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Will Gov. Newsom Choose Congressman Ro Khanna to Fill Kamala Harris’s Senate Seat?

Will Gov. Newsom Choose Congressman Ro Khanna to Fill Kamala Harris’s Senate Seat?

Anu Ghosh
  • Even as Indian Americans are lobbying for Khanna, who is popular with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, there are several other politically significant contenders.

Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna, 44, who was recently re-elected for a third consecutive term from the California’s District 17 representing the Silicon Valley, is being considered as a potential contender to fill the U.S. Senate seat from California. This seat will fall vacant in January after Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President of United States.

Kamala Harris, 56, was elected as a U.S. Senator from California in 2016.

“I am honored that my name is in the mix. But I also represent a very powerful constituency… Silicon Valley. So, we’ll see where things go. I am open to whatever opportunity… where I can be most effective,” Khanna told Press Trust of India when asked about news reports.

Khanna is a member of the House Armed Services, Budget and Oversight Committees.

Khanna was also co-chair of the presidential campaign for Senator Bernie Sanders.

On Thursday, IMPACT, a leading Indian American advocacy and political action committee, endorsed Khanna to fill the seat to be vacated by Harris.

Under California law, the vacancy would be temporarily filled by Gov. Gavin Newsom for the remainder of two years left of Harris’ term.

“IMPACT urges Governor Newsom to consider Representative Ro Khanna. He has the essential qualities to meet this moment: At a time when we are deeply divided, Ro has demonstrated an ability to bring together progressives, moderates, and even some Republicans,” IMPACT Executive Director Neil Makhija said.

“As an Indian American, Ro also represents the fastest growing community in California. As millions of Black and Brown children around the country see the promise of America in the new Vice President-elect, her replacement should offer the same hope and representation for Californians,” Makhija added. 

“We are working through the cattle call of considerations,” Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom was quoted as saying on Patch.com earlier this week.  “I want to make sure it’s inclusive. I want to make sure that we are considerate of people’s points of view.”

Among the other potential contenders are California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, whose election to Senate will make him the first Latino Senator from the State; Congresswoman Karen Bass, who was on the vice presidential short-list for President-elect Joe Biden; Congresswoman Barbara Lee; Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia; State Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego; Treasurer Fiona Ma; and State Controller Betty Yee.

“I think there are a lot of great people out there, but what I hope is that the governor picks someone clearly with progressive views,” Khanna told ABC News.

“This is going to be a huge, huge challenge for the governor because he’s got an embarrassment of riches,” said Nathan Barankin, Harris’s former chief of staff, said in a Guardian report.

“As millions of black and brown children around the country see the promise of America in the new vice president-elect, her replacement should offer the same hope and representation for Californians,” Makhija said. “As Vice President-elect Harris has often said, she may have been the first but she won’t be the last. Governor Newsom has the opportunity to make sure she’s proven right with the selection of Ro Khanna as her replacement in the United States Senate.”

According to a poll from the University of Southern California Schwarzenegger Institute, a majority of voters (76%) are looking for a “fresh and new” voice in politics to fill Harris’s seat. 

Angel Martinez, the president of Silicon Valley Young Democrats, said the organization will be discussing whom to support at a general meeting Nov. 16.

“(We do hope) Newsom will pick an individual that will not only embody the changing racial demographic of California, but also help represent the newer generation of Democrats who will eventually take over the mantle of leadership in the party,” Martinez said to Patch.com.

Bill James, the chair of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party (SCCDP), told Patch.com that the state is fortunate to have so many talented candidates. The SCCDP currently is not endorsing anyone but he said he believes most Democratic activists hope the governor will chose a progressive who supports universal health care, reproductive rights and an aggressive approach to fighting climate change.

“There also seems to be a lot of interest for the governor to name someone who will represent the diversity of California,” James said.

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Local Latino and LGBTQ+ organizations are lobbying the governor for a pick that represents their communities.

James added he personally hopes the governor will select a candidate who wants to remain in the senate for years to come, as opposed to a seat holder who only intends to finish the remainder of Harris’s term, which expires in 2022.

According to a poll from the University of Southern California Schwarzenegger Institute, a majority of voters (76%) are looking for a “fresh and new” voice in politics to fill Harris’s seat. About 23% said they would prefer a candidate with experience in Sacramento, as opposed to 29% who said they would prefer a candidate with experience in Washington. However, most voters (48%) said they would favor a candidate who was not part of the political scene in either city.

As per the poll, 11 per cent of the respondents preferred Barbara Lee and eight per cent picked Khanna.

Despite the favorites, Khanna is a potential contender due to his popularity among the party’s younger and more progressive factions, Forbes said.

Prior to serving in Congress, Khanna taught economics at Stanford University, law at Santa Clara University and American jurisprudence at San Francisco State University.

He also served in President Barack Obama’s administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Commerce. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Yale Law School.

According to a Forbes report, Gov. Newsom reportedly wants to make a historic choice to fill Harris’ Senate seat when she enters the White House.


Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.

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