Indian-American orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr Manish 'Manny' Kumar Sethi has said that he is running for the US Senate to "make a different kind of difference", aiming to bring back jobs from China, fix the "broken immigration system" and enhance ties with India.
The senatorial campaign of Sethi, 42, received a big boost this weekend, when top Republican senator Ted Cruz not only endorsed him, but also campaigned with him across Tennessee ahead of the primary.
"I think India has been an incredible trading partner, an incredible ally. Indo-American alliance has always been strong and I think it should always continue to be," Sethi told PTI.
Pitted against Republican Bill Hagerty, who has been endorsed by President Donald Trump, Sethi is in a statistical tie in the August 6 Senate primary in Tennessee.
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence joined Trump in endorsing Hagerty, saying he will fight for conservative values, stand up for life, protect the Second Amendment and create jobs.
But Sethi's poll numbers have been towards an upswing in recent weeks. "I believe, we are on the verge of winning," he said, referring to the latest opinion polls. Before Cruz, he was endorsed by senator Rand Paul and former senator Jim Demint.
"I've lived the American dream and in Tennessee," Sethi said, adding that he is running for the US Senate "to make a different kind of difference."
He said that his parents grew up in India and came to the US in 1970s looking for a better life. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to rural Tennessee along with his parents when he was four. "They were both country doctors," he said.
The United States Senate offers a very unique opportunity to implement and make policy change and shape the direction of policy in the country, he said.
"I think Obamacare is awful. I think we need a new healthcare system that's free market based. We need to really shift our strategy and bring our jobs back home from China," he said as he listed out his priorities.
"We need to fix our broken immigration system," Dr Sethi said, adding that people from India come to the US legally, but there are others who abuse the system which needs to be changed.
Given that Tennessee is a Republican bastion, a win in the primary on August 6 would make his entry to the Senate a mere formality. In such a case, he would script history by becoming the first Indian-American to enter the United State Senate. Democratic Kamala Harris, who represents California, is the first Indian-origin senator. Her mother was Indian and father an African-American from Jamaica.
In recent weeks, a large number of Indian-Americans from across the country have been coming out in his support as they see in him a community member in the Senate.
The biggest challenge, he said, is the negative campaign being run by his opponent Hagerty, who was US Ambassador to Japan in the first two years of the Trump administration.
He is spending USD 3 million in negative advertisements, attacking him and his family, Sethi said. "In Tennessee that really never works. He is desperate now. So that's the biggest challenge. Taking the high road and not going down that path and just staying up on competing with that negativity in a positive way," he said in response to a question.
Based on his experience of crisscrossing Tennessee, Sethi said that the people of his state are ready for a change and do not want a Washington insider.
"They really want someone who comes from outside of the government," he said. Though Trump has not endorsed him, Sethi's policy perspective on major issues including China are similar to that of the president.
"The most substantial geopolitical threat to our country in the next decade is the Chinese. We have to take them head on," he said in response to a question.
Whether that's intellectual property or what it has done with the coronavirus the US has to make itself more independent and separate itself from the communist Chinese government, he said.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s Brother in Law’s Explosive Chat With Mumbai Police Revealed
"I think that in our foreign policy, we really need to stop sending money to countries that hate us," he said. Responding to a question, Sethi said that people in Tennessee love Trump.
"I love the president. If he had 10 minutes with me, I believe he would reconsider his endorsement of my opponents. I don't think he knows that my opponent was one of Mitt Romney's best friends," Sethi added.