When a Sikh Runs: The Irony of California’s 9th Congressional District

Tonight, I attended the 100th Anniversary of the local Sikh temple in #Stockton. Congratulations to the community. It was an honor to attend

— Jerry McNerney (@RepMcNerney) October 14, 2012

During last Saturday’s celebrations to celebrate the Centennial of the Stockton, California, Gurdwara, in addition to having the opportunity to listen to Ricky Gill (Republican candidate for California’s 9th Congressional District) speak, I also was interested to hear the congratulatory words offered to the Sikh community by Representative Jerry McNerney, the incumbent for the same district who also attended (and posted the congratulatory message on his public Twitter account that evening).

At Saturday’s event, Representative McNerney addressed the Sikh congregation and presented the Congressional Record Statement (“Recognizing the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society“) that he offered in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the Stockton Gurdwara:

Sikhs have made significant contributions throughout the Nation, particularly the Central Valley’s farming sector. With the support of the local community, and through a strong dedication to improving our society, Sikh’s have contributed in many fields including medicine, transportation, and politics. I am proud that Dalip Singh Saund, who served as a secretary of the Stockton Gurdwara, was also Congress’ first Asian-American, Indian-American, Sikh representative. Sikhs in my district and around the country share their rich cultural heritage while continuing to contribute to American society. I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring and congratulating the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society on its 100th anniversary.

After hearing this statement, I contacted the McNerney campaign office for a copy of the statement and to learn more about what the Congressman has done in support of the Sikhs in his district. The Congressional Office for Representative McNerney sent to me the statement the next day, and the campaign office provided to me a list of Representative McNerney’s activities in support of the Sikh community.


According to McNerney for Congress Campaign Manager Doug Grevan:

In addition to the Congressional Record statement in honor of the 100th anniversary of the temple, [Representative McNerney] is having a U.S. flag flown over the U.S. Capitol on the 24th to honor the anniversary of the first day prayers were said at the temple.  This flag, along with a ceremonial plaque to commemorate the occasion, will be presented to the temple.

…Beyond that, the Congressman has on many occasions honored the Sikh community and their part of our local and national history.  He has:
  • Submitted a statement to the Congressional Record denouncing the Wisconsin tragedy
  • Spoken on the House floor in support of the Sikh community in the wake of the Wisconsin tragedy
  • Attended candlelight vigil with local Sikh community after Wisc. events
  • Signed a resolution in support of the Sikh community and denouncing bullying
  • Sent a letter to the Attorney General in March regarding the treatment of Sikh-Americans in society

The McNerney campaign’s prompt and informative response to my e-mail query on the subject of Sikh Americans was opposite to the response the Gill campaign gave — which was the complete lack of response — to my inquiries over the spring and summer.

On another note, I also noted that during Monday’s debate between Representative McNerney and his challenger Ricky Gill, McNerney made a mention of the Wisconsin hate crime shooting of Sikhs in August, and addressed the issue of hate speech. By contrast, Ricky Gill was silent on the issue throughout the debate (view the video from 39:30 onwards for this segment).

It is ironic that in California’s 9th Congressional District, a non-Sikh candidate has been much more open about his  support of the Sikh community than the Sikh one.



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