Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna recruited two last-minute Republican candidates to split the GOP vote and restore his position as the top challenger to Silicon Valley U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, an East Bay Republican official claims in a lawsuit.

The lawsuit provides no direct evidence proving Khanna helped get Joel Vanlandingham and Vinesh Singh Rathore into the race, and Khanna's campaign blasted the allegation as baseless Wednesday.

Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont, "is focused on spreading his forward-looking vision to voters in the 17th District and had nothing to do with anyone entering this race," spokesman Tyler Law said.

But Jeffrey Wald of Fremont, an Alameda County Republican Central Committee member, wants a Sacramento County Superior Court judge to order the Alameda and Contra Costa county registrars and Secretary of State Debra Bowen to kick Vanlandingham and Rathore off the June 3 primary election ballot.

His lawsuit claims "Khanna recruited candidates to enter the race as Republicans to split the Republican vote three ways, effectively diluting votes that would otherwise be cast in favor of (Vanila) Singh."

Dr. Vanila Singh, a Fremont Republican, entered the race at the start of this year, while Vanlandingham and Rathore filed papers just before the March 7 deadline.


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"The addition of Singh Rathore and Vanlandingham, both of whom are running as Republicans, will split the GOP vote, effectively moving Khanna to second place in the top two June 3 Primary Election," Wald's lawsuit says. "The addition of Singh Rathore, another Indian-American, will split the Indian-American vote. In addition, the fact that Singh Rathore has added his middle name on his ballot designation appears to be a clear effort to cause confusion between 'Vanila Singh' and 'Vinesh Singh,' both of whom are designated as Republicans."

Rathore, a Google product attorney for San Jose, submitted candidacy papers bearing several nominating signatures in the same handwriting, indicating the people didn't sign personally as required by law, the lawsuit says. And Vanlandingham, a tech industry job recruiter from San Jose, submitted nomination papers signed by people who also had signed for Khanna, or bearing addresses or handwriting that differed from those people's voter registrations, the suit claims.

The lawsuit also claims neither Rathore nor Vanlandingham had registered or filed statements of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission as of this past Sunday; no FEC records could be found for either of them Wednesday.

Wald is represented by the San Francisco law firm of Dhillon & Smith. Partner Harmeet Dhillon is vice chairwoman of the California Republican Party.

"The contents of this legal action brought by a voter in the district are concerning," said Vivek Kembaiyan, campaign spokesman for Honda, D-San Jose. "This is a matter for the courts to decide, and we hope that there was no foul play involved in the candidates' recruitment or filing."

Rathore said in an email Wednesday he's "an ordinary citizen tired of feeling cynical and disillusioned by our political process" who filed to run for Congress because of his care for civil liberties, Internet freedom and other issues.

"I spent my nights and weekends collecting signatures for my nomination papers, and it's sad to see another candidate (or their proxies) try to bully Mr. Vanlandingham and I out of the race through litigation," Rathore wrote. "This is exactly why regular people don't get involved in politics."

Vanlandingham emailed the court Wednesday morning to object, saying Wald's claims seem biased: "He makes claims that lead to conclusions that are remarkably one-sided. He makes allegation[s] toward myself that are not true."

Vanlandingham specifically took issue with Wald's claim that his candidacy papers initially didn't reflect his Republican affiliation, noting that he has been a registered Republican for more than a decade. "Furthermore, if Mr. Ward was truly questioning the capability of the office of Register [sic] of Voters competency in doing their jobs, Mr. Wald would be asking for verification of signatures of ALL CANDIDATES not just the Republican candidates.

"It is painfully obvious that Mr. Ward's intention is politically motivated and that he is supported by some 'backroom deal' with Congressman Mike Honda and the Democratic Party," Vanlandingham wrote. "He is using the courts and the tax payer money in hopes of 'splitting the vote' and removing any checks and balances put into place by having any Republican candidates in the race. I would ask the court to dismiss this case and not waste any additional time or tax payer money."

Singh wouldn't comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, campaign manager Scott Luginbill said.

But Singh's campaign did announce Wednesday that the National Republican Congressional Committee advanced her to "On the Radar" status in its "Young Guns" program, which recruits and nurtures candidates who show promise of running a successful campaign.

"On the Radar" is a designation for candidates who have "met the minimum threshold in campaign organization and show potential to achieve greater status in the program as the cycle progresses." It's still short of "contender" and "Young Gun" statuses.

"California's hardworking families deserve better than skyrocketing health care costs, financial instability and mountains of debt on their backs. I am certain that Vanila Singh will be a strong contender this election cycle," NRCC Chairman Greg Walden said in Singh's news release.

Josh Richman covers politics. Contact him at 510-208-6428. Follow him at Twitter.com/josh_richman. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.