Meet Ro

Congress isn’t working and the voters of California’s 17th District have an opportunity to send a message—by supporting a new type of forward-looking vision.

Ro Khanna, 39, is prepared to move beyond the gridlock in Washington with concrete solutions to strengthen our public schools, create good paying jobs, and to move America’s economy into the 21st century. He’ll be more than a vote; he’ll be a strong voice for the Bay Area’s working families and communities. As an educator and economics author, Ro understands the importance of having universal pre-school education, of having an innovative curriculum, and adequate funding for technology in our public schools. He has also offered concrete plans for making college affordable and assisting middle aged workers find good paying jobs in today's economy.

A long time resident of Fremont, Ro was drawn to Silicon Valley after finishing his education. He and his wife, Ritu Khanna, still currently reside in Fremont. Following his mother’s example, Ro is a Lecturer in the Department of Economics at Stanford University and an Adjunct Professor at Santa Clara Law School. Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the California Workforce Development Board for the State of California, where he served as chair for the Advanced Manufacturing Committee.  Ro also served on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte and has tutored local Irvington High School students in his spare time. His pro bono legal activity includes work with the Mississippi Center for Justice on several contractor fraud cases on behalf of Hurricane Katrina victims.

Ro has been a strong advocate for local issues in our community. He has worked with Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves to reduce odor from the Newby Landfill and to hold Republic accountable. He also worked with Santa Clara City Councilwoman Lisa Gillmor to make sure the San Francisco 49ers did not take over the Youth Soccer Park in Santa Clara. Ro has worked with environmentalists to stand up to Lehigh Cement Plant and insist that the plant be held to modern day envionmental standards. 

In 2009, President Obama appointed Ro to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce.  For two years, Ro traveled the country meeting with American manufacturers to learn how Washington could help promote trade and the jobs it creates. Ro broke new ground when he organized clean technology trade missions and expanded the Green Embassy program, which allows American clean technology firms to showcase their products in our embassies overseas. Ro also served on the White House Business Council, where he worked with both business and labor for policies that promote U.S. economic growth. Under Ro's leadership, American exports grew dramatically. Ro received a letter of commendation for his service from Frank Sanchez, Under Secretary for International Trade.

In 2009 and 2010, Ro took the lead on defending the rights of workers who were being laid off by New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) as the plant closed its doors in Fremont. He played a critical role in securing a $330,000 grant from the federal government for Fremont to find new uses for the abandoned auto plant, in addition to funds for job training programs to help the skilled workers who found themselves out of work and with nowhere to turn. Ro’s strong commitment to the United Auto Workers and the working families in the region is something that he will bring to Congress as he advocates for a collaborative working relationship between organized labor and business leaders.

After leaving the Commerce Department, Ro authored a book on the state of American manufacturing and how to keep it competitive in the global economy. Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America's Future has won widespread praise for its strategies to keep the best companies, jobs, and opportunities in America.

Ro's committment to service is rooted in the belief that the American Dream that inspired his family should continue to inspire future generations.

Ro’s commitment to public service was inspired early on by his grandfather, who told him stories about participating in Gandhi’s independence movement in India and spending several years in jail for promoting human rights. Somewhat serendipitously, Ro became involved in politics while attending the University of Chicago, where he worked on the campaign of a little-known candidate for state Senate named Barack Obama. Later, Ro worked on Obama’s presidential campaign. In 2003, Ro ran a protest campaign for Congress in California against a Democratic incumbent who voted for George W. Bush’s decision to attack Iraq. Although he lost badly, Ro’s was one of the first anti-Iraq war campaigns in the nation. His principled stand was not about receiving political endorsements, or working within the establishment, but about standing up for his beliefs.

Like so many families in our area, Ro's parents immigrated to the United States—coming from India to seek opportunity and a better life for their children. Ro was born in Philadelphia in 1976, and learned the value of education and hard work from his parents. Ro’s father studied engineering at the University of Michigan; his mother was a substitute teacher. Ro benefited from a quality public school education and took out student loans to attend great universities, which he is still paying off today. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in economics from the University of Chicago, and received a law degree from Yale University. Ro is currently a Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at Smart Utility Systems, an energy efficiency company with an office in Santa Clara. The company produces software for water conservation and for reducing electricity consumption.