Exclusive Q&A: U.S. House District 18 candidate Rishi Kumar
Rishi Kumar speaks at a Bernie Sanders rally in 2016. Photo courtesy Rishi Kumar.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Democrat Rishi Kumar is attempting to replace Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, in November. Kumar is serving his second term on the Saratoga City Council and serves as an executive board member for the California Democratic Party.

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

    Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent the 18th District?

    America needs elected leaders who are keenly invested to address our tough challenges, not churning activity for the sake of activity. As a councilmember, I challenged the San Jose Water company and saved money for a million residents of Silicon Valley by pushing back successfully eight water rate increases.

    I bring a track record of helping people and getting things done. When the pandemic struck, I suspended our campaign to launch the Neighborhood Pandemic Preparedness Team. We called 86,000 seniors in our community, offering help with groceries, medicine and masks, helping them stay quarantined. Hundreds of our volunteers helped thousands of our neighbors.


    Silicon Valley deserves engaged leaders. We are the 19th largest economy of the world because of technological innovation, yet we have technologically illiterate leaders in Congress. Our future needs people-centric leaders fighting for your interests, not special interests. I am the only candidate in this race that rejects all PAC money and corrupt special interest money, the only candidate that supports Medicare for All. I am ready to serve with integrity.

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

    The candidate did not respond to this question.

    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 candidate did not respond to this question.

    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?

    Our leaders must understand technology and its implications in our lives and our economy. Every advent of new technology creates a huge boom with economy, prosperity and jobs. The AI/ML automation will do exactly that.

    I understand the need to innovate and invest in new technologies in order to ensure a thriving and sustainable future. That’s why I believe the federal government should fund efforts to innovate and to integrate the workforce with the automation based on AI/ML. Change is inevitable, and America has to lead the world with sustainable economy approaches, based on carving out the next generation education curriculum ensuring that they will find a place in our economy and be productive.

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

    No one else can understand the lived experience of Black Americans — walking, jogging, driving and sleeping have become activities that can lead to serious harm or death. How can we have an America that believes in justice for all when we have such blatant prejudice? We must enact real, definitive, long-lasting change if we want to ensure that no more precious American lives are tragically lost every year.

    Here are a few components of my policy priorities:

    ● Reallocation of some, but not all, funds away from police departments to social services. I support the call for mental health professionals to assist in domestic disputes or cases where an individual has a mental illness or mental disability.

    ● I also believe we need to demilitarize the police. I am against the push by the military industrial complex to increase spending on defense.

    ● I support the creation of independent civilian review boards and auditors for law enforcement agencies, which have the authority to make effective, long-term changes. I encourage increased anti-bias, de-escalation, and cultural awareness training.

    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?

    COVID-19 has challenged America in unprecedented ways, and America desperately needs capable leadership to address the complexities of a post COVID-19 world. Here is my plan:

    ● Pro-Future: I will invest in housing, transportation, health care with Medicare for All, and combating climate change with a Green New Deal. I will bring a new data-driven technologically-literate mindset to problem solving.

    ● Pro-Economy: I will prioritize growing Silicon Valley’s vibrant economy, creating jobs and opportunities in the post COVID-19 world. I will develop a self-reliant supply chain, bring manufacturing back, protect American intellectual property and reduce our dependency on China.

    ● Pro-You: America’s pandemic response was a colossal failure and I will ensure that it never happens again. I support a new way forward that avoids necessary partisanship and prioritizes common sense solutions, so that we are always making decisions for the future success of America and our citizens.

    Here you will find my pandemic policy.

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

    In order to secure our economy in light of public health crises, it is imperative that we invest in tele-medicine and restructuring our health care analytics and Electronic Medicare Record (EMR) systems. Systemic reliance on China’s supply chain must be redirected for risk management and transparency. America’s economy and social net must be bolstered through specific support programs and funding must be directed at vulnerable communities.

    How should legislators approach climate change?

    Recently, we have seen rollbacks on environmental measures in the United States and restrictive climate policies weakened around the globe. Now more than ever, we need the Green New Deal. Climate change is the most urgent issue of our time. The science is clear: Global temperatures continue to rise, and the world is already experiencing more intense hurricanes, deadly heat waves, wildfires and droughts.

    We can’t afford to wait — we must take immediate bold action to limit the effects of climate change. The United States must lead the world in reaching net-zero emissions by 2035. We must promote and create jobs in a clean-energy economy and build green-energy infrastructure.. Clean air and water is a basic necessity for all living things.

    Here is my policy overview on climate change and the prevention of California fires.

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

    The growing partisan divide in American politics is extremely problematic — it inhibits progress on all fronts. A central tenet of my run for office is the need for America to move forward, not left or right, and this involves strengthening bipartisanship in Congress. I believe that there is a lot of common ground to be found, focused upon problem solving and making American lives better. I’m willing to work with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to get things done.

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

    Silicon Valley is hungry for leaders who are unabashedly progressive, will always stand by the people and refuse to capitulate to the special interests. That person is me. I support Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, $15 minimum wage and do not accept PAC or Special Interest Group money. Above all else, I’m a public servant with people-centric values.

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


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