2017 is a banner year for South Asian Americans successfully seeking public office. Super lawyer and former Deputy Attorney General of Maryland Thiru Vignarajah is running to be the top prosecutor in America’s deadliest city, his hometown of Baltimore. Vignarajah has staked his candidacy on a pair of ambitious promises: bring Baltimore’s record murder rates to “record lows at record speed” and create the “most transparent, progressive prosecutor’s office in American history.” If elected, Vignarajah would make history and become the country’s first South Asian American state’s attorney.
Vignarajah, 40, is the son of Sri Lankan immigrants. His parents came to the United States with no jobs, squeezed the family into a cramped basement apartment in West Baltimore and spent winter weekends at the local library to keep warm. Like many first-generation South Asian Americans, Vignarajah inherited his parents’ reverence for education and retains a deep interest in the country’s public schools, a topic on which he teaches and writes frequently. Both his parents are retired Baltimore City high school teachers. Vignarajah’s father was the oldest teacher in Maryland when he retired this past summer at the age of 80. His mother earned her Ph.D. at 62, finishing her teaching career at Morgan State, one of Maryland’s historically black colleges.
Vignarajah’s sterling resume belies his humble roots. After college at Yale, Vignarajah held some of law’s most coveted positions: president of the Harvard Law Review—the same post held by Barack Obama at Harvard Law School, federal clerkships, including one for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, constitutional law professor, federal prosecutor, partner at a global law firm and Deputy Attorney General of Maryland.
Vignarajah’s track record fighting crime in Baltimore has earned him widespread praise. Detective Luis Delgado, a veteran Baltimore City homicide detective, called him “the best prosecutor the city has ever seen.” When Vignarajah was named Deputy Attorney General, the police commissioner described him as a “once-in-a-generation lawyer and leader.” He was selected by the Daily Record as VIP 40 under 40 in 2012, was named by Center Maryland as Lawyer of the Year in 2014 and was honored in 2015 by the US Attorney for Maryland for his prosecution of the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) gang in Baltimore. He has appeared on CNN to discuss First Amendment concerns relating to actions by the executive branch. Thiru has also received the student award for Outstanding Professor of the Year three years in a row at the University of Maryland School of Law.
Courtesy of forbes.com