Tag Archive: Upendra Chivukula

Engineering an Upset Victory

Many of the problems facing America today are self-imposed by the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. It’s clear that in order to restore America’s economy, improve its schools, reclaim the mantle as a leader in technology and science, and improve living standards for all Americans, the Republican stranglehold in Congress must be removed.

It’s a big task. Twenty-five seats will need to flip in order to release the Boehner/Cantor grip on progress.

Here in New Jersey, there are at least two House races that are going to be uphill battles for the Democrats, but with some hard work and good GOTV campaigns are winnable. One, in my home district (NJ-3), is the candidacy of Shelley Adler, who is running against Republican lap dog Jon Runyan. Another is the race in the 7th District, where Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula is challenging two-term congressman Leonard Lance.

At one time, Lance was considered a moderate Republican, but that term has become oxymoronic. Over the last couple of years, Lance has embraced the extreme Tea Party agenda and has become part of the problem in impeding progress. As he mentions in my video interview below, Chivukula has been trained as an engineer – a problem solver – and is the right person to replace Lance.

Yesterday, I spoke with Chivukula on why he’s running and why he’s the best man for the job.

What if the Entire United States and Canada were Without Electric Power this Summer?

An intriguing question – and I’ll discuss that below. But first, let’s talk about energy in general. Within state government, there’s no one better or more passionate about fixing our nation’s energy problems than Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula.

An engineer by training, Chivukula is the “go to” person in the Assembly on all things related to our crumbling power infrastructure, and how to bring it into the 21st century. Chivukula not only gets the technology, but understands the business and jobs implications of energy legislation.

Earlier today, I spoke with him on the floor of the Assembly chamber about a solar energy bill that he sponsored, and (to his credit) Governor Christie has recently signed.

We also talked about other non-solar renewable energy initiatives, and the power outage in India that affected more people than live in the U.S. and Canada combined. Could it happen here?

And lest you think I’ve gone soft by complimenting Governor Christie, I spoke with Chivukula and Assemblyman John McKeon about the governor’s veto of our state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. My interview with McKeon will be posted soon.

Also, stay tuned to Blue Jersey for another interview with Upendra Chivukula – this one on his challenge to Leonard Lance for the Seventh District congressional seat. Coming soon!

For Progressives: Two Key Primaries

The House primaries are just four weeks away. For progressive Democrats there are two primaries where our actions now might particularly affect the key outcome. The Cook Redistricting Forecast for House elections in NJ is a split, with six seats for Democrats and six for Republicans. The outcome of the primaries and later elections in many cases is easily predicted, with incumbency, safe redistricted districts, and weakly contested races as key indicators. However, the Cook Report considers CD 5 as only “likely Republican: not competitive now but has the potential to be engaged.” There progressive Democrat Jason Castle and Blue Dog Democrat Adam Gussen are in a primary arrayed against ultra conservative incumbent Republican Scott Garret. The other key race is CD 10 where “legacy candidate” Donald Payne, a favorite of the Essex County Democratic machine who hides from the public, is fiercely contested by the progressive Councilman Ron Rice and Senator Nia Gill.  These are two cases where getting involved now could make a difference.

In CD 9 where emotions run high and individuals debate the merits of Rep. Steve Rothman and Rep. Bill Pascrell, the key outcome is predictable: a progressive Democrat will take the seat in the election. Although there is no Democratic primary in CD 3, it is not too early to help Democratic Shelley Adler’s campaign against incumbent Republican Jon Runyan. The Cook Report’s projection for Mrs. Adler is even more favorable than that for CD5. It’s forecast is “lean Republican: Competitive, but the Republican has an advantage.” In other House campaigns so far neither the Cook Report nor the Rothenberg Report forecast any upsets, although in CD 7 Democratic Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) has launched a campaign against incumbent Republican Leonard Lance. It’s also possible but not probable that the losing Democrat in CD 9 might gain a seat through entering a campaign in a neighboring district.

In CD 5 the need for volunteers and donations is particularly acute. Earlier in the year several potentially strong candidates decided not to run. Republican incumbent Rep. Scott Garrett has $1.9 million in Cash on Hand, an almost ten-year incumbency, and the ability to disguise rabildly conservative proclivities. Previously unknown, but charismatic and progressive Jason Castle has been the most active of the two Democratic challengers via the internet and public appearances. However, he operates on a shoestring with $4,000 in Cash on Hand as of March 31. Teaneck Deputy Mayor Gussen has made no financial filing, he backed out at the last moment from a recent debate with Jason Castle and shows little engagement either publicly or through the internet. However, he has the important support of Bergen County Democratic Committee.

