One of the most-watched congressional races on Super Tuesday evening March 3 ended with Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat, being pitted against Republican Indian American businessman Ritesh Tandon for California’s Congressional District 17 seat, in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Khanna, who is seeking his third term in the House, and Tandon will now move on to the general election, to be held Nov. 3. According to March 4 results from the California Secretary of State’s Office, Khanna amassed 46,657 votes — slightly more than 65 percent. Tandon earned 17,337 votes, or 24.2 percent. Democratic challenger Stephen Forbes received 8.4 percent of the vote, while Libertarian Joe Dehn got 2.4 percent.
“We had a bigger win than we did in the primary of 2016 or 2018,” Khanna told India-West March 4. “I am humbled by the support and believe voters responded to my pluralistic vision for the district and country,” he said.
Khanna received criticism from some segments of the Indian American community last summer after announcing he had joined the Pakistani American Congressional Caucus. The Hindu American Foundation asked Khanna to step down from the Caucus. The congressman defended his membership in the Caucus, telling India-West last year: “I believe we need peace in the region and need to have a dialogue with all of the stakeholders.”
In the interview following his primary victory, Khanna told India-West: “I would say that almost 80 percent of Indian Americans still voted for me. The voters overwhelmingly supported a more inclusive vision.”
He characterized his opponent as “the weakest candidate I have ever faced in my career.”
An India-West search of Khanna's FEC reports revealed that his campaign contributors – as in past years – include heavyweight venture capitalists John Doerr, Drew Perkins, Kavitark 'Ram' Shriram, MR Rangaswami, Deepak Raj, and Kanwal and Ann Rekhi, among others.
Khanna's large donors also include Netflix founder Reid Hoffmann, Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs; Asha Jadeja, the widow of Rajeev Motwani, an early supporter of Google and Paypal; and former California state Controller and venture capitalist Steve Westly, among others.
Khanna has amassed more than $2.5 million for his re-election bid, according to his Federal Election Commission report.
Tandon has raised about $30,000: one of his three donors who gave the maximum allowable contribution of $2,800 is physician Mihir Meghani, board member and co-founder of HAF.
Meghani also contributed to Khanna's campaign on April 22, 2019.
Tandon told India-West he had expected to get more than a third of the vote, or 35 percent. “This was a little bit lower than I expected, but we need to work harder.”
The challenger said he now has 300 volunteers working at the grassroots level who will overcome his lack of funding. “Money cannot buy votes,” said Tandon, who is running from outside his home district.
He criticized the incumbent for his plan to raise corporate taxes from 21 percent to 36 percent, which he said will result in a decrease in corporations remaining in America, in turn depressing employment, wages, and innovation. Tandon alleged Khanna was promoting presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ “socialist vision” in the House. Khanna serves as national co-chair on the Sanders campaign.
In Sacramento, Democrat Rep. Ami Bera, who is seeking his fifth term in the House, won the primary, receiving 40,614 votes, more than 45 percent. He will be challenged in the general election by Republican Buzz Patterson, who received almost 34,000 votes, just under 38 percent.
Bera, a physician, was the first Indian American to win a House seat in California after Dalip Singh Saund in the 1950s. “I think I’ve served the 7th Congressional District with distinction these last eight years,” the incumbent told local television station KCRA 3.
“We've helped over 10,000 constituents get millions of dollars of benefits that they were owed, and sometimes navigating the federal government is difficult,” he said.
Patterson is a former Air Force pilot who served for over two decades in the military. According to his responses on ballotpedia, the candidate supports securing U.S. borders, building a stronger military and supporting homeless veterans. He also proposes cutting taxes, controlling government spending and giving small businesses the tools to create jobs.
In Northern California’s East Bay area, Republican Nisha Sharma successfully challenged the three-time incumbent, Democrat Mark DeSaulnier, receiving almost 25 percent of the vote to take her bid to the November general election.
DeSaulnier swept the race, amassing 78,976 votes — 68.5 percent. Sharma had originally explored running from CD 15, which is represented by Rep. Eric Swallwell, a Democrat. She has raised more than $57,000 to fund her race.
On her campaign’s Web site, Sharma said she is concerned about the spiraling cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area; the region’s crumbling infrastructure, including its public transport; and the rising population of homeless people.
On the Northern California Peninsula, Democrat Rishi Kumar eked out a razor thin victory over Republican Richard Fox, and will now challenge Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who has been serving in Congress since 1993. Eshoo, who represents portions of the Silicon Valley, has been a strong advocate for business immigration; most recently, she and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat who also represents portions of the Silicon Valley, introduced a bill to save work authorization for H-4 visa holders.
Kumar, who works in the information technology industry and served on the Saratoga, California city council, told India-West last year: “Contrary to status quo politicians, I will deliver a real-world perspective from Silicon Valley.”
In San Francisco, Pakistani American Shahid Buttar, a Democrat who is challenging fellow Democrat and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also advanced to the general election. Buttar beat out four other challengers and received 15,645 votes, about 12.7 percent, according to the California Secretary of State’s office. Pelosi received 89,460 votes, 72.5 percent.
Buttar, who is challenging Pelosi a second time, told India-West March 4: “We’ve raised more resources than anyone who previously ran against Pelosi.”
Buttar has raised more than $488,000, according to his FEC report, and has about 700 volunteers. “There is a profound threat to human rights evolving in Washington, DC with Pelosi’s support. She has emboldened a criminal president,” the candidate told India-West.
Buttar was critical of the impeachment process, noting that Trump could have been convicted by the Senate if the charges against him had invoked the emoluments clause, questioning whether he had benefited from foreign governments and business interests while in office.
Pelosi has raised more than $5 million to fund her re-election bid.
In Southern California, perennial politician Peter Mathews lost his bid for the Congressional District 47 seat, coming in fourth with 10 percent of the vote in the six-person race.
California uses a top-two primary system, in which all candidates appear on the same ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, move on to the general election.