The Republican candidate for the hotly-contested Silicon Valley House race is employing an unusual tactic to win the 17th district congressional seat: she is not showing up to any of the debates.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Dr. Vanilla Singh, an Indian-born anesthesiologist at Stanford Medical Center, is hoping that by remaining absent, she will allow her Democratic adversaries to duke it out and split the Democratic vote. If her technique is successful, it could pave the way for her to be in the top two vote gatherers in the June 3 primary election, with an opportunity to be on the ballot for the House seat come November.
So far the 43-year-old first-time candidate has rejected an invitation to appear in a San Francisco Chronicle-sponsored debate and forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, where she had been designated as one of the host’s primary speakers.
Incumbent 17th district Congressman Democrat Mike Honda and former Obama trade administrator Indian-American Ro Khanna have been battling on the Democratic side. According to the Chronicle, Honda may be one of the rare House Democrats to lose his seat. Although the Silicon Valley district is the only district in the lower 48 states that has an Asian majority, Singh and Khanna are banking on shifting demographics.
The Chronicle reports that Singh was drawn into the race by a Chicago businessman, Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, founder of the Indian Americans for Freedom super PAC. Kumar explained that the PAC was started with Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) to galvanize a “pro-India” faction in congress. Sing says she was motivated by the deleterious effect of Obamacare and considers it “bad and totally political.” Moreover, Sing is animated by fiscal restraints and is not in favor of raising the debt ceiling. However, she does embrace a more liberal view when it comes to abortion and believes in a woman’s right to choose.
The invisible strategy may be the workings of her campaign manager Matt Shupe. He believes that Singh is “a very attractive candidate” and that “people believe in her message… and know this is the new direction of the party.”
But Jack Citrin, from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, wonders if being a mystery candidate will work for Singh. He opined, “you would think there’s some incentive… to get more name recognition, to become better known.” Nevertheless, he adds that the Stanford doctor “may feel that any one of these forums which put her in the public eye could damage her chances… So it’s, ‘Let these Democrats beat each other up and let’s see what happens.'”