Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
What a year in US politics. The stakes are incredibly high on November 8th, 2016. Who will be the next president? Will Republicans hold on to the Senate? Plenty of drama to watch out for. To that, we can possibly add an exceptionally rare event for the Indian-American community as well.
We might witness history being made on Tuesday in the 17th District of California, where Indian-American candidate Ro Khanna is challenging longtime incumbent Mike Honda for the Congressional seat for the second cycle in a row. The 39 year old Khanna is definitely one to watch. He is an author, taught Econ at Stanford, and also worked as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Commerce during the Obama administration. It’s appropriate that this tech-savvy Democrat would be the champion for science and technology that Silicon Valley- and the nation- need.
We hope you learn some new things about Khanna through an interview he granted to usindiamonitor this weekend. If you are interested in more, visit his campaign page.
1) First of all, thank you for agreeing to conduct an interview with usindiamonitor. I’ve followed your campaign with interest. How would you describe the experience of running for Congress so far and its impact on your life?
It’s been amazing, and the best part has to be meeting the voters in our district. I make it a point to get out and knock on doors of the neighborhoods in our district at least twice a week, and over the course of the last two years, I’ve gotten to know some incredibly dynamic, resilient, and kind-hearted people.
2) What did you learn from running before that is helping you this time around?
I’ve been working with some brilliant community leaders on local initiatives. This includes helping San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on new manufacturing initiatives, fighting with the Santa Clara City Council to ask the 49ers to pay their fair share for parks and soccer fields around Levi’s, and working with Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves on fixing the Newby Landfill odor issue.
And most importantly, I’m married this time! I can’t emphasize how grateful I am to have a backbone that can anchor me through the ups and downs of a race.
3) Congratulations for that. Any advice for other people out there who are interested in running for political office?
Find out problems you care about. Start with the issues and then develop an understanding of how to solve them. Along the way, you’ll meet local leaders and if you’re eager, and driven to do good work, you’ll find the right opportunity to make an impact within the public sector.
4) What would be your priority on Day One in Congress?
Making sure I help provide the background for an economy that works for everyone. I’m determined to provide more economic opportunity and ensure that the benefits of a technology driven economy flow to everyone.
5) What is California District 17 like? Most of us don’t live in a district with such a high percentage of Asian-Americans.
It’s the future of what America will look like — an amalgam of several cultures that blend into a stronger, better whole. You don’t have to think twice about your identity — you’re comfortable in your skin, no matter what creed or ethnicity you come from. As an Indian-American of Hindu origin, this fact is not lost on me.
6) The incumbent Rep. Mike Honda appears to be a liberal Asian-American. What separates you from him as his challenger?
First, it’s a philosophy of what politics should be. I believe in getting rid of PAC and lobbyist influence on our politics; I want to provide a more transparent system that respects the voters that have elected me. Congressman Honda has been a decent man, but he is part of a broken politics; he was indicted by a bipartisan ethics panel on a bipartisan, 6-0, basis for using taxpayer money to fund political activities. This is exactly the kind of politics that gets our voters jaded and cynical.
Second, I believe I’ve got the understanding of how to make a technology driven economy work for everyone. I’ve served under President Obama in the Commerce Department and written a book on how to bring high-tech manufacturing jobs back to America. I’ve got a real passion for this work; I like getting into the details, and I want to work to make this a reality. I think when we evaluate who will be better prepared to build a 21st century economy that works for everyone, my credentials make me uniquely qualified.
7) Your platform is admirable and impressive. Describe how you would plan to implement these reforms after winning the election, such as infrastructure investment and immigration reform, keeping in mind Congressional gridlock.
This is challenging and I’m not naive to the structures that are at play. The reality is that I can’t fight the influence that the NRA or corporate PACs have. But, I can lead by example. By refusing donations from any special interest groups, I’m able to analyze problems that face our country and work on solutions that’ll work for us.
I intend to hold regular town halls with my constituents — several every year, addressing every issue on their minds. I want to bring an energy of transparency and thoughtfulness to this district.
8) Many of us are interested in your thoughts on US-India relations. Is the relationship on the right track? Do you plan to become involved in this area?
9) Finally, please tell us one thing that nobody out there knows about you.
I’m a big movie buff. During the holidays, when I’ve got down time, I go through two to three movies a day!
Thank you and good luck to the Ro Khanna for Congress team on Tuesday. Thanks to Tarun Galagali for helping to set up the interview.