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Sikhs raise $7,000 for Singh campaign

Members of the Sikh community rallied behind Bellerose resident Swaranjit Singh Sunday evening, bolstering his City Council campaign coffers with $7,000 and another $5,000 in committed monies at a fund−raiser held at Richmond Hill’s Royal India Palace, a restaurant.

“We, the Sikhs, really have an opportunity to have a voice in government if Swaranjit Singh is elected,” said Floral Park resident Mandeep Singh, who in December raised $28,000 for the candidate running for City Councilman David Weprin’s (D−Hollis) seat representing the 23rd District.

Swaranjit Singh now has about $110,000 and expects to raise the $161,000 limit Council candidates are allowed to spend this year on their campaigns. As of the last filing date with the city Campaign Finance Board, Singh had raised $102,171 in the last six months, the largest amount in that period for any non−incumbent Council candidate in the city.

The candidate, a member of Community Board 13, has specific plans for those funds and soon plans to start handing out thousands of campaign items.

“We have 1,000 car stickers ready, 1,000 window stickers ready and 1,000 lawn signs ready,” he said. “A lot of people are asking me for signs to put on their lawns. There’s a lot of excitement.”

For Richmond Hill resident Balbir Kaur, that excitement stems from the fact that she and Swaranjit Singh have traveled extensively throughout the city to educate everyone from police officers to high school students about Sikhs, who have been targeted since Sept. 11, 2001, often because of the turbans they wear.

“He’s working so hard for the Sikh community,” Kaur said. “With him in office, we can get the platform to raise our voices about things like our kids facing racism in the schools.”

Swaranjit Singh cautioned those attending his fund−raiser Sunday night that he was not only out to help the Sikh community — who represent more than 34 percent of District 23 — but plans to advocate for all his potential constituents.

“I’m not running just for the Sikhs,” he told the 50 or so people at Sunday’s fund−raiser. “I’m running for the people of District 23, and that’s very important. Most of my money is coming from my community, but in the future I will be able to raise money from different communities.”

The 23rd Council District includes Bellerose, Glen Oaks, Floral Park, Queens Village and parts of Fresh Meadows, Bayside, Cambria Heights and Douglaston.

Fresh Meadows resident Autar Tinna, who has known Swaranjit Singh for 25 years, said he believes the candidate will be able to effectively communicate the needs of not just the Sikhs, but of a wide variety of people.

“I’ve seen him with Ecuadorians and Hondurans, with many different people, and he’s an inspiration to them all,” Tinna said.

Still, for those attending the fund−raiser, the prospect of seeing someone in a turban sitting on the Council is meaningful.

“He’s our Barack Obama,” Mandeep Singh said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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