After years spent working in civil service, College Grove Democrat Kiran Sreepada wants to apply some of the same commonsense principles he learned in nonpartisan environments to Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District.
Sreepada, 39, is running against Rep. Mark Green (R-Clarksville), who was elected in 2018.
Originally from upstate New York, Sreepada attended SUNY Albany and received his undergraduate degree in political science and economics.
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Out of college, he worked in banking. He transitioned to teaching test prep in the United States and abroad for the Princeton Review, later returning to school to earn his master’s in global policy studies from the University of Texas at Austin.
Since then, he has worked in civil service, “at pretty much every federal agency there is,” he said, including the Government Accountability Office then in public sector consulting. Currently, Sreepada is pursuing his PhD in international security and economic policy at the University of Maryland.
The government shutdown in the winter of 2018-2019 provided Sreepada’s motivation to run for office.
“All the civil servants show up, do their job and check their personal and political opinions at the door,” Sreepada said.
With all the nonpartisan work these agencies engage in, the congressional gridlock frustrated him. He said the rhetoric of his opponent felt unhelpful.
“Your job is to represent the people who elected you, not to be a spokesperson for the president,” he said.
Sreepada’s platform is based on expanding opportunities to all throughout the state.
He would like to expand healthcare, including increasing access to insurance and hospitals. He cited the high rate of hospital closures in Tennessee. In the past decade, the state has seen 14 hospitals close, the second highest rate in the nation. This includes two hospital closures in 2020.
Sreepada’s wife is an intensive care unit physician, so her experience dealing with COVID-19 patients has played into his consideration of healthcare expansion.
He also wants to place an emphasis on physical infrastructure like roads, bridges and tunnels, focusing specifically on updating broadband internet grids in rural parts of the district.
“Half the district doesn’t have reliable access to broadband connections,” he said, making it difficult for everyone to have access to telemedicine or remote learning opportunities in 2020.
A parent to two young children, Sreepada also wants to advocate for public education, calling it “the great equalizer.” This interest includes better pay for teachers and more equal opportunities for all students.
How does Sreepada see himself convincing voters in a traditionally red state to elect him?
“We win by talking, we win by listening, we win by reaching out,” he said. “There is a great slogan, ‘Tennessee is not a red state, it’s a nonvoting state.’”
Despite being the underdog, he wants to offer voters another option.
“You may look at me and label me whatever you want because I’m on the Democratic party ticket, but I was trained by Republicans,” he said. “I’m coming at this from a perspective of responsible policy. You won’t agree with me 100% of the time, but you will always have my ear.”