by Rishi Kumar
I remember the day like it happened yesterday. I walked towards the American consulate in Mumbai, India with trepidation. I had just gotten off the bus, passport, documents and umbrella in hand. It was the rainy season and cloudy skies hovered all around me. As I neared the consulate, I saw the American flag fluttering and my heart leaped. There was something magical about it! Today, my dreams were either going to hit the stars or be shattered. I could barely think straight as I walked through the door into the air-conditioned comfort and calmness of the consulate, soaking in the special fragrance of the interior. An American student visa was a hit or a miss and I wasn’t sure which side I would be in a few hours. Graduating from one of the best engineering schools, I was still not sure if I had the merit to qualify for a visa.
My name is Rishi Kumar, an engineer and a councilmember of Saratoga, CA, an improbable, anomaly of a politician, but here I am running for U.S Congress. I am an activist, who found my stride in the world by challenging the status quo, and speaking against anything that I saw as wrong. When I fixed community issues, I discovered an inner happiness, and I wanted to do more. That is why I am challenging corporate incumbent Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA-18). I have seen entitlement all my life and I have rebelled against it. I detest nepotism, seeking to always forge my own character-defining path. Rep. Eshoo has been in office for 15 terms now, and will be 80 years old by the time the 2022 election is over with-- and seemingly has been asleep at the wheel. Why do America’s career politicians never want to walk away and make way for new leadership? The gerontocracy is killing the American spirit and America is falling behind.
How did the 2020 run go?
This is my second run for this seat; we garnered 37% of the votes in 2020-- more votes than any challenger and the first Democratic challenger to make it past the primary in 30 years, while Rep. Eshoo had to spend 2.3 times more than us to ensure a win. Rep. Eshoo is seemingly a bit more worried this time because Pelosi is going to be here in Silicon Valley to raise campaign funds for her friend. About 50% of Rep. Eshoo’s campaign funds came from PACs, in comparison to zero for us. Why will we win? Because we do things differently: we have a grassroots campaign of thousands, and upstarts always win in Silicon Valley.
An anomaly of a political journey
My anomaly of a political journey started in 2012 when a California state senator invited me to a coffee meeting and asked me to run for a Democratic party Delegate. I wondered, why me? I was subsequently very surprised at not only winning the Delegate but also the Executive Board. I was also surprised when the establishment-entitled party insiders hurled abuses at my win. It reminded me of the time when I bought our first home in Michigan. A neighbor told me: “we don’t want people like you around here.” I had apparently done nothing to deserve a seat on the table. The Delegate win showed the path of political empowerment and led to my run for city council. Our city mayorship is by rotation and someone declared that “Rishi was not suitable to be mayor” when it was my turn. I shrugged my shoulders and pushed ahead to discover a platform and success by applying the “getting things done” approach. The results were very encouraging. However, I had to work 10 times harder and found myself an easy target for everyone-- as I never had air cover, the so-called “powers that be” supporting my run. As a person of color, I had to prove myself again and again, especially when pioneering a new course. There are not many like me in this world. Yes, many asked me to go back to India-- right to my face-- but this was my new home and I was going to stay put and help my countrymen and the country that gave so much to so many immigrants like me. If I take the elevator up, the least I can do is to send it back down. And I will do my utmost!
Issues with Eshoo
Congresswoman Eshoo is the chair of the House Health Subcommittee, yet she is also the #1 recipient of Pharma money in the United States House of Representatives. Conflict of interest!
Instead of fighting for the people-- which is always my guiding beacon-- she represents Big Pharma and has introduced legislation to increase the price of healthcare. For example, legislation that would give a 12-year monopoly for brand-name biologics in addition to patent protections. Despite being in office for an eternity, Rep. Eshoo only passed a total of 5 insignificant bills. But the story gets worse, Rep. Eshoo is emblematic of the partisan politics that is destroying America from the core.
Recently, Rep. Anna Eshoo raised the issue of censorship urging 12 cable, satellite, and streaming companies to take action specifically against conservative news platforms like Newsmax, One America News Network, and Fox News. This advancement in censorship has caused many to question whether their First Amendment right is secured under her leadership. We deserve freedom of press in every spectrum of society and I will fight for what is right with a bipartisan spirit.
