Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
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November 8, 2016 — California General Election
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United States

U.S. House of RepresentativesCandidate for District 17

Photo of Ro Khanna

Ro Khanna

Educator/Economics Author
142,268 votes (61%)Winning
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Make college affordable and debt free, and increase spots for CA students in the UC system
  • Increase funding for public schools, and bring more technology/innovative teaching tools into the classroom
  • Revitalize the middle class by bringing back manufacturing jobs from overseas and defending unions



Profession:Economics Lecturer, Author, Former Obama Administration Official
Visiting Lecturer, Stanford University (2012–current)
Vice President, Smart Utility Systems (2015–current)
Counsel, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (2011–2014)
Deputy Assistant Secretary, United States Department of Commerce — Appointed position (2009–2011)


Yale Law School J.D., Law (2001)
University of Chicago B.A., Economics (1998)

Community Activities

Board Member, Faith in Action (2013–current)
Board Member, City of San Jose Manufacturing Initiative (2015–current)


Like so many families in our area, Ro's parents immigrated to the United States—coming from India to seek opportunity and a better life for their children. Ro was born in Philadelphia in 1976, and learned the value of education and hard work from his parents. Ro’s father studied engineering at the University of Michigan; his mother was a substitute teacher. Ro benefited from a quality public school education and took out student loans to attend great universities, which he is still paying off today. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in economics from the University of Chicago, and received a law degree from Yale University.

Ro’s commitment to public service was inspired early on by his grandfather, who told him stories about participating in Gandhi’s independence movement in India and spending several years in jail for promoting human rights. Somewhat serendipitously, Ro became involved in politics while attending the University of Chicago, where he worked on the campaign of a little-known candidate for state Senate named Barack Obama. Later, Ro worked on Obama’s presidential campaign.


In 2009, President Obama appointed Ro to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Ro broke new ground when he organized clean technology trade missions and expanded the Green Embassy program, which allows American clean technology firms to showcase their products in our embassies overseas. Ro also served on the White House Business Council, where he worked with both business and labor for policies that promote to bring back American manufacturing jobs. Under Ro's leadership, American exports grew dramatically.


In 2009 and 2010, Ro took the lead on defending the rights of workers who were being laid off by New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) as the plant closed its doors in Fremont. He played a critical role in securing a $330,000 grant from the federal government for Fremont to find new uses for the abandoned auto plant, in addition to funds for job training programs to help the skilled workers who found themselves out of work and with nowhere to turn. Ro’s strong commitment to the United Auto Workers and the working families in the region is something that he will bring to Congress as he advocates for a collaborative working relationship between organized labor and business leaders.


After leaving the Commerce Department, Ro authored a book on the state of American manufacturing and how to keep it competitive in the global economy. Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America's Future has won widespread praise for its strategies to keep the best companies, jobs, and opportunities in America.

Following his mother’s example, Ro is a Lecturer in the Department of Economics at Stanford University and an Adjunct Professor at Santa Clara Law School.Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the California Workforce Development Board for the State of California, where he served as chair for the Advanced Manufacturing Committee.  Ro also served on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte and has tutored local Irvington High School students in his spare time. His pro bono legal activity includes work with the Mississippi Center for Justice on several contractor fraud cases on behalf of Hurricane Katrina victims.

Ro has been a strong advocate for local issues in our community. He has worked with Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves to reduce odor from the Newby Landfill and to hold Republic accountable. He also worked with Santa Clara City Councilwoman Lisa Gillmor to make sure the San Francisco 49ers did not take over the Youth Soccer Park in Santa Clara. Ro has worked with environmentalists to stand up to Lehigh Cement Plant and insist that the plant be held to modern day envionmental standards.

A long time resident of Fremont, Ro was drawn to Silicon Valley after finishing his education. He and his wife, Ritu Khanna, still currently reside in Fremont. Ritu has been a marketing executive and has a master's degree in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and a B.S. from Georgetown University


Who supports this candidate?

Elected Officials (38)

Questions & Answers

Questions from The League of Women Voters of California Education Fund and California Counts, a public media collaboration. (4)

The Federal Government plays a part in California water allocation and use through a variety of laws.  What, if any, legislation would you support in an effort to handle water shortages caused by the current and any future drought?
Answer from Ro Khanna:

Available freshwater isn't just the backbone of the Californian economy, it's critical to the state's very survival. While many of the major decisions on water planning are reserved for our state government, the federal government has an important role to play as well. In particular, I strongly support legislative action to to fund desalination, water recycling, and storage projects. These long-term investments in our water infrastructure will go a long way in securing a safe future for the people of California.

