Ashwin Ramaswami spent the last three years working for the federal government to protect elections from hackers. Now, he’s targeting what he says is a greater threat to democracy: his state senator.

Ramaswami, a 24-year-old Democrat, is challenging Georgia state Sen. Shawn Still, a Republican who was indicted last year alongside former President Donald Trump for allegedly trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election. That same year, Ramaswami started an internship with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), where he worked to build a program that helped local election officials protect their websites from malicious attacks.

Ramaswami, who was a student at Stanford University at the time but had moved home to Johns Creek, Georgia, because of the pandemic, continued his work as a paid, part-time employee with CISA while continuing his undergraduate studies and later attending law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. After Still was indicted, Ramaswami said he decided to quit that job and run for office.

“What I realized is cybersecurity is really important, and we need to continue doing it, but the biggest threat to our election security — it’s not just hackers hacking into our systems. It’s politicians falsely claiming that the election is rigged when it’s not,” Ramaswami said in an interview.

Two years before being elected to the state Senate, Still signed a certificate claiming to be a “duly elected and qualified” presidential elector in Georgia on behalf of then-President Trump, even though Trump had lost the state in the 2020 election. Still, who also reportedly served as the secretary for the meeting of fake electors, was indicted last year on seven charges, including a racketeering charge. He has pleaded not guilty.

Democrats are hopeful the suburban Atlanta district is competitive in part due to its fast-growing Asian community, though Still won it by 13 points in 2022.

Ramaswami, who will be the legally required age of 25 by November’s general election, said he believes he’d be the youngest Indian American legislator in the U.S. and the youngest senator in Georgia’s Legislature next year if elected. He lives with his parents in Johns Creek and is still finishing up his law school studies while running his campaign. He plans to delay the bar a year until after the race is over.

“It’s what Chuck Schumer did,” Ramaswami wrote in a text, referring to the U.S. Senate majority leader and including a 26-year-old New York Times article as proof.

Ramaswami’s campaign has raised $185,000 so far, including $50,000 from his own pocket. He is touting his youth and computer science background as assets that would make him a unique member of the Legislature.

His age also helped him earn the endorsement of Leaders We Deserve, a PAC backing young progressive candidates that was co-founded by Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg and Kevin Lata, the campaign manager for the first Gen Z member of Congress, Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla.

“We thought it was just that he was a great candidate with an amazing story,” Hogg told NBC News.

As the only Democratic candidate on the primary ballot, Ramaswami is already turning his focus to the general election. He launched a digital video on Wednesday introducing himself as a Gen Z engineer and accusing Still of trying to steal Georgians’ votes.

“We have too much work to do to be distracted by these election deniers and partisan extremists standing in the way of all the progress we could be making,” he said in the video.

In an email, Still disagreed that he is extreme and touted his efforts to lower taxes and enact school choice in his first term.

“Every bill I have sponsored or co-authored has had bi-partisan support. I do not have a divisive platform, and I have served the people of north Fulton, south Forsyth and NW Gwinnett by promoting a pro-business, pro-family, pro-education platform that earned recognition as the Georgia Chamber Freshman Legislator of the Year,” Still wrote.

Booking photo of Shawn Still released on Aug. 25, 2023.
The booking photo of Shawn Still released on Aug. 25, 2023. Fulton County Sheriff’s Office

He continued: “My message to voters is this: Experience matters. I’ve signed the front and back of paychecks, I know what it is to grow businesses, to be a parent, to be a leader in my community and industry, and I have given back tirelessly to my community [for] 25 years.”

Ramaswami said he believes he can better represent his district’s growing Asian population. He is a second-generation immigrant who grew up in a South Indian Tamil family and spent time in his town’s Indian community centers, temples and Hindu Sunday schools.

Still did not respond to questions about how his policies cater to the Asian community in his district, the largest ethnic group there after white people. Between 2010 and 2022, the population of Asians in the 48th Senate District jumped from 16% to 28%.

“I was born and grew up here, and I know how the policies of the past few years and decades have not served people like me,” Ramaswami said. “Shawn Still shows up to a lot of Indian American events. On his website, he has a big picture of him with a bunch of Indian aunties and uncles saying, ‘Hey, I support the Indian community.’ … But in terms of the actual policies, he’s not serving our priorities at all.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *