Indian-American is Silicon Valley’s million-dollar bet

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • |
  • Updated: Jul 12, 2013 02:33 IST

Ro Khanna is not just running for US Congress, he is sprinting. His campaign announced on Wednesday it had raised over $1 million in the quarter ending June, a record of sorts.

Khanna is contesting for the House of Representatives from California’s District 17, home to Silicon Valley, which appears to have put its money on him.

Contributors include Yahoo CEO Marisa Mayer, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, angel investor Ron Conway and Flipboard founder Mike McCue.

It’s a record for a first-time House race challenger to raise $1 million in a quarter without dipping into personal wealth.

This support, Khanna said, was an indication that his voters were frustrated with Congress and “they agree we need to bring Silicon Valley thinking to Washington”.

Ro — short for Rohit — is a first generation Indian-American and is running against Mike Honda, a Japanese-American who is a 12-year veteran of the House of Representatives.

They are both Democrats.

At 72, Honda is seen as an elderly — and likeable —establishment candidate, while Khanna, who is 37, is considered by some as an ambitious young man who couldn’t wait for his turn.

Like a little known senator who beat the Democratic Party’s establishment candidate Hillary Clinton for the party ticket in 2008, and went on to win the White House.

Some of the men and women from that historic campaign, which went on to recreate the magic in 2012, are with Khanna now, making his campaign the most closely followed in the country.

Steven Spinner, one of Obama’s top fundraisers, is Khanna’s campaign chairman and the president’s national field director Jeremy Bird is his chief strategist.

He has been called “Silicon Valley’s Wannabe Obama”.

But President Obama is not supporting Khanna. He has endorsed Honda, like other Democratic Party leaders vice-president Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.

Honda has been feverishly collecting endorsements so far ahead of elections — a year and half from now in 2016 — that he is seen panicking, not a happy sign for a senior legislator.

The Khanna campaign, predictably, is not rattled by what they say are “pro forma endorsements” from mostly people who really are not District 17 voters.

This is a pre-dominantly Asian American seat, with a large population of South Asians, who, the Khanna campaign believes, haven’t found adequate representation yet.


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