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Aruna Miller is running for Congress to represent the 6th District of Maryland. Currently a member of the Maryland House of Delegates for District 15 in Montgomery County, Aruna’s win will be epic because it will make her the only female representative in the ten-person delegation. Think about that: In this day and age, and in such a seemingly progressive state, there’s not one woman representing Maryland in Congress. Hard to believe, right? Yet what’s more surprising is that Aruna doesn’t mention gender when talking about her candidacy. What she does focus on is empathy, commitment to service, technology, building bridges and making our government work for the people. She speaks about serving this country that she loves, the one that took her in as a young girl and has given her chances she never would’ve had in her native India.

Aruna’s journey to America began when she was 6 months old. That’s when her father immigrated here to carve out a better life for himself and his family. Aruna lived with her grandmother until her father sent for her and her family when she was 7 years old. Her first memory is of walking off the plane in New York City, and wondering about the white confetti falling from the sky. She’d never seen snow before, thought it was happening to celebrate her arrival in America, and that it was just magical. That day she met the father she’d never known and her life was suddenly all about new experiences: learning English, starting school, drinking milk (let’s just say that it didn’t do her body good, at first). It was overwhelming, to put it mildly, and Aruna recalls that she felt embarrassed by everything that made her stand out. Her teacher seemed to know how difficult the transition would be for Aruna and had the entire class paint her pictures and cards to welcome her to class, teaching them empathy while simultaneously opening the door to welcome a frightened child to her new home. Aruna never forgot that gesture and how much it meant to her.

Education was important to Aruna’s father. He was the first person in her life to encourage learning and show her that a person’s path isn’t determined by his or her gender. He was an engineer and wanted his daughter to go into  Engineering with a concentration in computer science, which he saw as the career of the future. Unfortunately, he got sick after he paid for her two brothers college tuition but  couldn’t afford to pay when Aruna was getting ready to enter college; fortunately, for Aruna, she learned  about Pell Grants and scholarships, work study and other ways to offset her tuition costs, and she realized that college was still an attainable goal. Aruna was accepted at Missouri University of Science and Technology, where she studied civil engineering to feed her passion for public service. If she wasn’t going to be a tech giant, at least she could help municipalities manage road traffic and shore up their infrastructures. She put her education to the test when she took a job with the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, moving out west because her family had relocated to California, but her heart was back east with her college sweetheart who’d gotten a job at the DC Patent Office. Feeling drawn to the other side of the country, Aruna moved to be with her now-husband and got a job with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. It was here, in Maryland, where she got her first taste of public service.

Aruna was the first in her family to become a U.S. citizen, voting for the first time in the 2000 Presidential election. The ensuing struggle over hanging chads to determine who would win energized her politically, and she called the Montgomery County Democratic Party to volunteer. She became a Precinct Official and an unequivocal force for getting candidates elected. She involved her entire family in the efforts, canvassing with her husband and 3 daughters, holding house parties to support national candidates, like John Kerry, and doing everything she could to get the party’s candidates elected. When a spot opened up on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, because a member moved to California,  Aruna was appointed to serve, ever so humble and not one to brag about her hard work when asked about this in the interview, she said,  “she was thrilled to part of the process ” .

When Aruna took  the step and was appointed to the MCDCC, Milt Miniman, a member, told her he was voting for her because she was exactly the kind of change the committee needed: she was new to politics; she was an engineer; she spoke fluent Telugu (the language well over 75 million people speak, second only to Hindi in India ;the 5th largest economy in the world); and she was energized. These assets carried her to the 2010 race for House of Delegates, when her political Godmother, Esther Gelman, said she should run for the position. Aruna was hesitant. She didn’t know if she had the requisite experience. Her husband, however, reminded her that she was the most passionate and hardest working individual out there, creating service days and Democratic party engagements under the mentorship of Karen Britto, a woman who exemplified fearless leadership. So, Aruna took her best shot and ran for the House of Delegates in District 15, she was such an appealing candidate and hard worker the District 15 Delegation was enthusiastic to slate with her and, she won.

She has since sponsored and co-sponsored many pieces of legislation, taking the most pride in Amber’s Law, which requires domestic abuse offenders to wear identifiable GPS trackers and ensure they stay away from survivors of their violence. She fought to increase the minimum wage and made significant contributions to the Maryland Business Climate Workgroup that helped form the Augustine Report, which has helped both the previous and current administrations make Maryland a more business-friendly state. Her most recent legislation eliminated the recording tax for sole proprietors that change to LLCs. She is also the rare type of politician who engages those on the other side of the aisle and puts herself in front of people who disagree with her in order to start dialogue and find common ground. A great example of this was when her husband accidentally put a campaign sign in the yard of a Republican constituent who wasn’t supporting her. When her office received a call complaining about the sign, Aruna went to the house, knocked on the door, and proceeded to have an engaging discussion with the family who, it turned out, actually agreed with her on some points. They have supported her ever since.

Aruna is  running for the Congressional seat that was vacated by John Delaney. She knows statistically women who get elected to Congress bring home 9% more funds to their districts and pass more family friendly legislation than their male counter parts. She knows it will be a challenging transition. And she knows that it ups the ante on the amount of constituents depending on her to advocate for them. But she also knows it’s worth the hard work, that her volunteers are awesome and inspiring, and that she has the chance to do more good for even more people in Maryland. Aruna will be the positive change to the Maryland delegation that she’s been to every other position she’s previously held. If her story inspires you and you’d like to make a contribution or volunteer for her campaign, please visit today!

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