Son of slain Wisconsin Sikh temple president weighs run for Congress

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 14, 2013 6:33 PM

By Brendan O'Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - The son of a Sikh temple president killed in a mass shooting outside of Milwaukee last year said on Monday he was considering running for the congressional seat held by Republican Paul Ryan, who was Mitt Romney's vice-presidential running mate in 2012.

Amar Kaleka, a 35-year-old documentary film maker, will form an exploratory congressional committee on Wednesday and hopes to announce his candidacy as a Democrat in November.

"I am considering it right now because of the paralysis of our government," he told Reuters by telephone, referring in part to the federal government shutdown. "I see a need for good leadership."

Kaleka's father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, was killed on August 5, 2012, when a gunman opened fire on the congregation at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek as they prepared for Sunday services.

The shooting left six worshippers dead and four injured, including a police officer. The shooter, Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist, committed suicide after the rampage.

Kaleka said the shooting and the death of his father "plays heavily into the decision because he was an amazing leader at the temple.

Kaleka, who has never run for political office, said he has been asked by gun control advocates, residents of Ryan's 1st Congressional District and business leaders in Silicon Valley, where he runs a film company, to consider seeking office.

Kaleka currently splits his time between a home in Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District and a home in Los Angeles. He said that he plans to move back to Wisconsin, in the 1st District, full time in November.

"He's obviously going to have some name recognition or at least event recognition," said Scott Furlong, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

"Coming into it with a clean slate and not being part of politics in this day and age is not necessarily a bad thing," he added.

Ryan has had a lock on the district, which covers the southeastern corner of Wisconsin, since taking office in 1999, earning at least 60 percent of the vote in each race from 2000 to 2010. His support waned a bit in 2012 when he earned 55 percent of the vote in a race against Democratic businessman Rob Zerban.

Zerban is considering running again in next year's election, but has not announced.

"Typically, I would say (Kaleka) would not be a vulnerable candidate ... but frankly, I wouldn't want to be any incumbent given what's going on in Washington right now," Furlong said.

Ryan's campaign office was not immediately available for comment.

Ryan is a fiscal conservative who is considered a possible presidential candidate in 2016.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Greg McCune and Leslie Adler)