The ties between Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s supporters and those who helped get Republican candidate Joel VanLandingham into the 17th Congressional District race might run deeper than initially reported.
My story early last month outlined how Khanna supporters associated with the Fremont Hindu Temple – including one Newark woman in particular – seemed to have been instrumental in circulating VanLandingham’s nominating petitions. Khanna said neither he nor any members of his campaign staff had anything to do with it.
Vanila Singh, the first Republican to enter the race, has said she doesn’t believe that – she insists Khanna and his supporters recruited VanLandingham to split the GOP vote and boost Khanna’s chances of getting into the June primary’s top two with Rep. Mike Honda. She has used this as an excuse for skipping candidate forums, saying she’ll not take part in any event in which VanLandingham participates.
Now comes new research from Margaret Okuzumi, a Honda supporter who is the Democratic Club of Sunnyvale’s incoming president.
Okuzumi claims Khanna’s campaign moved to “hijack” that club by having more than 45 of campaign staffers and supporters – and even Khanna, who lives in Fremont – become members in the latter half of last year in order to sway the endorsement vote.
“People would only do that if directed by a campaign to do so. Otherwise, they are hardly likely to know that our Democratic Club even exists or that our endorsement is considered of strategic importance, especially if they live as far away from Sunnyvale as Fremont,” she said. “I wouldn’t have minded as much if they’d actually recruited new people from Sunnyvale to join our club. Instead they recruited over 30 people who didn’t care about our city and who weren’t interested in our activities other than our endorsement.”
But Nancy Smith, the Sunnyvale club’s cofounder and former president, said Monday that Honda’s and Khanna’s campaigns both were notified of the club’s endorsement rules – namely, that a person would have to sign up and attend at least one meeting before being allowed to take part in an endorsement vote. “I would have to say Ro’s campaign took that more seriously than Mike’s did,” she said.
The club eventually voted overwhelmingly not to endorse anyone in this race – which some might see as a win for Khanna, given Honda’s incumbency.
However, five of those new Sunnyvale Democratic Club members – including Shivani Sanan, Rajesh and Madhu Gupta, Priya Kapil and Tanu Kalra, all of Fremont – later signed VanLandingham’s Alameda County nominating petitions, Okuzumi found. Another one, Mahesh Pakala, reportedly asked a Fremont couple affiliated with the temple to sign Vanlandingham’s petition. And several of VanLandingham’s petition-signers either themselves gave money – more than $10,000 total – to Khanna’s campaign or had immediate family members who did.
“Without Khanna campaign involvement, VanLandingham would not have received enough signatures to qualify for the ballot,” Okuzumi said.
More, after the jump…
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