Amardeep “Amar” Kaleka officially announced late last week that he’ll seek the Democratic nomination to face Ryan for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District seat. Kaleka grew up in Milwaukee and is the son of Satwant Singh Kaleka, the Sikh temple leader who was murdered along with five others at the temple in Oak Creek last year.
Kaleka faces primary opposition from Rob Zerban, who mounted a challenge against Ryan two years ago, holding him to his smallest margin of victory since his election to Congress in 1998.
Kaleka formed an exploratory committee a few weeks ago, and said then he was considering a run because he is different from those who are in Congress now.
“My name is unknown," he says. "I literally grew up on governmental housing. Went to Milwaukee Public Schools. Came from one of the poorest regions on the planet. Had an immigrant family. Ultimately became a product of those public schools and went to Marquette, and am a far different pedigree from everybody else that’s in Congress. I am the middle man. I am the middle class. I think that’s effectively why I think they kept coming to me.”
Kaleka believes running for political office is "a great civil service," but that the government is "in need." Kaleka says voters have lowered their standards for candidates and have watched their "governmental contract" be broken.
"There's this fever in this nation, there's a fever by people that do know that there needs to be that, there needs to be a connection and a trust if we're going to build more communities, a better civilization a better government," he says.
But he also says he anticipates challenges in his candidacy.
"People are going to take stabs at me, and call me 'al Qaeda' and names that nobody should ever connect with our religion, especially after the tragedy, and it's going hurt," he says. "It's going to hurt my family and so it's a lot of sacrifice."
Two of Kaleka's major concerns are the state of the nation's race relations and gun laws.
“I see a lack of gun legislation that should have been passed 30 years ago,” he says. “People aren’t looking down into the future and seeing that we could print 3D guns in a matter of a year coming up. That means people are going to be able to buy $150 guns for $10.”
Kaleka says his strength as a candidate draws on his experience as a community organizer, successful entrepreneur, and being savvy in social media outlets.