The handsome 31-year-old son of Indian immigrants was named to The Hill newspaper's list of the "50 Most Beautiful People" on Capitol Hill in 2006. When he announced for the House of Delegates, he found himself warmly embraced by the progressive community of the D.C. area and the Netroots.
His website self-describes him as having had "A Career in Public Service, Fighting for Progressive Values." That may have come to an very abrupt end on Friday.
Sam Arora, under the watchful eyes of Maryland and the nation, voted no on the marriage equality bill in the Maryland House of Delegates.
What distinguishes Arora from other no voters is that Arora campaigned 2010 not only on the promise of voting yes, but even going so far as to promise to sponsor the bill.
And for a time, he delivered. He was among the introductory sponsors in 2011. But then something wonky happened. He quietly withdrew his sponsorship, and attempted to delete his tweets and other social media fingerprints. But, unfortunately, nothing really departs the internet forever:
Much of Arora's base of support was shocked as well. Hilary Rosen, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, and still a powerful D.C. lobbyist was quoted as having left on Arora's Facebook wall:
Knowing who you are, and being able to authentically share it with the public, is everything in a successful political career, Sam. You have lost your credibility before you even cast a vote. I think your career is over.Karl Frisch, described himself as friend and supporter of Arora:
In 2010, I had three friends running for state legislature -- one in Vermont and two in Maryland. I don’t typically donate much money directly to candidates but I was excited at the prospect of seeing my progressive friends elected to their respective state legislatures, so I chipped in what I could. In the end, two of my three friends were victorious.Frisch is syndicated columnist, Democratic strategist and progressive radio personality. He began a campaign to contact Arora's other donors, informing them of Arora's betrayal. He described the action as "Removing Sam Arora’s Knife From My Back."
Back in March, John Aravosis said "I hear his church got to him."
Arora promised to vote for marriage equality during the campaign, and even sponsored the bill. Now he's claiming privately that he never intended to vote for it at all. That he's a born-again and believes in the sanctity of marriage, blah blah blah.Later, under intense pressure and scrutiny Arora released a statement that hinted his vacillation was due to constituency pressure. He said he would vote in committee to send it to the floor, and then vote to let the people decide, an apparent allusion to a ballot referendum.
Arora voted in committee as he said, but the bill never made it to the floor. It was tabled in 2011 as advocates did not believe they had the votes for passage.
Friday when marriage equality finally did reach the floor of the Maryland House of Delegates, Arora voted no.
Arora has thus far made no explanation to the press, and his website has no news since Feb 13. Like any good, young politician, he has typically been very chatty on social media networks. But since the vote, there has been only silence. His Twitter account hasn't chirped since Feb. 13 and Facebook shows no signs of life since Feb. 14 (aside from the furious but futile attempt to delete angry messages from his Facebook wall). The statement in March is perhaps the only direct public communication Del. Arora has had with constituents on this issue. The story is big, and a man with Arora's political pedigree should recognize hiding under his desk will not make it go away.
What is particularly fascinating is Arora is reported to have been personally lobbied by Democratic Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, and even the big dog of Democratic politics and great persuader himself, President Bill Clinton.
The mind boggles at what kind of force was able to resist all this Democratic firepower? Arora chose to make some powerful, influential and very noisy enemies in the area and thumbed his nose at the governor, the former DNC chair and a former president. His powerful, former associates are unlikely to protect him now.
If he had religious objections, were they new? Has he experienced an epiphany since campaigning on this promise? Since co-sponsoring the bill in 2011?
A glance at Ballotpedia shows there are no rational electoral backlash concerns in District 19 of Maryland (at least not for voting in favor of it).
In the general election of 2010, three Democrats and two Republicans competed to fill the three delegate seats in that district. Of the 90,854 total votes cast, 67,563 went to Democratic candidates, 23,291 went to Republicans. (It becomes clearer how Republicans failed to recruit the third candidate to even fill the ballot line.) The second-place vote getter, Bonnie Cullison—an out lesbian—collected almost as many votes as both Republicans combined: 21,795. In short, anti-gay animus cannot be a significant influencing factor in District 19.
District 19 appears to be one of those areas where winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning the general election. Could Arora have won the primary in 2010 had he been upfront with the voters about his opposition to marriage equality? I guess we'll never know.
Now the internet meme has kicked off (see Tumblr blog, "Hey girls, Sam Arora") and the response on Facebook and Twitter has been fast and furious. Maryland Juice blog calls him a "national lightening rod" and has a wrap-up of the response and it has not been kind. There is also the obligatory Change petition calling on Arora to resign.
Kal Penn, a film (Harold and Kumar) and TV star (House), who served the Obama administration as an Asian-American liaison, was said to have personally reached out to Arora as well. After the vote, he tweeted a tacit condemnation which became the most frequently retweeted message to @Sam_Arora:
"I've already been asked by several high level national and Maryland Democratic operatives to join a call tonight to discuss strategies for sending Sam packing. We -- and by we, I mean many people who helped elect our former equality supporting friend -- will do whatever it takes. Nothing will be left off the table."A call went out to Jay Hutchins from Frisch:
Hutchins' 2010 Facebook page shows he appears to have run a credible and professional campaign. He acquired endorsements from an Hispanic democratic club, NARAL and wide variety of labor unions, teacher, trade and others.
And Hutchins has already answered the call and responded with a call of his own: