First Nepali-American Delegate Bhandari Launches Historic Congressional Bid

Harry Bhandari, the first Nepali-American delegate in Maryland, has embarked on a historic journey by announcing his candidacy for Congress. His aim is to secure a Congressional seat, making history as the first Nepali-American representative in the United States House of Representatives. Bhandari, who has been serving in the Maryland State Delegate since 2019, declared his candidacy for the upcoming Democratic primary on May 14.

The announcement comes just three days after 78-year-old Dutch Ruppersberger, the incumbent Representative of the 11th term in the US House of Representatives from Maryland’s second district, announced that he would not seek reelection for the next term. This decision opens up a significant opportunity for new candidates in the region, as Ruppersberger has been a fixture in Maryland politics since 2003.

Buoyed by his re-elected position in the Maryland House of Delegates and the successful flipping of his district, Bhandari’s campaign is built on a foundation of public service and a commitment to healthcare reform. The Democratic candidate pledges to address Maryland’s notorious emergency room wait times, drawing on his experience on the Health and Government Operations Committee.

The path to Washington, however, is not without challenges. Bhandari faces a crucial test in the May Democratic primary, where victory is essential for advancing to the November general election. Reflecting on his immigrant journey from working at a gas station to earning a Ph.D. and holding political office, Bhandari seeks to forge a diverse coalition, appealing to both Nepali and mainstream American voters.

“This is a mountain of a challenge,” declared Bhandari with determination, “but with the united hand of my community, I can scale this peak and pave the way for future generations.” The stakes are high, extending beyond Bhandari’s personal journey to encompass the aspirations of the entire Nepali diaspora in the USA. A victory for Bhandari would not only break glass ceilings but amplify Nepali voices on the national stage, sparking hope within a proud community.

Harry Bhandari, born in the village of Thapathana, Nepal, in 1977, carved a multifaceted path from the Himalayas to the halls of power in Maryland. After earning his postgraduate degree in English literature from Tribhuvan University, Bhandari embarked on a journey across the globe, arriving in the United States in 2005. Over the next decade, he built a life as an educator, teaching at various schools and community colleges in Baltimore. But Bhandari’s passions extended beyond the classroom. Inspired by Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, he dived into the world of Democratic politics, serving as secretary of the Young Democrats’ minority caucus and actively engaging in local issues.

In 2018, Bhandari made history by becoming the first Nepali American elected to a state legislature in the United States, winning a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates. Since then, he has served with distinction, focusing on crucial topics like education, healthcare, and environmental protection. Bhandari champions accessibility and affordability in education, advocating for conflict resolution classes in high schools and solar installations in school projects. He actively fights for responsible gun control laws, driven by the tragic shooting of Sagar Ghimire, a Nepali student. Bhandari is also a staunch advocate for affordable healthcare, supporting the establishment of the Prescription Drug Affordability Board.

Beyond policy, Bhandari is a vocal champion for his community. He played a pivotal role in Maryland recognizing Dashain, a major Nepalese festival, as a commemorative day, setting a precedent for inclusivity across the nation. This dedication to cultural understanding extends to his personal life, where he resides in Nottingham, Maryland, with his wife and two children, and continues to offer support to Nepali communities facing challenges.

Today, Bhandari sets his sights on a new horizon, running for Maryland’s 2nd congressional district in the 2024 election. His remarkable journey, from village schoolteacher to influential legislator, is a testament to his dedication to public service and his unwavering commitment to building a brighter future for all.