Exclusive Q&A: U.S. House District 17 candidate Ritesh Tandon
Republican Ritesh Tandon says he has a balanced approach to issues, both local and national. Photo courtesy Tandon for Congress.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican Ritesh Tandon is hoping to replace progressive Democrat Ro Khanna in November and chip away at Democratic control of the House.

Tandon is an engineer and businessman who has worked for Jabra and Cisco. He serves as an advisory board member for Uttar Pradesh Mandal of America, a nonprofit that helps underprivileged children in India, and was previously the organization’s president for five years.

Tandon and Khanna recently were given the opportunity to answer the same 10 questions from San José Spotlight. Read Khanna’s responses here. Answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent the 17th district?

In this very divisive environment, I am the voice of sanity and moderation. I look at issues and try and solve them in innovative ways that will benefit most, if not all. Please visit my website to read detailed policies that I think are important to my constituents and our nation.

California is home to an estimated 2 million undocumented immigrants. What are your views on immigration reform and border security?

Some estimate there are up to 3 to 4 million undocumented people in California. I have a very detailed policy on my website to solve this problem. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to 5 million people. Now we have somewhere around 12 million undocumented people. Our immigration system has not worked for the past 50 years. Both parties failed.

We need to have a system, preferably high technology based, that utilizes humane methods to discourage illegal entries and visa overstays. We have a number of proposals that can work. An E-verify system similar to the one used in Canada can work. In addition, employers can provide bonds for the guest worker program. A rotational guest worker program would benefit many workers who don’t get a chance to come to the United Statesand earn for their family. All visa-based entries must have an electronic method of notifying the people with overstayed visa status.

According to the United Nations, there were approximately 26 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2019. What role, if any, do you believe the United States should play in the global refugee crisis?

The first and foremost role the United States needs to play is to mitigate the conditions that create refugees. Wars must be ended quickly, and nations’ economic conditions must be improved to mitigate the suffering and displacement of people. The U.S. must work closely with the United Nations and affected nations to stem these disasters.

A report from IBM estimated 120 million workers worldwide will need to be retrained by 2022 due to artificial intelligence. What steps, if any, should the federal government take to help the nation prepare for the emergence of AI?

The federal government, in general, has poor coordination with the industry. We need to make some structural changes in the Department of Commerce and create a full department of industry and innovation. Close cooperation with industry and educational institutions is very critical for the U.S. for the next generation.

The killing of George Floyd in May sparked nationwide protests, including some in Silicon Valley, against police brutality. What are your views on police reform?

The police are an integral unit of our communities. We must create a productive dialogue with them to understand their reasons and instances for excessive use of force. Our City Council and mayors need to have regular conferences by inviting the police and the community to have a dialogue. Concerns on both sides must be understood, documented and resolved with mutual discussions.

More than 200,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus. Do you think the federal government is effectively managing the pandemic? If not, what do you believe should be done going forward to contain the virus?

The past handling of the coronavirus was not perfect. Ideally, the travel ban and quarantines for all traveling into the U.S. should have happened earlier. Responsible opening of the lockdowns should happen now whereby the elderly and the vulnerable are protected. The rest should be able to go out with masks and use precautionary handwashing measures before touching their faces. We need safe vaccines and therapeutics to get back to normality.

What do you think the federal government should do to help the nation economically recover from the pandemic?

The best way to recover economically is to quickly get vaccines and therapeutics working and make them available to the people. We all must feel safe to be able to get back to our jobs normally. Meanwhile, people who are suffering should get help to live through this pandemic. Extending unemployment benefits and a $1,200 check to all would be helpful.

How should legislators approach climate change?

It is a critical issue. Broadly, it is an issue of a clean environment. We need to encourage new and innovative technologies that are clean, safe and cost-competitive. It should include safe nuclear energy. Technological innovations should be shared with the world to mitigate climate change — go back to optimal levels of all ingredients in air. We also must include programs for pollution-free air, clean water and clean earth surfaces worldwide.

The United States has grown increasingly divided in recent years. Do you believe this is problematic? If re-elected, how would you try to tone down the divisive rhetoric in society, and how would you work to find bipartisan solutions in Congress?

The divisive force is just that, divisive and corrosive. It must stop! We are one people, and we need to act that way. Hatred, violence and disparities must be replaced with respect, care and joint goals of progress. Both parties need to back off and stop this societal decline in behavior. Let’s find ways to do that. We need the innovative and solution-finding spirit of Silicon Valley engineers in Congress.

Is there anything else you would like to say to voters?

I have a balanced approach to the issues, both local and national. I have plans for Silicon Valley for next-century innovations, increase in wages through tax rates of corporations tied to employees’ wage growth, creative ways to reduce medical costs and a better and competitive educational system for the next generation.

Contact Katie King at [email protected] or follow @KatieKingCST on Twitter.

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