WASHINGTON (TIP): Two Indian- American political rookies in California chalked up modest victories in nationwide primary elections on Tuesday for a long-shot challenge at established veterans in mid-term polls slated for November. In one of the most watched races nationally, Democrat Ro Khanna came a distant second to fellow Democrat Mike Honda in California’s 17th district, polling only about 25% votes to Honda’s 50%.
But the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, qualify for the November poll, so there will be another face-off for the House of Representatives seat that Honda has won some half dozen times. Another Indian- American, Republican Vanila Singh, a professor at Stanford Medical Center, came third with 16.2% votes. In another race that has attracted nationwide interest, Indian-American Neel Kashkari, a former Treasury official and a moderate Republican, defeated a Tea Party favorite Tim Donelly in the primaries for the governorship of California to earn the right to challenge the incumbent three-term governor Jerry Brown in the general election in November.
Brown, a Democrat seeking a fourth term, took 55% of the votes to run out an easy winner, with Kashkari a distant second with 18 per cent votes, and Donelly polling 15%. Both Kashkari and Khanna are long shots to displace the incumbents. The Japanese- American Honda, 72, is a political veteran endorsed by the party old guard, including President Barack Obama, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and the state’s two Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Khanna, 37, has strong support from the tech community in a Congressional district that includes the heart of the Silicon Valley, including endorsements from Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Which is how Khanna has outraised and outspent Honda in one of the costliest Congressional primaries in the country, but he would still need to bridge the nearly 25% gap if he is to oust the labor union-backed incumbent. Kashkari has an even slimmer chance against Jerry Brown, who was one of California’s youngest governors when he was elected for the first time in 1975, and also the oldest governor when he re-elected in 2010 with a 28-year gap between his second and third terms.
His father Pat Brown was also a two-term California governor in the 1960s. Although Kashkari is a moderate Republican, registered Republicans account for only 28.5% of California’s voters, compared with the Democrats’ 43.5%. Both races were marked by snide, raciallytinged attacks. Tea Party’s Donelly accused Kashkari of ties to Islamic fundamentalism all because he once participated in a Treasury department conference about Islamic Finance.
Khanna, in a thinly disguised reference to his Indian origin, was attacked in campaign mailers over the possibility that he would outsource jobs if he won. Another Indian-American candidate, sitting Democratic Congressman Ami Bera of California’s 7th district, has a more realistic chance of winning a second term after a comfortable victory in the primaries. Some other Indian-American candidates, including Upendra Chivukula in New Jersey and Swati Dandekar in Iowa, failed to make the cut.