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US election: 'Ro' Khanna hopes he is second-time lucky

November 06, 2016 14:06 IST

Backed by top IT companies of the Silicon Valley, Indian-American Rohit "Ro" Khanna hopes to get second-time lucky in his effort to enter the US House of Representatives against Democratic Party's sitting lawmaker.

A Yale law graduate and a former official of the Obama administration, Khanna, 40, is pitted against his own party's Mike Honda to represent the 17th Congressional district of California, whose residents stretch from Tesla Motors factory in Fremont to Apple's headquarters in Cupertino—taking in Intel, Yahoo, and eBay along the way.

In the primaries, early this summer, Khanna received more votes than eight-term incumbent Honda. California electoral system allows the top two winners of the primaries to proceed to the general polls, even if they are from the same party.

Khanna narrowly lost to Honda in 2014 Congressional polls.

"From what I hear a lot of internal polling shows that he is six-eight points ahead," M R Rangaswami, a Silicon Valley investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist said.

But based on his experience, he is not taking for granted and is campaigning hard in his constituency.

"He would be a fantastic face to the Silicon Valley," said Rangaswami, a leading Indian-American figure in the Valley.

Rangaswami said having Khanna represent California would be one of the best things for Indian-Americans, who have a quarter-million presence in the Valley.

"He is going to be a go-to guy, because he is a person who really understands technologies. He is going to be fantastic," he said.

Among others, Khanna has been endorsed by former president Jimmy Carter, California Lt Governor Gavin Newsom and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Khanna's commitment to public service was inspired by his grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar, who told him stories about his participation in Mahatma Gandhi's Indian independence movement and spending years in jail to promote human rights.

"He was my early inspiration," Khanna said in an interview.

He became involved in politics while attending the University of Chicago, where he worked on the campaign of the then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama.

Khanna was born in 1976 in Philadelphia to parents who migrated from India. He also interned for Jack Quinn when Quinn served as the Chief of Staff for Vice President Al Gore.

The San Francisco Chronicle has identified the 17th Congressional District as one of the top three most important races outside of the presidential race.

Like 2014 elections, local media is predicting a close race in this Congressional district.

"Six weeks ago I would have picked a free and clear victory for Khanna. But now I'm not so sure," said Larry Gerston, professor emeritus of political science at San Jose State.

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