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Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) speaks during a press conference organized by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) on January 8, 2020. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Demanding 'Passionate Fighter for Human Rights,' Progressives Rally Around Ro Khanna for Harris' Senate Seat

"His voice in the Senate would be a major boost for our movement for justice," said the Justice Democrats. 

Julia Conley

Momentum grew on Wednesday in support of Rep. Ro Khanna taking over Vice President-elect Kamala Harris's Senate seat for the last two years of her term, as several progressive groups circulated petitions highlighting the congressman's commitment to broadly popular, progressive policies related to healthcare, climate action, and American militarism. 

"With the climate crisis on California's doorstep, we hope Gov. Newsom sees the critical importance of replacing Sen. Harris with a Green New Deal supporter with an aggressive vision and track record of confronting the crisis."
—Evan Weber, Sunrise Movement

The Sunrise Movement and Roots Action launched a joint petition Wednesday calling on Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom to select Khanna as Harris's replacement, as news reported confirmed that the congressman, who served as Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) presidential campaign co-chair, is on Newsom's short list of potential successors.

"There are very strong reasons for Ro Khanna to become the next U.S. senator from California," the petition reads. "Congressman Khanna has been a national champion for vital programs and goals supported by Californians—such as healthcare for all, national budget priorities based on human needs, a Green New Deal, opposing bloated military spending and endless wars, criminal justice reform, and a path to citizenship for immigrants."

"With our nation facing a wide range of severe problems and great opportunities, we believe that Ro Khanna would make a fantastic choice to be the next U.S. senator from our state," the groups added. 

Separately, the grassroots organization Our Revolution circulated its own petition calling on Newsom to appoint the progressive lawmaker.

As a member of the U.S. House since 2017, Khanna has been a strong proponent of ending U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen and of reallocating much of the Pentagon's $740 billion budget to healthcare spending and other social services, as well as restoring net neutrality.  

Recently, Khanna has sponsored legislation to tax corporations that don't pay their workers a living wage, incentivize the use of electric vehicles instead of those that run on fossil fuels for federal agencies, and distribute face coverings to all Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. 

With the Masks for All Act of 2020, which he co-sponsored with Sanders, Khanna called on the federal government to distribute high-quality, reusable masks to everyone in the U.S.—a proposal which won the support of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci.  

"If we can afford a $740 billion defense budget, we can afford to send every American a face mask," said Khanna when he introduced the legislation in July. "We are the wealthiest country on Earth, yet our healthcare workers are still facing a shortage of N-95s, our essential workers are having to purchase their own protective face masks, and far too many vulnerable Americans are being left to figure out how to procure this basic need."

Sanders was among the progressives who expressed support for Khanna's appointment to the Senate seat, which he said would bring "a proven fighter for working people" to the upper chamber. 

Some progressives pointed out that given Sanders's victory in California in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Newsom must consider the progressive views of his constituents when selecting the new senator. 

"It's critical that the next senator from California represent the state's increasingly progressive values, and back critical progressive policy priorities backed by Sen. Harris—like the Green New Deal," said Evan Weber, Sunrise Movement's political director. "With the climate crisis on California's doorstep, we hope Gov. Newsom sees the critical importance of replacing Sen. Harris with a Green New Deal supporter with an aggressive vision and track record of confronting the crisis. We're excited by the momentum building behind Congressman Ro Khanna to be California's next senator."

Other contenders being considered to replace Harris include Reps. Karen Bass, Barbara Lee, and Katie Porter, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

Compared to the other officials in consideration, RootsAction national director Norman Solomon said, "Ro Khanna represents the bluest of California's growing blue wave."

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