Ro Khanna's time has come.
His first congressional race against Tom Lantos 10 years ago, when he was 27, was a tilt at windmills. But his goal of serving in Congress, formed in college, has not wavered. He has prepared himself well through his career choices and by undertaking thoughtful, independent analysis of the big issues affecting Silicon Valley's ability to thrive.
We recommend Khanna, a Democrat, for the 17th Congressional District seat -- even though the incumbent is the venerable Mike Honda, whose graciousness and core values have endeared him to many.
Honda for 13 years has been a solid vote for civil rights, the environment and equal opportunity. But Silicon Valley -- whose economy, like the 17th District, stretches well into the East Bay -- needs a leader who grasps the complex economic challenges this economy faces, can articulate how to deal with them and can reach across the aisle to maybe even win some GOP support.
Since his Lantos run, Khanna has continued to work toward a future in government -- not by running for school board or city council, the classic strategy, but by pursuing the interests he hopes to advance. It is a respectable path.
An intellectual property attorney, Khanna held a Commerce Department post during the first Obama administration working with businesses nationwide to increase overseas trade. He developed theories on how to revive manufacturing in this country without disengaging from the world economy and wrote a book about it. More recently he has practiced law and taught economics at Stanford University.
Like any first-term congressman, he'll have a lot to learn. But he's a quick study who intelligently discusses complex legislation and economic theory. This contrasts with Honda, who, in describing a bill he has proposed, alluded several times to "Senator Connelly." We eventually realized he meant Mitch McConnell.
Khanna's Internet bill of rights for online privacy makes perfect sense, and it does not pander to the many Silicon Valley executives who support him: Valley companies have been, oh, let's say reluctant to embrace the openness Khanna advocates for consumers.
The Republican Party is supporting respected Stanford physician Dr. Vanila Singh in the open primary June 3. She has a stirring life story but no record in civic life, little knowledge of technology issues and long-winded, murky ideas even about health care reform, which should be her forte.
Another Republican, Joel Vanlandingham, jumped on the ballot at the last minute but is not a serious contender.
Khanna could end up in a runoff with Honda. Unseating a longtime incumbent still would be very hard, but we hope he succeeds. He is ready for the Congress of tomorrow, while Honda is a politician of the past.