Helena Democrat Chintan Desai said it wasn’t that long ago that First District voters overwhelmingly supported Democrats over Republicans and he’s hoping that his candidacy can return the district to its roots.
“Many of the older voters there have actually changed parties in their lifetime, so I see an opportunity there. I see an opportunity to connect with voters on the issues that really matter to them,” said Desai, a guest on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics.
Desai faces a Democratic primary challenge with Richard Butler for the chance to square off against incumbent U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, who won the seat as a Republican for the first time since Reconstruction in 2010.
Born in San Luis Obispo, California and the son of Indian immigrant parents, Desai is a graduate of the University of California – Davis. He came to Arkansas through Teach for America, which led him to teach fifth grade social studies in the Delta community of Helena for two years. He has worked for Teach for America’s administration and currently is with the KIPP Delta school as its regional project manager.
Frustration with the direction of the country is the motivator for his entry in the Congressional race.
“I decided to throw my hat in the ring because I love Arkansas and because I’m tired. I’m tired of the people that I work with, my colleagues, my neighbors, people that I’m close to in Helena working incredibly hard just to get by and never getting ahead. I’m tired of people working in this country 40 or more hours per week just to make ends meet and still living in poverty,” he said.
“Congressman Crawford is an individual who has voted with an administration 90% of the time that has looked to roll back some of the protections for working-class families, and I think that Arkansans and particularly East Arkansans deserve a representative who can uplift families, who have an interest in doing that and have experience in doing that, and I think I’m that person,” Desai added.
Desai opposes the GOP tax cut plan, likely to pass this week. He said it won’t do enough to help middle-income or lower-income families and he thinks higher-income earners should be paying more.
“The problem is it’s 10 years and in some amount of time, we’re going to see middle- and low-income earners actually pay way more than they are now. We know that 44% of the tax cuts are actually gonna go to the richest 1%. And I think, for those conservative folks who have issues with the national debt, the premise of this bill is faulty. We haven’t had 3% national growth in a long time. And it’s simple economics. You have more money going out than coming in, then that’s only going to raise our already huge national debt,” he said.
“I would argue that there are higher-income earners who actually should be paying much more. And I don’t necessarily think that, yeah, I don’t think the middle-income tax breaks are a bad thing. I think that we need to be focusing on the higher-income earners,” he added.
Desai also disagreed with the Federal Communications Commission decision this week to alter net neutrality rules.
“The decision was an abomination. And we’re talking about a country and a society where we already have inequalities, we already have access issues. I see that in a rural community like Helena. And to make this barrier or create this barrier where internet companies can charge even more for the purpose of getting those corporations an extra buck is a shame,” Desai said.
Watch Desai’s full interview in the video below.