Peter Loganbill, Collegian news editor: “So, in the midst of all of [your current work], you’re also running for U.S. Senate. So, is the idea to, if all works out for you, to become mayor of Manhattan in January, and then the US Senate election is November. You would be mayor for about a year and then go off to US Senate. That’s the idea?”
Usha Reddi, Manhattan City Commissioner, mayor pro tempore and U.S. Senate candidate: “That’s the idea.”
Loganbill: “What made you want to run for U.S. Senate?”
Reddi: “You know, I wasn’t really even thinking about it. My son texted me in January and said, ‘Pat Roberts retired.’ And I was like, ‘So what? Yeah, okay, good.’ And he said, ‘Well, I think you should run,’ and I said, ‘No way. There’s no way I can do that.’
“And then the more I thought about it, I thought, you know, Laura Kelly, just won and Sharice Davids just won her race, and maybe Kansas is ready for something different. And you don’t get an opportunity like this when you have a well-known representative retiring.
“He’s been there for decades. And he was always a shoo-in, and to have this opportunity was unique and I didn’t want to pass it up. I felt the more I thought about it, like I said, being a union leader, a teacher, public education teacher and being an elected official, all of these decisions that will be made at the federal level, all the policies were impacting my life and the decisions I’ve made.
“Betsy DeVos, let’s say for public education, you know, she’s dismantling it. And Brett Kavanaugh getting on to the Supreme Court. And our elected officials just kind of being complicit to the whole process, was very distressful. And I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll jump in. And I think I can do this. And it’s going to take a lot of work. And I understand it’s an uphill battle.’
“But I felt, why not? Why not me? I can work hard and get a team together. Fundraising is going to be an issue for anybody and being a democrat is an issue, but I’ve always been in the minority.
“I mean, if the Manhattan community, such as you said you’re from Johnson County, is relatively conservative compared to Johnson County, but they elected me, you know, and I never played games. When I walk in a room, people know who I am. They know I’m a woman of color. They know I’m an immigrant. They know I’m probably a Hindu. At that time, I was also divorced. And they know I’m a teacher. So these things, and they elected me twice based on that.
“And that’s in the city of Manhattan. And you can’t win without getting Republican votes. So I felt, what voters, why they voted was because it’s built on trust, and values, that they trust that I’m going to make my decisions, what’s on the best interest of the community. And I can take that to the federal level. So I thought, you know, if I don’t do it, I will probably regret it and think why shouldn’t l? Why didn’t I? So why not? Yeah. So I think I have a pretty good chance. We’ve been traveling all over the state and we’ll see what happens.”
Interested in learning more about Usha Reddi’s work and her campaign? Check out the “Collegian Kultivate” podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.