Should immigration laws be changed?  What changes would you support?  Please explain why.
Answer from Ro Khanna:
 I was lucky enough to be born here in the United States, so citizenship was never something I worried about. But I can empathize with how it must feel to be an American in spirit – but to not be a citizen based on birthplace. We have an economic and moral obligation to give DREAMers a pathway to citizenship. What's more, immigration reform and economic growth go hand in hand. Immigrants have been essential to Silicon Valley’s innovative and meritocratic ethos. They have founded 40% of the companies in the tech sector that were financed by venture capital and then went public in the United States – including Yahoo, eBay, Intel, and Google – creating jobs and making our business culture more dynamic.

In particular, I support a number of common-sense reforms to our broken immigration system:

  1. Give DREAMers legal status right away. In 2012 President Obama implemented a deferred action program, which offered a two-year reprieve from the threat of deportation to young adults. That’s a band-aid measure on an issue that is affecting millions of hardworking and law biding residents of this country. Congress needs to give young adults the ability to quickly receive provisional legal status, allowing them to live and work freely in this country, and streamline the process of applying for a green card, permanent legal residency, and finally citizenship.
  2. Implement a pathway to citizenship for adults. There are 11 million undocumented immigrants living in our country who work in a variety of industries that boost our economy. They pay sales taxes – many also pay income taxes, and other federal, state, and local taxes. Estimates show that undocumented immigrants pay about $7 billion into Social Security.
  3. Protect family reunification visas. While the passage of the Senate’s bipartisan bill is commendable, I am disappointed that family reunification visas were not included. Family reunification is a long-standing policy of the U.S., and the removal of sibling visas and reduction of adult married children visas is an unnecessary hit to hardworking families of the 17th district who want to unite with their loved ones here in America.
What, if anything, does the U.S. need to do in order to address national security and terrorism? Please explain your answer in detail.
Answer from Ro Khanna:
While I support the Presidents decision to order limited military strikes against ISIS, I also believe we need to scale back our military entanglements so that we can reinvest those rescources into our citizens. The best way to increase our national security is by reinvesting in the American workforce so that our students are prepared to tackle a globally competitive economy. I opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and I will stand against similar military adventurism.
The political climate in Washington, D.C. has been extremely partisan in recent years. In that kind of atmosphere, what would you do to get things done while in office?
Answer from Ro Khanna:
I'm under no illusion that any one person can singlehandedly eliminate partisan gridlock, but I do believe solving the problem starts with getting money out of politics. When PACs, corporate PACS, unions and lobbying firms control the conversation, voters - who just want to see Congress come together to solve the problems facing the nation - are the ones who get drowned out. As one of eight candidates running for Federal office who has pledged to never take money from any special interest group (you can see the full list at, I believe I can speak with authority on the urgent need for campaign finance reform. Once the corrupting influence of special interest funding has been excised, the range of potential compromises between parties will expand dramatically.    To give just one example, the GOP is beginning to recognize that the cost of incarcerating millions of nonviolent offenders is prohibitive; meanwhile Democrats have been pointing out the fundamental injustices in the criminal justice system for years. I believe both parties should be able to come together to find reforms that are both morally right, and save billions in funds that could be invested back into our economy - once private prisons, bond bailsman, and other organizations with a vested interested in mass incarceration can no longer buy elections with impunity.

Who gave money to this candidate?


Total money raised: $3,723,321

Top contributors that gave money to support the candidate, by organization:

Employees of Google
Employees of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Employees of
Employees of Blackstone
Employees of Sutter Hill Ventures

More information about contributions

By State:

California 78.13%
New York 6.56%
Illinois 3.26%
Florida 1.99%
Other 10.06%

By Size:

Large contributions (98.52%)
Small contributions (1.48%)

By Type:

From organizations (0.00%)
From individuals (100.00%)
Source: MapLight analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

Ro Khanna is prepared to move beyond the gridlock in Washington with concrete solutions to strengthen our public schools, create good paying jobs, and to move America’s economy into the 21st century. He’ll be more than a vote; he’ll be a strong voice for the Bay Area’s working families and communities. As an educator and economics author, Ro understands the importance of having universal pre-school education, of having an innovative curriculum, and adequate funding for technology in our public schools. He has also offered concrete plans for making college affordable and assisting middle aged workers find good paying jobs in today's economy. Finally, in order to maintain his independance from special interests and corporate agendas, Ro refused to take any money from PACs or corporations, and is one of only eight candidates at the Federal level to do so (you can see the full list here:


Videos (1)

— May 16, 2016 Ro Khanna for Congress

Short digital ad describing key issues to Ro (pay equity, no special interest money, education funding)

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