America welcomes all
Yes, I did get the visa and I arrived at an east coast graduate school. I discovered a country that I had deep reverence for, and still do today…passionately. I love this country for how it embraced me, claimed me as its own, even professors inviting me to Thanksgiving dinners-- I found America to be a country that just willingly gave. I was struggling to find my footing, but I loved the kindred spirit. I for sure benefited. Someday, I would give back. That is why I seek to bridge the income inequality that has seemingly widened.
A different political mindset:
That is why I bring an actionable, results-driven “getting-things-done” mindset to politics. Growing up in a middle class family back in India, with abject poverty all around me, I developed a profound understanding of the struggles in our society that has clearly influenced me to stand up for those whose voice has been stifled. American politics is tainted with special interest groups that subvert the agenda of the American spirit. I have the backbone and moral compass to make decisions of national importance, with the fortitude to put partisan politics aside, and listen to the people, instead of taking cues from the Washington power brokers I see hundreds of politicians doing blatantly and getting away-- including Rep. Eshoo.
I found my calling as an activist, while working for IBM and stepping up for complex community challenges that I just couldn’t turn away from. In my successful terms as a councilmember of Saratoga, I challenged the system and took up the toughest people-challenges. Someone called my political spirit “that person standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen square.” Fearlessly! In 2018, the people of Saratoga re-elected me with the most votes in the city's 64 year election history-- when I had barely won by 71 votes in 2014-- for simply addressing issues-- the top challenges-- that were found daunting by others.
Throw the kitchen sink at us
This congressional run, too, has not been easy. The establishment of Silicon Valley has cast aspersions, made up false rumors, called me “Batman,” said “Rishi does not deserve to even be on the city council,” and surrogates have pressured people to retract endorsements. Even news reports targeted me with “an axe to grind.” But I will always fight on… with and for integrity.
Rep. Eshoo has been out of touch
During the California fires of August 2020, Rep. Eshoo was out of touch! While people worried about their home, Rep. Eshoo, in a press conference, appeared completely out of touch and rambling. What did I do? My volunteers called affected citizens offering our help. We tried to make hotel arrangements for affected people. During the pandemic, we called 86,000 seniors offering them help with groceries, medications and masks. I drafted a comprehensive policy on not only Covid-19, but also to mitigate the effects of human activities, restoring green spaces around the nation, and advancing towards a more sustainable world. In comparison, Rep. Eshoo has supported a bill that increased federal subsidies for fossil fuels that would exacerbate climate change.
During the only debate last year, Rep. Eshoo claimed to cosponsor the Green New Deal. I quietly pointed out that the Green New Deal had over 100 cosponsors (cosponsorship is nothing substantial) and she could have done a lot more to address climate change during her 28 years in office. Far short! I hear from so many community members at the many Farmers markets, about the inadequacy of Rep. Eshoo’s weekly update-- dazzling busy citizens with the glitz and glamor of Washington, but seldom about accomplishments and impact. I will change that by being people-driven, not lobbyist driven, and all my efforts are all about action and results, similar to my track record on the Saratoga city council.
Please consider supporting this run
My run seeks to bring ethical integrity into politics by NEVER accepting PAC money or Special Interest Group money. I bring a result-driven outcome to challenge the Washington status quo and divisive partisan politics. America is ready for a new leadership and a change of political culture. I invite you to jump in and support my run-- allow me to take these values to Washington. I promise you-- I will never let you down!
This country is a dream come true. I want to give everything I can for America and Silicon Valley, who I love dearly. I will fight for your interests, not for special interests. I will be accessible and accountable and will bring energy and innovative ideas to the tough challenges of America.
Next year, I will be once again outside… the U.S Capitol looking in. Will my “visa” for entry get stamped? Will my zeal to serve our countrymen with integrity find fruition at the next level? You can help. Please support my run at RishiKumar.com.
[Please consider contributing to Rishi's campaign by clicking on the Blue America 2022 congressional thermometer above- Howie]