In CD 10 the question is not whether a Democrat will ultimately be elected, but whether the Democrat will be a progressive, such as Newark Councilman Ronald C. Rice, Jr. and Senator Nia Gill (D-Montclair) or legacy candidate Don Payne Jr. who during his time on the Newark Council and Essex Board of Freeholders has shown little interest in progressive issues. The candidates are attracting attention beyond their borders with new endorsements and alliances announced almost daily. Ron Rice Jr., was just endorsed by Democracy for America. Nia Gill was endorsed last week by two prominent women’s groups, plus Sen. Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. Donald Payne, Jr. just received an endorsement from Senator Robert Menendez whose support runs against his local Hudson County Democratic Committee but in favor of the Essex County counterpart.

In CD 10 where the campaign was brought about by the somewhat sudden demise of Representative Donald Payne, Sr., the candidates started with little money to propel their efforts. Through March 31 in terms of Cash on Hand, Gill reported $34,000 and Rice reported $10,000.  Neither Payne, Jr. nor Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith filed a financial report with the FEC. However, it appears that Don Payne, Jr., may soon lead the pack financially. Don Payne, Sr, left $1.4 million in his campaign fund and its treasurer has been returning contributions to the donors and urging them to resubmit the check to Don Payne Jr.’s campaign. Against the Essex machine and a likely well financed, but “no appearances” Don Payne, a candidate like Ron Rice, who spent sunday in Hudson and Union Counties, particularly needs financial and volunteer support.

No contest should be taken for granted. Nonetheless, progressive Democrats between now and June 5 have an opportunity to affect key outcomes, especially in CD 5 and CD 10. As the lottery ads say, “You have to be in it to win it.” That includes voting, volunteering, donating and helping anyway you can.

What’s the most Indian-American Congressional District in America? NJ-7?

UPDATE:If you guessed NJ-6 was the other district in the top 10 (joining NJ-7 where Chivukula is running & Rush Holt’s NJ-12) you’re smarter than you look.

David Jarman at Daily Kos’ offshoot Daily Kos Elections was pumped enough that Upendra Chivukula was getting in the NJ-7 race against Leonard Lance (broken here) that he did a little digging into whether NJ-7 is in fact the most Indian-American-intensive district in the nation.

It’s not. But it’s close. NJ-7 is 5th: 6.3% of its population of Asian Indian ancestry.

That includes many professionals working in central Jersey’s pharmaceutical and bio-tech corridors (the Assemblyman is an electrical engineer by education). It’s a built-in leg-up, before you even consider that Chivukula is already a fixture at many events where Indian-Americans are fundraising for Democrats. First or fifth doesn’t matter; as word spreads a lot there could well be interest in Chivukula’s race from Indian-Americans all over the country. Remember, he’s the first Indian-America ever elected to state office in NJ; only the fourth in the nation.

So. NJ-7 ranks 5th.

2 other NJ districts in the top 10.

What are they? I’ll give you the first; it’s too easy: Rush Holt’s 12th (ranks 3rd).

The other one ranks 6th. Which one is it? Guess in the poll below the fold.

(Jarman notes the numbers are based on the old district lines, pre-redistricting)

News Roundup & Open Thread for Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Rosi is taking a well-deserved day off from the Round Up. So you’re stuck with me. As Rosi would say, “Deal with it.”

Chivukula for Congress

After a decade in Trenton, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula will seek the Democratic nomination to run for Congress against incumbent Leonard Lance in the 7th District. Blue Jersey broke the news. Chivukula is the chair of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee and has been instrumental in shaping energy policy in the state. Last September, he granted Blue Jersey and extensive and exclusive interview, posted here and here. Other discussions with Blue Jersey are here, here, and here.

Camden in the News

While the Assembly Budget Committee heard public testimony in Downtown Camden, the elephant in the room was the Rowan takeover of South Jersey Rutgers campus. Senator Lautenberg calls for a federal investigation alleging the deal was “crafted to benefit powerful political interests.” Doh!

If You Can’t Lower the Ocean, Raise the Bridge

Port Authority asks the Feds for an expedited review process on the Bayonne Bridge project.  Sierra Club is worried about cutting corners.

Role Reversal

The legislative budget session is in full swing, with the Treasurer defending the Governor’s wildly optimistic revenue projections before the Senate Budget Committee today, and the Assembly Budget committee tomorrow, while the Office of Legislative Services presents a more realistic view.

The Supremes

A short-handed New Jersey Supreme Court will decide whether their “salary” is impacted by increased benefit costs.

Senator Kevin O’Toole, one of the more vociferous supporters of Governor Christie’s nomination of Phillip Kwon to the Supreme Court, makes the television rounds.

When asked by Blue Jersey about the re-scheduling of the confirmation hearings for Bruce Harris, one Senate staffer commented that it would happen “later than sooner.”

