Politician Rishi Kumar shares vision for 18th congressional district with journalism classes


Irina Malyugina

Councilman Rishi Kumar speaks to students in the journalism room. Kumar is currently running for congress in California’s 18th congressional district.

by Sarah Mohammed, Reporter

Saratoga city councilmember and Democratic candidate for California’s 18th Congressional District, Rishi Kumar visited two of the upper school’s news journalism classes on Tuesday to speak about topics ranging from Silicon Valley’s unique “innovation economy” to proper urban planning of housing and roads.

Kumar, 52, presents himself as a politician with a real-world, tech perspective. Originally from India, Kumar came to the U.S. for his master’s degree and later settled in Silicon Valley as a software engineer in 2001. To members of the journalism staff, Kumar spoke about the importance of technology and innovation, quoting Congressman Ro Khanna, who called current congressional leaders “technologically illiterate.” 

“The whole economy is changing,” he said during an afterschool interview. “We need tech leaders who get it and truly believe we can make it better.” 

Kumar also mentioned the importance of education in the journalism class he visited, stressing that currently, students of parents without a college education are not encouraged to pursue higher education. 

“We need to look at education as a larger, bigger agenda… [to] make it better for the youth of our country,” he said.

A two-term councilmember of Saratoga, Kumar holds the record for highest number of votes in Saratoga’s election history, gaining 30 percent of the total votes in his re-election. As a councilmember, he has worked on resolving local citizen issues such as crime and water rate increases. 

Since announcing his bid for Congress in March, Kumar has been actively campaigning to represent the 18th Congressional District, which encompasses the upper school. As a Democrat, Kumar is running against Democratic incumbent Anna Eshoo, who has occupied the office since 1993. 

“We believe in a data-driven campaign [and getting] a lot of the youth engaged to see how we can get a win later on in the March primary and then in November 2020,” Kumar said. 

He includes high school interns on his campaign team, calling the addition of young activists “empowerment.” This past summer he started his youth fellowship program, engaging a couple hundred high school and college students in door-to-door canvassing, policy research, phone banking, social media marketing and analytics for his campaign. 

“[High school interns learn] not just skills like analytics, but also the soft skills to give an elevator pitch and get the yes votes. That’s a tremendous skill, which will actually stand true for the rest of your life if you are able to do it successfully,” Kumar said. 

Voters in the 18th Congressional District, which includes Campbell, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Redwood City, Saratoga, Stanford and parts of San Jose, can vote for the district’s next representative. The primary election is set for March 3, 2020, and the general election is set for Nov. 3, 2020. 

Additional reporting by Eric Fang, Aditya Singhvi and Anna Vazhaeparambil.