HomeBad Ass AsiansDemocrat National Committee will lean on Indian American CEO

Democrat National Committee will lean on Indian American CEO

Seema Nanda will help guide the Democratic National Committee through a critical period

Views From the Edge


As the pivotal midterm elections head into the home stretch with perhaps the selection of a Supreme Court Justice on the immediate horizon, the Democratic National Committee is depending on an Asian American to keep its house in order.

Friday, the Democratic National Committee announced Seema Nanda as Chief Executive Officer. As CEO, Nanda will manage the day-to-day operations of the organization.

“People are hurting all across our country. And I believe that Democrats are offering the positive solutions so desperately-needed right now – solutions forged by the strength of our diversity, the rigor of our ideas, and the decency of our values,” said Nanda.

The first Asian American to head the DNC in recent memory, Nanda takes the reins from interim CEO, Mary Beth Cahill, in overseeing the financial and political trajectory of the DNC at a crucial moment.

Nanda served on​ DNC Chair Tom​ Perez’ transition team, which took a fresh look at the ​committee’s operations following the 2016 election and put in place an infrastructure​ that contributed to wins in 2017 and 2018.

Most recently, Nanda has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, where she oversees strategy and manages day-to-day operations.

Prior to that, Seema was Chief of Staff to then-Secretary Tom Perez at the U.S. Department of Labor. While at the Labor Department, she also worked as Deputy Solicitor and as Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor to Perez, managing a portfolio that included immigration, workforce development, and internal management issues.

This decision was made after a five-month search led by current CEO Mary Beth Cahill, who will continue to serve the DNC through the transition and as the DNC heads into the 2018 cycle. Nanda will start later next month.

“I’m beyond excited that Seema is bringing her talent and brilliance to the DNC,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “I’ve seen firsthand Seema’s exceptional ability to lead. She is a seasoned manager who has a proven track record of success and a well-documented history of fighting for our Democratic values, whether it’s on immigration, civil rights or leveling the playing field for our workers. As we head toward such a crucial election, I’m one hundred percent certain that Seema’s leadership will help the DNC capitalize on the unprecedented grassroots energy and enthusiasm surging throughout the country.”
As Asian Americans seek to find their seat at the political table, that community’s vote will be crucial for a number of races throughout the country. Along with DNC vice chair Grace Meng, the congresswoman representing parts of New York, Asian American women will hold two of the top and visible positions for the Democratic Party.

Nanda is a founding member of the DC chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, where she works closely with several immigrants rights and Asian American advocacy groups around Asian Pacific American issues; and a founding board member of a nonprofit in DC (Odanadi) that seeks to raise awareness and money to fight sex trafficking in India and globally. 

With immigration issues becoming a key issue in the midterm elections, the DNC is also emphasizing Nanda’s past experience as head of the DOJ’s Office of Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.

The Democrats are trying to generate a “blue wave” to wrest the majority in the House from the GOP by tying Republicans to a controversial and unpopular chief executive, who has consistently advocated anti-immigrant policies from the Muslim travel ban to his “zero-tolerance” policy towards migrant families at the country’s border with Mexico.

Democrats are also facing an internal reckoning on how to craft the best message for November and channel the emergence of a more progressive wing illustrated by the overwhelming victory of political newcomer, 28-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, over seasoned and moderate Democrat incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley in New York City.

As the Center for American Women and Politics has noted, “Democratic women are the real drivers of the surge in female candidates in 2018: women are 33% of all Democratic candidates but only 14% of all Republican candidates.”

“Women are not only making their voices heard, but this hire also signals that women are leading the Democratic Party, and I couldn’t be prouder of that,” said the DNC’s communications director, Xochitl Hinojosa.

Nanda’s experience also includes practicing labor and employment law and served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations.

She is a graduate of Boston College Law School and Brown University and a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

“This position is the opportunity of a lifetime, for which I am incredibly honored and humbled,” said Nanda, “I am grateful to Chairman Perez and Mary Beth for selecting me, and I look forward to joining my new DNC colleagues in the fight for our nation’s values and future.”

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