Congressional candidate Ro Khanna discusses tech and education in Berkeley Forum event

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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Ro Khanna, an attorney and candidate for California’s 17th congressional district, spoke at a campus forum Tuesday about keeping Silicon Valley competitive and higher education affordable.

Khanna addressed an audience of approximately 15 students, staff and faculty members on prioritizing advanced manufacturing and eliminating “dysfunction” in the U.S. Congress.

The attorney is running against fellow Democrat and seven-term incumbent Mike Honda to represent the state’s 17th congressional district, which includes portions of Santa Clara County and Alameda County. Khanna said the competition is “healthy for democracy.”

The event, hosted by the Berkeley Forum at Anna Head Alumnae Hall, featured opening remarks, an interview session led by UC Berkeley sophomore Barak Gila and a Q-and-A period.

The Berkeley Forum is a student-run organization on campus that hosts talks, panels and debates that are open to the public.

“The difference between Mike Honda and me is that I think we live in a global world,” Khanna said at the forum. “We need to embrace that … and not pretend that somehow we can block companies from having an overseas presence or block people from coming here but rather compete through innovation, creativity and a better vision.”

In the June Democratic primary, Honda garnered about 49 percent of the votes, while Khanna took home 27 percent.

Honda, a former science teacher and principal, is known for his work in securing funding for the extension of BART lines. According to his website, he also co-authored the Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003, which led to $3.7 billion in funding for research and development projects in the Silicon Valley.

During the Q-and-A session, Khanna fielded questions about income inequality and a growing divide between the “tech elite” and low-income individuals.

“I expected a little more provocative questions, but other than that, I thought it was fantastic,” Khanna said in an interview after the event. “I’m excited to come back to the forum, and I’m sure it will be a great place for people in politics to come and discuss ideas.”

For UC Berkeley freshman Jacob Bergquist, whose first exposure to Khanna’s campaign was at the Berkeley Forum, Khanna’s challenge against longtime incumbent Honda is worth supporting.

“Every congressional candidate is talking about the dysfunction of Congress … but it’s very good to get more specific ideas and to get somebody who’s willing to flesh it out with some concrete details,” Bergquist said.

UC Berkeley sophomore Shruti Patrachari knew of Khanna’s campaign through her parents, who attended a talk when Khanna visited her hometown in San Diego.

Patrachari hopes that Khanna was able to give the audience more insight into the tech issues of Silicon Valley because the issues can be “a little hazy,” she said.

Khanna and Honda will debate in a live broadcast Monday. The general election takes place Nov. 4.

Contact Amy Jiang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ajiang_dc.