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Illinois’ First Indian-American Representative Is Ready to Work ‘Across the Aisle’

Raja Krishnamoorthi, who will represent Illinois' 8th Congressional District, speaking at his Election Night party. Courtesy of the Office of Raja Krishnamoorthi

The way Raja Krishnamoorthi sees it, Donald Trump will be taking office without a mandate after losing the popular vote by approximately 2.5 million ballots. That leaves an opening for the Democrats, including Krishnamoorthi — the new member of Congress elected to represent Illinois' 8th Congressional District — to win some concessions.

"Donald Trump will become president even after losing the popular vote in our November elections by a wide margin," the 43-year-old told NBC News. "To govern effectively, he must appeal to a broader base than what he campaigned on and avoid the divisive rhetoric that alienated so many Americans."

The son of Indian immigrants and father of three will be Illinois' first Indian-American Congressperson, according to NBC Chicago, and one of 18 total Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) members of Congress, according to Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Krishnamoorthi defeated Republican Pete DiCianni by approximately 17 points in the race to replace Democrat Rep. Tammy Duckworth — who will be joining the Senate. During the election, Krishnamoorthi won endorsements from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times as well as from President Barack Obama.

"My hope is that we will find ways to work together rather than falling into the partisan dysfunction that's plagued Washington for years," he said.

Born and raised in Illinois, Krishnamoorthi has experience in both the public and private sectors. He previously served as the state's deputy treasurer, special assistant attorney general, and chairperson of the audit committee of the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

He co-founded InSPIRE, a non-profit organization that trains inner-city students and veterans in solar technology and served as vice-chairperson of the Illinois Innovation Council. He also worked as president of two small businesses working in national security and renewable energy, Sivananthan Labs and Episolar, Inc.

Once in Congress, Krishnamoorthi said he intends to focus on infrastructure, immigration reform, and job creation, which he noted were also some of Trump's campaign priorities.

"If Donald Trump is sincere in looking to advance those issues in a meaningful way, I will work with him to pass legislation that makes progress in those areas," Krishnamoorthi said.

Regarding immigration reform, Krishnamoorthi said that while the country's current system is broken, building a wall and deporting undocumented immigrants who have lived most of their lives in the United States would not fix it.

"I hope that President-elect Trump will drop his unrealistic campaign pledge to deport millions of immigrants who've made their lives in this country and contribute to our country," he said. "In addition, I would like to work with the new administration and my Republican colleagues in Congress to allow the tens of thousands of foreign students who attend U.S. universities and graduate schools to stay in this country to start businesses and create jobs."

Some of the issues Krishnamoorthi campaigned on equal pay for equal work, paid sick and maternity leave, a higher federal minimum wage, making college more affordable, and ensuring women's reproductive freedom. He also pledged to defend the Affordable Care Act.

Despite differences between the Democrats and Republicans, Krishnamoorthi hopes to get past divisive rhetoric and pledged to work across the aisle to get things done.

"[Democrats] will not be in the majority, but I will reach across the aisle to work with Republicans to push for programs that will help our constituents," he said. "I have strong differences with Mr. Trump on a woman's right to choose and what kind of justices belong on the Supreme Court. If the new President chooses to press those issues and continue using divisive rhetoric to divide Americans, I will oppose him. But if he chooses instead to focus on reforming programs and policies important to the working families of our nation, I stand willing to work with the new administration for the change our country needs."

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