A veteran of local politics having served in Saratoga, California, as a city councilman since 2014, Indian American Rishi Kumar is shifting gears, with an eye aimed squarely at the federal government.
Kumar has launched his campaign for the 18th Congressional District seat, running as a Democrat against Democratic incumbent Anna Eshoo, who has served in the seat since 1993.
Kumar says that Silicon Valley deserves leadership with a substantive plan, a strong citizen-centric vision, and a strong grasp of our innovation agenda.
“That is why I am running for United States Congress. I am not a career politician, but a Silicon Valley tech executive, an engineer by education,” Kumar told India-West. “Contrary to status quo politicians, I will deliver a real-world perspective from Silicon Valley as an elected leader,” he said.
The congressional candidate added that those promises are exactly what he focused on as a councilmember of Saratoga, where he worked on solving tough challenges and delivering results, just like his business does in the world of hi-tech.
“As an elected leader, I brought citizen-centric values, focused upon the interest of our residents and community,” he noted.
The candidate explained how, during his council days – which run through 2022, unless elected – he mobilized the community to push back against many rate increase proposals by its water utility company, the only Saratoga city council member to do so.
“With the community’s support, we reduced, rejected and suspended six rate increase proposals,” he told India-West. “I was told that ‘Rishi, we don’t have jurisdiction over our utility company, CPUC does. We cannot influence these rate increases proposals.’ But, I believe in innovating and exploring options to address the top challenges of my community.”
Last year, during his re-election run for the council, he received the most votes in Saratoga’s election history.
“This experience led me to realize that in Washington, we see so much dysfunction because there is a general unwillingness to challenge the powerful institutions of our society,” he stressed. “The special interest groups have exerted their influence upon the agenda of the American people and our people’s voice is not heard. Additionally, as evidenced by the (Facebook CEO Mark) Zuckerburg and (Google CEO Sundar) Pichai congressional hearings, Congress is woefully unaware of the intricacies of the tech economy which is so vital for our success here in Silicon Valley, but also for America’s economy and the rest of the world.”
Kumar told India-West that he believes “special Silicon Valley pixie dust” and “special innovation secret sauce” can jump start the economy in every part of the United States.
“I am excited to be the one to make it happen facilitated by a deep understanding of the needs of Silicon Valley, the challenges that our nation will face, to better equip American and Silicon Valley’s workforce for jobs of the future, and more importantly to get things done,” he asserted.
When asked why he is jumping right from a local seat to a federal post, Kumar said that “Silicon Valley must lead the charge with its cutting-edge technology and prepare the next generation to succeed in a 21st century economy.”
“The very future of American success and prosperity is at stake. The stakes are too high to fall behind. America cannot wait,” he told India-West.
Kumar has a master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Connecticut and has resided in Silicon Valley for nearly 20 years. He is the vice president of software analytics and vertical business at Solix Technologies.
Additionally, Kumar is an executive board member and delegate of the California Democratic Party, and a member of the California Computer Science Strategic Implementation Panel, and of the U.C. Regents Selection Governor’s Panel.
He has a focus on water issues in the 18th Congressional District as well as ways to make homes and neighborhoods safer.
“My role as a United States congressman will give me the opportunity to impact communities across California and the United States with a system that delivers Silicon Valley’s innovation prowess, much needed and wanted,” he added. “We need leaders who understand innovation and have the energy and the special Silicon Valley drive to succeed and make it better.”
Kumar says he is tired of seeing career politicians who don’t understand Silicon Valley’s innovation economy.
“My professional experience is in Silicon Valley’s software industry as a business and technology leader. I understand what it takes for Silicon Valley innovation to succeed and the gains to spread to our middle class and working-class families,” he notes. “I understand the need to innovate and invest in new technologies like block chain and machine learning.”
And in a political climate that has perceived dysfunction and questionable results, Kumar stressed that he has “fought to hold powerful institutions accountable. I fight for the people, to alleviate their angst for a better tomorrow. Simply put, I seek to get things done to better the lives of all those in our community.”
Other issues Kumar will focus on include a push for healthcare reform; he will address the Bay Area’s quality of life issues such as rising crime, fire safety, the growing traffic congestion and the housing crisis; climate change; promoting and creating jobs in a clean-tech economy; and he will work to remove the big money influence on American politics.
Another strong focus of Kumar’s campaign is visas, notably the H-1B and H-4 visa programs.
“I believe that immigrants are vital for the continued growth and prosperity of our Silicon Valley community. We definitely need to prioritize high-skilled immigrants who can be the most productive in our society, offer innovative ideas and ensure that America holds its spot as the country that sets the bar on innovation,” he told India-West.
“Technology here powers the economy of the rest of the world and we have to ensure we continue innovating. Thus, I believe that H-1B visa programs ought to be bolstered,” he said.
The candidate has already been endorsed by dozens of individuals, including political seat holders, tech heads, innovators and community leaders. Among those backing Kumar for his bid include former Saratoga Mayor Stan Bogosian, current Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, Nutanix founder Ajeet Singh, BioMarker CEO Xi Zhao-Wilson, and Cohesity founder and CEO Mohit Aron.
The primary election in California is set for March 3, 2020.