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The race for to be the Democratic nominee for the 12th Congressional District – San Francisco’s Outer Sunset, northern San Mateo County – may some kind of California classic in the making.
Ro Khanna, a Yale-educated lawyer is challenging incumbent Democrat Tom Lantos in the March 2 primary. Khanna is clearly a young, ambitious politician and there’s no better way to make name for yourself than beating an older, entrenched competitor. And after 24 years in Congress, Rep. Tom Lantos virtually embodies “entrenched” and he may be getting ready to retire, so Khanna is smartly stumping for a future race. He wins even if he doesn’t. To make sure you remember his name – his first name is pronounced “row” and in “your boat” – Khanna is making a big stink about how Lantos is avoiding any kind of debate. It’s meaningless but it’s a good way to get attention.
Given their respective ages, it’s not a bad idea to look at this race as something else: an immigrant match-up, no different in some respects to Total Recall which put Cruz Bustamante, the son of Mexian immigrants, up against Arnold Schwarzenegger, who well, we know what happened there. Khanna’s father is, like many Bay Area Indians, an engineer trained at an Indian Institute of Technology. His son is the first generation to be born in this country (giving him only slightly better odds of becoming president than the governor).
Khanna is shrewd about how he’s running this race in another way, however. He’s staking out territory with the Digital people, among them Prof. Larry Lessig, perhaps the most articulate spokesman for a host of issues of concern to the wired nation. Lessig’s all but endorsing Khanna citing, among other things, his approach to that horrid Patriot Act as well as other privacy issues that are of concerns to folks like Lessig (and me, for that matter). “This gap between who we are and how we are represented has led me to help Congressman Lantos’ opponent — Ro Khanna. Ro’s a bright, young, committed Democrat, committed to representing the views of his district,” Lessig said in a recent post.

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