Indian-American activists in Silicon Valley are outraged at what they are calling “the crudest form of racially coded language” by a Democratic PAC that has endorsed incumbent Rep. Mike Honda (D) over rival Democrat Ro Khanna. The same PAC recently funded ads supporting a Republican candidate, Dr. Vanila Singh–who is also, like Khanna, Indian-American.
Two ads released by Working With Us PAC are riddled with racial overtones and read respectively “DON’T LET RO KHANNA OUTSOURCE OUR JOBS” and “SENDING OUR JOBS OVERSEAS. RO KHANNA,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The ads try to link Khanna, who was born in America to Indian parents, to the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to India–the most populous democratic nation in the world — in an attempt to make voters believe he would be a proponent of outsourcing if elected to take over the 17th district seat.
South Asian leaders from groups such as The Indus Entrepreneurs and India Community Center have penned a letter imploring Honda to “disassociate” himself with the PAC’s “dirty tricks,” the Chronicle notes. The letter says: “These tactics should have no place in the political discourse in this meritocratic district where Indian Americans have contributed so much.”
The South Asian population in the 17th district has quadrupled since 2012. which has left Honda and his supporters worried about his ability to secure his seat.
A statement from Honda’s campaign spokesperson Vivek Kembaiyan expresses that he had nothing to do with the PAC’s “independent expenditures and aren’t going to be distracted by what other campaigns or groups are doing,” the Chronicle writes. But Khanna’s camp was less than satisfied with their response.
A statement from Khanna’s spokesman, Tyler Law, reads: “Ro is deeply offended by the divisive tone of this latest attack piece and the overall lack of accountability for outside groups that inject this kind of poison into our campaign.” Law refers back to a “People’s Pledge,” which Khanna asked Honda to embrace months ago. The pledge asks that special interest and outside groups remain just that and not participate in the campaign.
Khanna is projected to finish in second place in Tuesday’s primary, ahead of Singh and fellow Republican Joel Vanlandinham, which would pit him against Honda in one of California’s most expensive political races.