Northern Virginia business consultant Puneet Ahluwalia has owned and managed several businesses alongside his wife, Nadia. He’s running on the Republican ticket for lieutenant governor with goals to help business owners across Virginia find similar success.

As lieutenant governor, Ahluwalia said he plans to champion pro-business legislation to “tie the success of Northern Virginia with the rest of Virginia.”

“I’ve managed successfully a mortgage company — which we have 180 employees — and the financial meltdown of 2007-8, which was over-regulation under-regulation, killed my business, but I was still able to rebuild my businesses through sheer hard work, faith and strong family support,” Ahluwalia said. “I feel if I can do it, so can everybody else after this pandemic.”

When it comes to business legislation, Ahluwalia wants regulations coming out of Richmond to be the “bare minimum.”

He pointed to the general assembly’s recent move to raise the minimum wage across Virginia (first from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour, effective May 1, 2021) as an example of over-regulation that he would advocate against if elected.

“The government is there to help to facilitate and make sure the business is done in an orderly fashion, but not to mandate and regulate when to open, what time to close, what to sell and what price to sell [and] at what profit margin,” Ahluwalia said.

Ahluwalia, originally from India, said his story is “a true example of the American Dream.” He currently works as a consultant at the Livingston Group — a government lobbying firm — and is a managing partner at New World Strategies, a business development firm.

Alongside his full time jobs, Ahluwalia has participated in grassroots advocacy for the Virginia Republican party for nearly 20 years. He founded and now chairs the Proud American Political Action Committee, which aims to elect conservative candidates in Virginia.

Achieving the “American Dream” is something Ahluwalia hopes to prioritize in education. As lieutenant governor, he would advocate for an expansion of homeschooling and the creation of charter schools.

On public school curriculum, Ahluwalia wants to see greater focus on vocational education that prepares students for workforce participation, as well as minimal emphasis on standardized testing.

“We should help to sharpen and direct our kids to be able to truly unveil their strong developed abilities which they have or the God-given gifts they have,” Ahluwalia said.

He is firmly opposed to critical race theory, which he said “doesn’t help our kids to become scientists, teachers, professors, physicians.”

Critical race theory examines the impact of systemic racism in contemporary society and has become a topic of debate among conservatives in recent years.

Also Ahluwalia’s platform is job creation in Virginia. His plans to create jobs range from supporting lower taxes on businesses to expanding broadband in rural Virginia.

Inadequate access to WiFi in rural areas encourages job seekers to leave small towns in favor of bigger cities, Ahluwalia said. He noted that ensuring that all state residents have access to the Internet (and in turn, teleworking platforms like Zoom) can keep people both employed and at home with family.

“Let’s find ways to get back to each other and build a strong family,” Ahluwalia said.

As a business person, Ahluwalia said he wants to put his resources where they’re needed, and he foresees serving as lieutenant governor with the same outlook. Investing in mental health support is among his priorities, as Ahluwalia sees a growing mental health crisis in Virginia.

One of the lieutenant governor’s responsibilities is casting tie-breaking votes in the state Senate, and Ahluwalia envisions himself being the tie-breaking vote on an array of conservative issues, namely on legislation regarding education, taxes, business, guns and abortion access. Ahluwalia characterized the legislation that he favors as “conservative, commonsensical issues that will help all Virginians.”

In supporting those “commonsensical issues,” Ahluwalia believes his background in both business and advocacy sectors prepares him to unite communities across the state and get across his agenda.

“My goal is to be a strong coalition partner who’s working to help all Virginians,” Ahluwalia said. “I also want to be that litigator who helps to talk to various communities.”

To strengthen Republican leadership, Ahluwalia plans to expand local GOP chapters to bring more people into the political process. He noted as a success that his campaign has seen high numbers of Asian Americans volunteer as delegates for the May 8 hybrid convention.

Ahluwalia added that he has seen a divide growing among state residents prompted by media and Democratic control of state offices. The division is one that he aims to rectify as lieutenant governor.

“You need somebody who can walk across the aisle and talk about issues,” Ahluwalia said.

He says that his perspective as an immigrant, business person and parent is what has prepared him to expand the Republican party’s reach in the state.

“I am the person from Northern Virginia who is the first generation of the changing demographics of Northern Virginia, Richmond area and Virginia Beach,” Ahluwalia said. “I have a huge sense of understanding of various issues that impact these communities, and we have not been able to raise that, and that’s what I’m bringing to the table. I’m adding to it.”

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Ali Sullivan is a graduate of the University of Virginia. She received a B.A. in Media Studies and Government in 2020.