A former Obama Administration official from Fremont has achieved a rare milestone by raising more than $1.2 million for a House campaign in a single quarter – a full election cycle ahead of when he says he’s actually likely to run.
Ro Khanna, 35, a Democrat, isn’t filing his fourth-quarter campaign finance report with the Federal Election Commission until Monday, but was kind enough to give me an exclusive advance look at the numbers. He says he raised $1,221,857 from a total of 923 donors in this first three months of his campaign, including $897,000 from Northern California and $357,000 from the high-tech community (including people who work at more than 175 different companies). All of this money came from individual contributions; he has banked no PAC money. He ended 2011 with $1,142,955 in the bank.
Unless I missed something in looking back through FEC records, I don’t think any non-incumbent House candidate in the nation has raised more in his or her opening “out-of-the-gate” campaign quarter in the past decade. In fact, I see only two or three instances in which a non-incumbent House candidate raised more than that in any single quarter since 2000. For additional context, Roll Call was excited this past week that Iowa’s former first lady raised a third of what Khanna did during the same time period.
“I’m honored that so many people are supporting our message of a strong economy and a great America,” he said in an e-mail today. “I will strive to be worthy of their support and will work to strengthen America’s competitiveness, innovative capability, and manufacturing base.”
What’s more, he raised all this money so far ahead of when he says he intends to use it. Khanna – who in August finished a two-year stint as a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Commerce Department, and is now at Silicon Valley legal powerhouse Wilson Sonsini – has his eye on the newly drawn 15th District now represented by Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont. Stark is now seeking re-election to his 21st term in the House, but Khanna has been telling me for months and repeated to me last week that he won’t take on Stark; rather, he’s anticipating that this next term will be Stark’s last, and he’ll run for the open seat in 2014.
Of course, all that would change in a hurry if Stark were to change his mind and not seek another term this year.
Stark, 80, does already face a Democratic challenger in this cycle: Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell, 31, who – although I’ve not seen his fourth-quarter filing yet – is certainly not posting anything near numbers Khanna has. Swalwell’s trying to make up for that with a great deal of exuberance and shoe leather, tirelessly working the district at every opportunity to raise his profile. He hopes to cash in on the district’s new orientation – including a lot of new territory on the other side of the East Bay hills – and on the fact that this is the first regular House primary using the “top-two” system (in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to November’s general election).
But it’s an uphill battle against so veteran an incumbent, and if Swalwell doesn’t pull it off in 2012, he’s going to have one extremely well-funded and solidly backed opponent on his hands should he try again in 2014. (And I’m not talking about Ellen Corbett, who also must be looking upon Khanna’s numbers with dismay.)
Khanna made this killing mainly with big eventsl – an exclusive Oct. 18 soiree at the Portola Valley home of venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, netting about $440,000; a more grassrootsier event Nov. 19 in Hayward, netting about $220,000; and a Nov. 30 event at the Woodside home of former Symantec CEO John Thompson (the same site as one of President Obama’s big-ticket fundraisers in September), netting about $200,000.
“This shows the level of support we have in the local community given that one of our most successful events was in Hayward. We are mobilizing many local leaders who have never participated in politics before,” he said today.
Among the cast of characters dropping by those events were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco (with whom Khanna has been building bonds ever since his ill-advised 2004 primary challenge to Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo); Gov. Jerry Brown; former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; plus state and local officials. His donors are a who’s-who of usual Democratic deep pockets, like John Doerr, Penny Pritzker, Susie Buell, Marc Benioff and Marc Andreessen. In short, he’s showed he has buzz where it counts.
“I am most excited by the ideas and energy brought to our campaign by some of our nation’s greatest innovators such as Reid Hoffman, Marc Andreessen, and Peter Thiel,” Khanna said today. “I learned a lot about what America needs to create an ecosystem for innovation in the 21st century.”