By Sarah McBride
Hillary Clinton, who has long cultivated the Indian-American community for both funds and votes, is tapping into the excitement around the Silicon Valley visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this weekend. Next Monday she is holding a presidential campaign fundraiser expected to attract many prominent Californians with ties to India.
But some Indian-American Democrats from the region have told Reuters they won’t be attending the event, in part because they are upset about the way a candidate was treated in a 2014 race for a Silicon Valley congressional seat. Their frustration extends to other Democratic candidates and causes besides Clinton, who wasn’t involved in the race, but ignoring her campaign is a high-profile way to vent.
Supporters of the candidate, Ro Khanna, an intellectual-property lawyer of South Indian heritage, accuse his opponent, fellow Democrat Mike Honda, of using race-baiting to undermine Khanna. Honda narrowly beat out Khanna, a former trade official in President Barack Obama’s administration, in the election for a seat in the House of Representatives.
Just weeks before the election, Honda attacked Khanna in a television ad for supporting “companies that send our jobs overseas.” In the same ad, a shadow briefly appeared on Khanna’s forehead that some Khanna supporters interpreted as a bindi, a red dot worn by many Indians but not by Khanna.
Khanna’s supporters point out that in 2012 he published a book on the importance of U.S. manufacturing jobs, and they say that
the shadow was an attempt to spark unease among non-Indians. They say the Democratic Party should have intervened to stop what they saw as unfair attacks.
Honda spokesman Adam Alberti says Khanna’s financial backers included supporters of outsourcing, and no dot was placed, or is visible, on Khanna’s forehead in the ad in question.
“The issue of racial baiting is both unfounded and is shallow political theater,” said Alberti, adding that as a Japanese-American who was held in an internment camp as a baby during World War II, Honda is especially committed to racial diversity. In March, Honda co-hosted a networking and fundraising event for “Ready for Clinton,” the organization that sought to draft Clinton to run for president. Read more