Democratic congressional candidate and former Obama administration official Ro Khanna recruited two Republican candidates to enter a primary race to split the vote and weaken his top Republican opponent, according to a lawsuit filed in Superior Court of California.
Khanna’s campaign, the executive committee of which includes five Obama campaign veterans, recruited an Indian-American candidate with a similar name to Republican opponent Vanila Singh to confuse voters, according to the lawsuit filed by Alameda County Republican Central Committee member Jeffrey Wald and obtained by The Daily Caller.
Additionally, at least one Khanna supporter collecting signatures for a last-minute candidate said that the effort would help Khanna, according to the lawsuit. TheDC has also learned that one of the last-minute candidates was recently employed by the law firm Khanna currently works for.
“The late-entry of these two candidates was always fishy,” Singh told TheDC.
Khanna supporters discussed running a fake Republican candidate prior to the entry of the two last-minute candidates, according to California Republican sources. Khanna’s campaign denied the existence of the alleged scheme.
Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner, who was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis after serving as Davis’ chief legal affairs secretary, ruled on the lawsuit this week, determining that one of the last-minute Republican candidates is not eligible to run in the primary but allowing the other candidate to continue in the race while finding no wrongdoing on the part of Khanna’s campaign.
Khanna is challenging Democratic Rep. Mike Honda in California’s 17th Congressional District, which is holding a June 3 primary in which only the top two vote-getters from either party advance to the general election. Khanna was a favorite to carry the district’s heavy Indian-American vote until Republican candidate Dr. Vanila Singh, an Indian-American professor and physician at Stanford University and mother of two, entered the race.
A poll commissioned by Honda supporter Howard Dean’s liberal group Democracy for America released Feb. 27 showed Honda with 45 percent of the vote in the primary, with Singh at 29 percent and Khanna at 26 percent — a margin that would have bumped Khanna out of the general election race.
Days later, last-minute Republican candidates Joel VanLandingham and Vinesh Sing Rathore filed papers to enter the primary just before the March 7 filing deadline. The lawsuit alleged misconduct with both candidates’ signatures including different signatures for Rathore in the same handwriting and signatures for VanLandingham with address information that doesn’t match voter records.
“Upon information and belief, 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 Singh. At the last minute, Singh Rathore and VanLandingham became candidates for the June 3 Primary Election. The addition of Sing 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 ‘Vanilla Singh’ and ‘Vinesh Singh,’ both of whom are designated as Republicans,” according to the lawsuit.
Rathore previously worked as an associate attorney for the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where Khanna is currently of counsel. Rathore, who worked for the firm from 2007 to 2010, lived in Washington, D.C. during Khanna’s time with the firm. Rathore now works for Google, a Wilson Sonsini client.
“Initially, Singh Rathore represented that he was an independent from San Jose. Singh Rathore only declared his affiliation with the Republican Party on the eve of submitting his nomination papers,” according to the lawsuit.