Interview of Rishi Kumar, Democrat running for House District CA-16 

Interview of Rishi Kumar, Democrat running for House District CA-16 

He’s a candidate willing to put his money where his mouth is—dedicated to ‘getting things done.’ His impressive accomplishments include launching a free entrepreneurship boot camp for youth in Silicon Valley’s disadvantaged neighborhoods to equip children with STEM and entrepreneurial skills. And, since 2012, he and his wife have been hosting a free Lego Robotics Bootcamp to teach students about robotic design and programming. He kept going, even during the pandemic. Rishi organized hackathons, facilitated entrepreneurial boot camps for young students, and provided online coding classes to encourage continued growth for all students.
He is a family man, a hi-tech executive, and a mechanical engineer with a full-time job at a startup. He has a fulfilling political career that is gaining traction with the full support of his community. Rishi shares his personal history, perspective, and current events in this wide-ranging interview.

First of all, can you tell us about your journey to America? And how did you enter politics?

My journey to America was fueled by a dream to advance my education. I accomplished that goal by earning a graduate degree from the University of Connecticut. I made my way to Silicon Valley and became a part of the innovation economy, working for companies like IBM, Cisco, and various startups.

Today, I work full-time and have a political career. I am a C-level executive at a Silicon Valley startup, developing market strategies and overseeing growth initiatives.

My political career began in 2012 when I was invited to join the California Democratic Party and run for the delegate position. To my surprise, I was elected to the California Democratic Party’s Executive Board and as a delegate, defeating 44 other candidates. It felt empowering to win the challenging race. Shortly after, I took a leap of faith and ran for city council, a journey that proved very rewarding because it allowed me to give back to my community.

As a council member of Saratoga, I got things done and was re-elected with the highest votes in 66 years of our city. I’ve had the privilege of serving on Governor Brown’s UC Regents committee and the California Dept. of Education committee focused on implementing computer science in California’s K-12 public schools. With my background in the tech industry and a people-first approach to public service, I’ve always strived to make a difference and serve my community to the best of my abilities. It’s a positive story unfolding as we seek to bring tech-savvy skills to Washington with this bid for Congress.

What do you bring to the city council as a Silicon Valley executive?

As an IBM engineer, I discovered my calling as an activist, stepping up to address complex community issues that I felt compelled to address. As a member of the Saratoga City Council, I challenged the system and focused my energy on complex problems, optimizing fiscally driven problem-solving approaches.

I led successful campaigns that resulted in the cancellation of multiple San Jose Water Company rate hikes, benefiting over a million Silicon Valley residents. Compared to other cities, I delivered the highest burglary reduction and halted a 300-room hotel development in a high-fire zone. When colleagues proposed a road tax, I opposed it and advocated for budget optimization, putting the brakes on the tax plan.

I bring pragmatic, common-sense leadership with a track record of people-centric results to the political arena. My top priority has always been to fight for communities and find solutions to the most crucial problems.

How has your political experience been?

In the November 2022 U.S. Congress election for CA-16, I secured 102,000 votes, capturing 42.2% of the total votes. I won in many cities and precincts within the congressional district against an elected official who has been in office for decades. It’s been rated as the best performance by a challenger despite being outspent 3 to 1. 

Regardless, I’m gearing up for victory in the 2024 election.

Tell us about your family background and connections to the Hindu-American community.

I grew up in a middle-class Mumbai suburb apartment without frills like air conditioning; my father worked extremely hard in the Cryogenics industry, and my mother cared for me and my two brothers. What they couldn’t provide in terms of objects, they made up for in terms of good values. My mother captivated us with Ramayana tales, which were her favorite stories to tell us. Those experiences continue to fuel my desire to live a righteous life.

Life wasn’t easy, but we made the best of it. I recall vividly the scooter rides when all five of us would cram onto Dad’s scooter and ride through the streets of Bombay. I would stand on the scooter floor because I was the youngest, and my father would wrap his arms around me, protecting me while steering through traffic. In those moments, I felt happy and privileged.

Coming to America was full of firsts for me. I bought my first pair of jeans, attended my first Thanksgiving dinner with a professor’s family, had my first snowball fight, and so on. I truly felt welcomed and accepted. 

I met my wife, Seema, at the cherry blossom festival in Washington, D.C. We felt an immediate bond, and our love story began. Seema is the real reason behind every little success that I have enjoyed. Our home is in Saratoga, where we’ve built our life together and raised our two children. Our cultural and spiritual roots profoundly influence who we are and how we grow our family.

I value the Hindu culture, its teachings, and its traditions deeply. As the founder of the Saratoga Hindu Temple, I’ve organized programs like Balagokulam and classes on Vedanta, yoga, and meditation. I’ve been organizing festivals for Shiva Ratri, Janmashtami, Diwali, and Navaratri since 2012. The Hindu-American community is a pillar of support for me and my family. Receiving the endorsement from the Hindu American Political Action Committee (HAPAC) and Americans for Hindus is an honor I cherish deeply. 2019, I was honored with the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) Pride of the Community Award and the Festival of Global Heroes Award in 2023. 

Over the years, I’ve been actively advocating and outspoken about my support for the Hindu community. I spearheaded a press release from Indian-American elected leaders condemning the tragic shooting of two Indian-American engineers in Kansas in 2017. I was the only Indian-American elected leader to attend and speak at a Peace rally at San Jose City Hall, taking a strong stand against terrorism in South Asia. I’ve ardently voiced concerns to California lawmakers about the unfair representation of Hinduism in California textbooks. Recently, I have expressed my rejection of California’s caste bill – described here:

What are your views on the unique challenges the Hindu-American community faces?

Hindus, including myself, are increasingly concerned that Hindu Americans, often labeled as the ‘model minority,’ have been unfairly targeted.

For example, California’s caste bill, SB-403, appears to be an attempt to address an issue that lacks a historical or legal foundation in the United States. By emphasizing caste, we risk stirring unnecessary division and potentially inciting hate crimes against South Asians. Implementing such a law could ironically force South Asians to align with a caste designation they do not recognize. 

Such bills unjustly paint South Asian Californians negatively, attributing biases and severe crimes, such as torture and human trafficking, based on caste. There is no incarceration record of South Asians in California for these alleged caste-based crimes.

Instead of creating laws that might inadvertently sow division or stoke hatred, we must uphold universal nondiscrimination laws that apply to everyone, ensuring fairness without targeting specific communities. American laws should prioritize tackling the state’s pressing challenges rather than introducing potentially divisive legislation.
Hindu Americans nationwide should amplify their voices to guide policy-making toward addressing our country’s genuine challenges instead of focusing on fabricated issues.

What are your top three priorities if you are elected?

  • To leverage the outstanding technical and financial resources of America’s most affluent, innovative congressional district to act on unaddressed issues for decades. 
  • To push for a cleanup of Washington with term limits, ban congressional insider trading, and establish a coordinated problem-solving approach with a people-centric agenda, not divisive partisan politics.
  • As the first tech-savvy representative of this district, I will grow our economy, bring American jobs back to restore our supply chain integrity, and ensure that our innovation economy thrives as the world’s innovation hub.

You can find more information about his campaign, upcoming events, and joining the movement by volunteering or donating through the website:


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