Son of Slain Sikh Temple Leader Mulling Congressional Bid

Son of Slain Sikh Temple Leader Mulling Congressional Bid

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Filmmaker Amardeep Kaleka, the son of former Oak Creek, Wisc., temple priest Satwant Kaleka who was killed in August 2012 in a murderous rampage on the gurdwara, is contemplating a bid for Congress against former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

Kaleka filed papers Oct. 16 with the Federal Election Commission, which allows him to form an exploratory committee to gauge support for a Congressional bid. Though some media have reported that Kaleka, a Democrat, announced his bid Oct. 16, Kaleka clarified to India-West that he would formally announce his bid in late November. Kaleka has filed papers to form an exploratory committee and to raise funds for a possible Congressional run.

“The outpouring of support has been tremendous,” said Kaleka, noting that he has received a lot of support from within Wisconsin’s Congressional District 1, which Ryan currently represents. “Not since last August have we had such support,” he said. Ryan has raised $1.7 million total towards his 2014 re-election campaign, $824,000 in this last quarter, according to Associated Press reports. The numbers could not be verified on the FEC database, which is behaving inconsistently during the government shutdown.

Kaleka said he has raised $5,000 unofficially thus far, and likened his bid for Congress as a classic ‘David versus Goliath’ battle. “But do I really need more money than Paul Ryan to run a successful campaign?” queried Kaleka, adding that he hopes his vision for the nation will appeal to voters regardless of his campaign’s funds.

On Sunday morning Aug. 5, 2012, Amardeep’s father, former Oak Creek, Wisc., temple president Satwant Kaleka, was killed in a murderous rampage, when neo-Nazi Wade Michael Page stormed the gurdwara during Sunday prayers and killed six worshippers before killing himself. The tragedy at the temple is one of the worst acts of mass violence in Sikh American history.

In an interview last December, shortly after Adam Lanza attacked Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14 and killed 20 primary school children and six adults, Kaleka told this newspaper, “Gun control laws would have saved my father’s life. Gun control laws help limit the number of weapons in the nation. When it’s harder to get a gun, people don’t think about committing this type of crime.”

In an interview this week, a day before he filed papers with the FEC, Kaleka told India-West he believes gun violence can be controlled by better background checks. “Getting the guns out of wrong hands is the first tool to controlling gun violence,” he asserted.

The young Indian American noted that a restorative justice system – which teaches criminals how to function within society – rather than the current punitive justice system would throw $800 billion back in to the national economy.

“Peace is far more lucrative than crime. We spend so much money on crime, which is hurting our GDP,” Kaleka stated.

Pardeep Kaleka, Amardeep’s brother, told India-West that he owns three guns, including a 357 magnum and two handguns. Pardeep, an ex-police officer, said registering guns – “knowing where they are and who owns them” and the buyer’s medical and mental health background – would cut down a lot of crime.

Amardeep Kaleka told India-West that economic reform – not gun control – would be the focus of his campaign.

“We need Clintonian reform of stepping up the middle class with proper government stimulation. We were on the right track when (President Barack) Obama took office, but then back-tracked when the obstructionists took over in 2010,” Kaleka stated.

“We have to ask ourselves, ‘are we a trickle-down economy of crony capitalism, or a step-up economy that’s raising the middle class,” Kaleka stated.

One immediate fix would be to create a faster transit system between Chicago, Ill., and Milwaukee, Wisc., the heart of District 1. Both cities have booming economies that could benefit each other.

Kaleka characterized Ryan as a career politician, one who has barely visited his district since he took office 13 years ago. “Ryan is a pivotal member of the House, and we see the mess the House has created,” stated Kaleka, referring to the current government shutdown and a looming threat of the nation being unable to pay its bills by Oct. 25, unless the debt ceiling is raised.

Ryan chairs the House Budget Committee, and earlier this year, introduced a plan known as the “Path to Prosperity,” which drastically cuts government spending – including entitlement benefits in health care – and tightens tax loopholes. The report noted that the U.S. is currently spending about 15 percent more than it is raising through tax revenue, and that figure is expected to rise to 60 percent by the year 2077.

Kaleka said the decision to run has been a slow process, adding that his mother has been afraid of racial backlash and violence against her son.

Kaleka said he often thinks about violence against him. “It’s something that goes through every minority’s mind of doing or saying something that will incite violence,” he said, referencing former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt at a Tucson, Ariz., mall after expressing her support for the Affordable Care Act

“The fear is always there. But this is what we are trying to change,” stated Kaleka, who has launched the Web site votekaleka.com.