school math full time on the South Side of my dear Chicago. It’s quite a challenge. Students have always had a hard time with fractions. But fractions pale in comparison to the series of crises our kids are now facing: understaffed and under-resourced schools, pandemic learning loss, a gun violence epidemic, climate change and injustice, an assault on women and LGBTQ rights. I’ve seen the deck stacked against out students. I’ve been to funerals for their siblings. I’ve walked them two blocks to the library after school so I could confirm to their parents that they are safe. I’ve taught them, again and again, what to do if there is an active shooter in the building. We have to do better for them. That’s why I’m running for Congress.
Last year, I successfully was elected to a Local School Council in the University Village neighborhood of Chicago. But running for Congress is something altogether different. So why do it? Especially when our 15-term incumbent, Rep. Danny Davis, has said he intends to run for re-election? Well, put simply, Danny isn’t doing the job anymore. In the 118th Congress, he ranks 400th out of 435 representatives in voting attendance. He does, however, make time to raise tens of thousands from corporate PACs that play ball with the Ways and Means Committee. This is the typical Washington story: get elected, stuff your campaign account with corporate money, have the district gerrymandered to your liking, and stay forever. I could have waited him out, but what about my students? My two kids? They can’t wait for safer and better schools. They can’t wait for us to address climate change. They can’t wait for another Uvalde. Change can’t wait.
I don’t believe we can enact progressive change without first reforming our democracy. From gun control to abortion rights, our government is out of the step with public opinion. We need massive democratic reform: voting rights, changing campaign finance laws, term limits for legislators and judges, banning stock trading in Congress, abolishing the electoral college, adding Washington D.C. as the 51st state, and eliminating gerrymandering nationwide. We need a 21st century democracy.
If this sounds like a cause you can get behind, please visit my website and consider a donation:
I am NOT taking any corporate PAC money, because I don’t want to owe anyone any favors when I get to Congress. I pledge to only serve 10 years (that’s actually more of a command from my wife). I want to use every day of it to fight for our kids future. Every generation inhabits America for a short amount of time in the country’s story. Every generation has a call to answer. If we can end the scourge of gun violence, save our planet, and breath new life into our democracy, I think we will have answered the call. Please join me. Forever your Brown Donkey,