It has become increasingly difficult to travel a block in California's 17th Congressional district without noticing the numerous blue and orange "Ro Khanna for Congress" yard signs planted in the lawns of neighbors. While still relatively unknown on the national political scene, Ro Khanna rose to prominence after challenging Representative Mike Honda, a seven-term incumbent, for his seat in the House of Representatives in one of the most heated congressional elections of the year.
Early last spring, Khanna, a 38 year-old Stanford professor of economics, intellectual property attorney and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce under President Obama, announced his candidacy for the seat which has been occupied by Rep. Honda for the past 14 years. The district which spans from Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Fremont, Santa Clara and parts of San Jose, covers the heart of Silicon Valley. And with his unique, dynamic platform, Khanna has landed himself the support of some of the Valley's most prominent figures including Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg, Google's Eric Schmidt, as well as California's Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and every single local newspaper in the district.
And for good reason.
Khanna's innovative Silicon Valley style solutions to some of the biggest problems of our time including education, the environment, jobs and the economy and congressional reform are not only necessary in order to fix these problems with a lasting infrastructure, but also vital to improving the state of our politics as a whole. For example, Khanna has developed a sophisticated and concise plan to improve the education system within the district by incorporating a STEM education in the classroom for students, allocating more funding for public schools and holding teachers accountable for their effectiveness. These kinds of contemporary solutions to our education system would allow our students to have more opportunities within the classroom to learn valuable skills which they can apply outside, and be guided by passionate and effective educators. Moreover, amidst a political world dominated by special interest groups, Khanna's team has refused to take a single penny from Political Action Committees and corporate lobbyists. Rather, they have relied on personal, grassroots donations of $50 or less, in contrast to Rep. Honda who has received over 93 percent of his funding from outside the district. This action allows Khanna to be free of political quid pro quo which has far too often stood in the way of progress within this Congress. It is this kind of action-driven leadership and fresh ideas which we desperately need in a defective Congress dominated by large lobbying groups and broken, antiquated ideas.
Furthermore, over the last year Khanna has developed his secret weapon, an army of sorts, which he utilizes in order to gather votes and spread grassroots support all over the district. His campaign has composed a group of volunteers as part for their fellowship program which includes over 150 local middle and high school students. The teenage volunteers go knocking on doors throughout different neighborhoods in the district advocating for Ro and his policies from the perspective of a student, make phone calls to prospective voters of all parties and spread the word about the campaign through their peers in school, gathering more and more volunteers. And Khanna regularly joins with them, following his pledge to the volunteers to knock on as many doors and make as many phone calls as the fellow who does the most per week, truly distinguishing him as a special kind of politician who uniquely cares about the people he desires to serve. This unique opportunity is highly valued by both the teenage volunteers and the older constituents of the district as it allows young, passionate youth to get involved into the political process right in their own community. This kind of opportunity for young people to be active in politics has never been seen or done before throughout the country, revealing just one aspect of Khanna's truly innovative ideas for the future of the 17th district with his constituents in mind.
Khanna may have growing support amongst all demographics in the district, refuse corporate and special interest money, inspire a coalition of youth to rally for his cause or propose new, unique solutions made to match the problems of our time. However, the greatest reason California's 17th district fiercely needs to elect Khanna this November is to re-energize our founding principles, and elect leaders who can restore a sense of trust in our government. Leaders who lead by example. Leaders who listen to their constituents and respond to their concerns, rather than those of corporations, and act with transparency. Leaders who approach policy with people in mind, as opposed to special interests, and are unafraid to propose new ideas regardless of the political cost. And most importantly, leaders who through all this fill us with a sense of hope and possibility for the future of our greatly divided politics, an idea which has been terribly frayed. This is why electing Ro Khanna in November, and leaders like him, is necessary for our future, and the future of this nation.