Charlie Stile describes the governor as “deflated”.

Blue Jersey has posted a video archive of the entire Kwon confirmation hearing.

Preaching to the Choir

Acting Education Commissioner Cerf expects good days ahead for the education-industrial complex. Meanwhile, will Governor Christie give a Trenton public school the same attention that he gave to a Catholic school?

More Christie Political Posturing

Governor drags his feet on affordable health care.

What’s that Boom?

For once, the loudest noise in New Jersey isn’t coming from Trenton.



Upendra Chivukula Running for Congress in CD7

The oddly-shaped congressional district that stretched across central Jersey has been without a Democrat ready and willing to challenge Rep. Leonard Lance since 2010 candidate Ed Potosnak abandoned campaign plans to take the helm at League of Conservation Voters – NJ.

And now we hear that Upendra Chivukula, who represents the 17th Legislative District in the NJ Assembly, is gearing up to run.

Just in time. Good luck to Assemblyman Chivukula.

He is Deputy Speaker in the Assembly, where he has served in the Assembly in the district stretching across Middlesex and Somerset for 10 years. He is an electrical engineer by education, and was council member then mayor of Franklin Twp. (Somerset) before his election to the Assembly.

Chivukula is first Indian-American elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in its history, and only the 4th Indian-American in the United States to be elected to state office.

Chivukula does not currently live in the congressional district.  

Is Chris Christie the Third Koch Brother? (video)

One of the reasons that Chris Christie is considered by the mainstream media to be a “moderate” Republican is that he ostensibly has a decent record on the environment. But don’t let that conventional “wisdom” fool you. Christie is just as bad as the stereotypical climate change denier – worse if you consider that he is actually in a position to do something.

Yesterday, the Assembly Telecommunications and Utility Committee held a hearing on wind energy. New Jersey is well-positioned to be a leader in this technology, especially offshore wind energy generation because of our coastline and favorable climate for such generation. The winds are usually greater during the day, when peak power demands are present. Wind generation is non-polluting and does not leave a legacy of radioactive waste to be handled by future generations. Wind energy not only has the potential for more manufacturing and construction jobs in the state, but because special ocean-going vessels are needed to move the behemoth turbine blades, there’s an opportunity to build up the states ship construction sector, also.

Yet, Koch Brother Christie, while paying lip service to offshore wind, is putting roadblocks in the way.  

The Fork in the (Solar) Road

“When you come to a fork in the road….Take it.”

– Montclair NJ native Yogi Berra

“We are the victim of our own success.”

– New Jersey Senator Bob Smith (D-Piscataway) testifying today before the Assembly Telecom & Utilities Committee supporting legislation on solar power

“[Today’s proposed legislation] would have a devastating impact on the economy of the state.”

– Stephanie Brand – Director of the NJ Division of Rate Counsel

We have come to a fork in the road with regard to the deployment of solar energy in New Jersey. Today, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Somerset) and his Telecom & Utilities Committee took a big step in deciding which path to take.

More, including an interview with Assemblyman Chivukula, after the fold…

The Paradigms – They are a-Shiftin’

When we flip on a light switch in our homes, few of us think about the ramifications. Electricity is relatively cheap, so we don’t think of the cost. Most of the time it’s available on demand, so we don’t think about reliability or distribution, and since we don’t see the pollution that resulted from its production, we don’t usually think about the environment. We just flip on the switch, and there’s light.

But at times, we’re all aware of some of the problems and pitfalls in lighting and heating our homes. We experience power outages, usually attributable to extreme weather. We gripe about our electricity bills, especially during the summer months when our air conditioners run non-stop. We see the environmental cost with dirty air from coal-burning plants and the ever-present threat of a Three Mile Island or Fukushima Daiiachi disaster in our back yard.

The paradigms about the generation and distribution of electrical power in New Jersey are shifting. It’s not just the move from reliance on dirty fossil fuels to clean energy sources. We also must take into account the need for energy storage to account for the time difference between when renewable energy is available (like solar during daylight hours) and when it is consumed (for example, at night or during overcast days.) We need to recognize that the generation of renewable energy is not done at a few large capital-intensive power plants, but is more of a geographically distributed entity, one which our transmission systems and regulations may not be optimized for. And we need to look into the future where electric vehicles will become more prevalent, resulting in more consumer demand for power in the home, and access to power-hungry recharging stations along the state’s thoroughfares.  The cost of solar power is becoming lower than that of nuclear, and with the closing of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in 2019, a large chunk of the state’s indigenous generation capacity will need to be replaced. And a new player, geothermal energy, is becoming a viable way to heat and cool our homes (for more on geothermal, go to the 4:00 mark in the Chivukula video, below.)