Judge Disqualifies Republican Candidate in Honda-Khanna Race Following Lawsuit

Ro Khanna, Rep. Mike Honda

CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | A Sacramento Superior Court judge ordered the removal Wednesday of one of the three Republican candidates in the 17th Congressional District race from the June 3 primary ballot after invalidating two nominating signatures.

Vinesh Singh Rathore, an attorney for Google, offered only the minimum number of 40 nominating signatures to the Alameda County and Santa Clara registrar of voters earlier this month. According the The Recorder, a Sacramento-based legal publication, Judge Allen Sumner threw out two signatures deemed to have been written by the same hand. A lawsuit filed Monday by Jeffrey Wald, a long-time Alameda County Republican Party insider had alleged Rathore’s nominating papers were invalid.

The suit also alleged the nominating papers of Joel VanLandingham, yet another Republican in the race, contained signatures also included on Khanna’s petition. The judge, however, found no state election laws forbidding “cross-candidate support” and allowed VanLandingham’s name to be included on the ballot.

The ruling comes just one day before the California Secretary of State is due to publish the list of certified names for the June primary. Subsequently, the sudden reconfiguring of the race may reverberate through the next two months of the primary season. The absence of Rathore, and Indian American who only recently became a Republican, may force some recalculation in the race, which also features a Republican Indian American woman named Vanila Singh. Khanna, though a Democrat, is also of Indian ancestry in a congressional district with a large South Asian population.

Some observers had openly questioned whether Rathore’s candidacy was legitimately inspired or raised solely as a bulwark against Vanila Singh’s potential to siphon moderate and conservative votes away from Khanna. In fact, at the Republican state convention in Burlingame two weeks ago, there was significant grumbling and speculation over the sudden appearance of Rathore in the race. Monday’s lawsuit was filed by the San Francisco law firm headed by Harmeet Dhillon, the vice-chair of the state Republican Party.

Wald’s suit, though, more than insinuates Rathore candidacy came at the behest of Khanna. However, only anecdotal evidence is offered. For instance, the lawsuit alleges the use of Singh, Rathore’s middle name, on nominating papers appears nowhere else in the public sphere and constituted a strategy to confuse voters with Vanila Singh. It also notes Rathore switched his party affiliation to Republican just a day before filing three weeks ago. “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,” said the suit. Khanna, Rathore and VanLandingham have all denied the allegations, according to media reports.

Polling last month paid for by Democracy for America, a Honda supporter, raised questions whether Singh’s entrance into the race might erode Khanna’s chances of winning one of two spots on the November ballot.

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