Just because they’re not throwing their hats into the ring in 2012 doesn’t mean there aren’t a slew of people working now to try to succeed Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont.
We’ve known for a while that state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, had formed a campaign committee, but I was told week before last that she won’t challenge the 20-term incumbent in 2012, preferring to just fundraise and network in this cycle. Indeed, I now see she’s planning an Oktoberfest fundraiser Thursday, Oct. 27 at San Leandro’s Englander Pub “to benefit Ellen’s run for Congress in 2014 for the new 15th Congressional District.” She’s asking from $100 to $5,000 a head.
Then there’s Ro Khanna, 35, a lawyer at Silicon Valley mainstay Wilson Sonsini who until recently was a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Commerce Department overseeing 108 U.S. Export Assistance Centers in 47 states. Khanna challenged the late Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, in the 2004 primary when he lived on the Peninsula but has building ties to prominent Democrats ever since. Now he’s in Fremont, and when we chatted over coffee a few months ago, he said he was interested in Stark’s seat but supports Stark and would never challenge him.
Today, I see noted Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and his wife will host a fundraiser for Khanna – they’re asking $1,000 or $2,500 a head – at their Portola Valley home on Oct. 18, with Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, scheduled to attend. An e-mail announcing the fundraiser says former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta; hotel and realty mogul Penny Pritzker; Symantec Chairman John Thompson; Francisco Partners cofounder Sandy Robertson; venture capitalist Bill Draper; Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers managing partner Ted Schlein; KPCB partner Brook Byers; salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff; Esprit founder Susie Tompkins Buell; and Hummer Winblad Venture Partners managing director Mark Gorenberg are Khanna supporters, too.
That’s a lot of money, right there: a couple of billionaires in the bunch, and the crème de la crème of Bay Area/Silicon Valley Democratic fundraising. In fact, it’s so much so that I wondered whether Khanna had a change of heart about waiting for Stark to retire. But he told me today he’s still “waiting and supporting him.”
“I admire him and will mobilize Dems as discussed and prepare for future,” Khanna said in an e-mail. “But unlike others I will be supporting him until he signals the seat is open in the future.”
The only person who has declared candidacy so far to take on Stark in 2012 is Alameda County prosecutor and Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell, 30.
“The United States Congress does not take reservations,” Swalwell said today of the Corbett and Khanna fundraisers. “It’s walk-ins only. We take our election cycles one at a time. There’s an election in 2012 and we can’t afford to wait for a new direction. So I’m acting now.”
UPDATE @ 10:18 A.M. TUESDAY: Per the discussion of his residency in the comments below, Khanna e-mailed me late last night to say that although his voter registration shows him living within the new 17th Congressional District, that’s actually the residence he maintained here while in DC working for the Commerce Department. Since returning, he has leased a residence in Fremont’s Ardenwood area, within the new 15th Congressional District, he said: “I have not had a chance to change my voter registration, but will do that this week.”
He also mentioned that his campaign has a grassroots event planned for Nov. 19 in Hayward. “So, just wanted to let you know that we do have local community involvement too,” he wrote, not just the deep-pocketed donors.