Indian Americans in Politics

February 29, 2004

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

On February 29, 2004 The San Francisco Chronicle reported, "Challenging a powerful, well-funded, 12-term U.S. representative may seem like a risky way for an emerging interest group to gain political clout. But the candidacy of Ro Khanna, a 27-year-old lawyer who is in Tuesday's Democratic primary against Rep. Tom Lantos for the San Mateo congressional seat, is a sign that Indian Americans are arriving on the political scene. Khanna has tapped Indian American donors from around the nation in an attempt to unseat the 12-term Lantos, and in the process has given the incumbent his first election fight in many years. The money and energy behind Khanna's campaign hint at things to come. Indian Americans are the wealthiest immigrant group in the nation, yet very few hold political office. They have achieved great entrepreneurial success in Silicon Valley, where many firms are headed by people who trace their heritage to India. With a population of only 1.8 million -- or six-tenths of one percent of the nation's total -- Indian Americans have a household median annual income of $61,322. That's 46 percent higher than the national average, according to the 2000 U.S. census. So far, they have made few inroads into politics. There are only five state legislators nationwide, and no members of Congress, who trace their ancestry to India. But this political deficit may be changing."