When U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski announced she would be retiring from the United States Senate, a chain reaction went off throughout Maryland State Politics. Shortly after Senator Mikulski’s announcement, Chris Van Hollen, who has served Maryland’s 8th congressional district since 2003, announced he would forgo re-election and run for Senator Mikulski’s vacant seat. Not long after Van Hollen’s announcement, many Maryland politicians and legislators directed their attention to Van Hollen’s vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Delegate Kumar Barve, who has served in the General Assembly for close to a decade and a half, is among the many candidates vying to replace Van Hollen in Congress. While many of these candidates tout their own legislative and career accomplishments, Delegate Barve’s tenure in the Maryland General Assembly stands out as both historic and productive. In an interview with Delegate Barve, he took time to elaborate on his illustrious career, discuss his political future, and outline some of his legislative priorities for the 2016 session of the General Assembly.
Delegate Kumar Barve grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland where he attended Montgomery County public schools. After high school, Delegate Barve enrolled in Georgetown University and earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting. Although Delegate Barve entered the private sector following college, he always had a keen interest in politics. While his father was originally born in India and became a naturalized citizen, his mother was born in the United States. Given the diverse backgrounds and opinions of his family members, Delegate Barve recalls his family frequently discussing politics, watching the news together, and his parents voting in local, State, and Federal elections. Delegate Barve’s parents also shared stories with him about his grandfather and how he overcame racism as an Indian immigrant while on his path to gaining U.S. citizenship. Delegate Barve’s grandfather came to the United States to work as an engineer and become a naturalized citizen. However, the Naturalization Act of 1790 limited naturalization to free white men and women of “good character”. In 1923, a U.S. Supreme Court case declared Indians were not considered “white”. Thus, Delegate Barve’s grandfather was stripped of his citizenship. Undeterred, Delegate Barve’s grandfather battled the U.S. government all the way to the Supreme Court and eventually regained his citizenship. To this day, Delegate Barve cites his grandfather’s struggle to gain citizenship as the inspiration for his exploration into politics and his desire to advocate for those in need. Inspired by his grandfather and due to the strong foundation his parents provided, Delegate Barve would eventually enter the political world and become one of the most influential leaders in the General Assembly.
In the 1970s and 80s, Delegate Barve began to make his entrance into Maryland’s political arena. During this time, Delegate Barve assisted several political campaigns and became an active member in political causes throughout his community. In addition to his volunteer campaign work, Delegate Barve served on the Maryland National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) for four years. During his time with NARAL, Delegate Barve served as both the treasurer and a valued member of the organizations board of directors. Delegate Barve, who served as the only man on the NARAL board, credits his experience with NARAL as the driving force encouraging him to run for office on a pro-choice platform. However, while Delegate Barve enjoyed his role as treasurer and as a board member at NARAL, he had a longing desire to further impact his community. As a result of this desire, Delegate Barve ran for the Maryland House of Delegates in 1990. In an historic election, Delegate Barve became the first Indian American in United States history elected to serve in a state legislature. In recognizing this accomplishment, Delegate Barve stated, “Being the first Indian American in any state legislature means voters trusted and respected me…[i]t’s an example of the blossoming of the American ideal that we’re all equal and should have equal opportunity.” Since 1991, Delegate Barve has been a fixture in the Maryland General Assembly previously serving as the House Majority leader for twelve years and now as Chairman of the Environment and Transportation Committee.
During his time in the General Assembly, Delegate Barve has learned that treating people with respect and looking at issues from multiple perspectives are essential skills to being an effective legislator. Delegate Barve also understands the importance of building relationships and collaborating effectively to pass legislation. In his former role as House Majority Leader, and in his current role as Chairman of the Environment and Transportation Committee, Delegate Barve has had the unique experience of bringing legislators from different backgrounds together. He analogized his duty as Chairman to preparing seating for a dinner party. “Imagine you’re doing a dinner party and you have a couple people who don’t get along. The first thing you have to do is you have to make sure people are sitting in such a way where people who don’t get along aren’t sitting next to each other. That sounds like a simple thing you have to do in a dinner party. When you’re in the legislature as a chairman of the committee you have to take considerations like that into account. You have to take into account that two legislators may not trust one another, people don’t agree on issues”, says Delegate Barve. Thus, Delegate Barve recognizes the interpersonal aspects of being a legislator in Annapolis and how important it is to manage relationships when running a committee. Delegate Barve continued, “Being a successful committee chairman means you have to let everyone have their say. You have to listen to both sides of every issue. You cannot prejudge issues.” It is by following this philosophy and working with others that Delegate Barve has been able to make great strides for the citizens of Maryland.
Delegate Barve touts a considerable amount of accomplishments in his nearly decade and a half in the General Assembly. Using his background as an accountant, Delegate Barve has been able to successfully advocate for Maryland’s middle class on economic issues. For example, Delegate Barve was responsible for passing and supporting legislation that closed corporate tax loopholes for big businesses. By Delegate Barve’s estimation, the approved legislation has saved taxpayers over $500 million. Delegate Barve’s legislation regulating Health Maintenance Organizations was also beneficial to the citizens of Maryland by providing patients a choice of which doctor they would like to see. He has supported legislation which provided marriage equality for all Marylanders, made college more affordable, raised the minimum wage, and brought renewable energy to the State. Lastly, Delegate Barve’s legislation creating the Maryland Technology Development Corporation has been responsible for creating an estimated 2500 high tech Maryland jobs annually.
In 2016, Delegate Barve is eager to build off of his previous achievements and work for the citizens of Maryland on the State and Federal levels. Although Delegate Barve has announced his candidacy for Congress, he has a number of legislative goals for the 2016 session in Annapolis. Delegate Barve is the lead sponsor on HB1, a bill that would prohibit the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) from authorizing any image depicting the Confederate Flag on special registration plates. Furthermore, the bill would prohibit the MVA from renewing the registration of vehicles displaying the Confederate Flag on its special registration plates until the special registration plate is returned and exchanged. As an Indian American, and as someone whose grandfather dealt with racism by simply trying to remain in the United States, Delegate Barve is committed to helping erase this renowned symbol of racism from the State’s history. Finally, Delegate Barve wants to work with legislators throughout the State to address concerns related to the Washington Metro System. He hopes that the General Assembly can commit to improving the transit system in both the Washington metro area and Baltimore metro area. Along with the passage of his legislative agenda, Delegate Barve has his sights on Washington, D.C. and tackling issues as a member of Congress.
Delegate Barve’s decision to run for Congress was not taken lightly. He cited a desire to lower unemployment rates by filling job opportunities in the technology sector. Delegate Barve estimated that there are 14,000 unfilled cyber security jobs in Maryland alone. With his desire to create more job opportunities in mind, Delegate Barve stated, “We live in a country where we ignore our middle class. Kids graduate from college with tremendous debt and don’t have great job opportunities”. He believes his experience with technology makes him the ideal candidate and one who can help lead the Country forward as the job market becomes more technology oriented. “I understand technology and the new economy better than the other candidates who are running. I understand how we can use technology to improve our lives and create economic opportunity. Just as my grandfather and his colleagues invented broadcast television technology and created millions of jobs, that’s what we have to start doing in the 21st century. We have to use technology as an asset to create wealth and opportunities for everyone in America”, he said. Delegate Barve hopes that his message and legislative record will resonate with the citizens of Maryland’s 8th congressional district. Regardless of what happens in April’s primary election, Delegate Barve can rest assured knowing he has made his grandfather very proud.
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