More super-early endorsements for Mike Honda

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, continues firing shots across the bow of potential Democratic challenger Ro Khanna, this time with endorsements from former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and 20 members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

As long-circulating rumors of Khanna’s 2014 candidacy in the 17th District began to gather steam and attention a few weeks ago, Honda had trotted out endorsements from President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. The newest endorsements came Thursday.

“As a past Chair of the Democratic National Committee, I am proud to have served with Congressman Mike Honda in the leadership of our national party, and I proudly endorse him for re-election to Congress in 2014,” Dean said in a statement issued via Honda’s campaign.

“Progressive Democrats have relied on Mike for many years as he has consistently championed the values we share, shaping our debate nationally and locally on issues such as education, immigration, the economy, the budget, the environment and the right of all families to pursue the American dream,” Dean said. “Mike has also served as an effective leader of our diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, as well as a critical ally of the LGBT community. The people of the 17th Congressional District can continue to count on Mike to stand toe to toe with those who seek to roll back the progress that our grassroots efforts have produced.”

CAPAC chairwoman Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, issued a statement on behalf of herself and 19 other members of the caucus, of which Honda is chairman emeritus. This endorsement might be particularly notable given the 17th District is the first majority-Asian American/Pacific Islander district in the continental United States, and the South Asian community has been a huge component of Khanna’s formidable fundraising.

“Since day one, Mike has been a fearless advocate for the AAPI community on a host of critical issues – from fighting the spread of viral hepatitis, to voting rights, to creating jobs and to reuniting our families and ensuring fairness in immigration reform,” the caucus’ statement said. “Now that he currently represents the first majority Asian American Congressional district in the U.S., Mike’s leadership is needed more than ever before.”

Among the caucus members signing the statement were Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.

Khanna, a former Obama Administration official, sat out last year’s election after raising a record-breaking $1.2 million but choosing not to challenge veteran-but-vulnerable Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont. That might’ve been a crucial career miscalculation, as Democrat Eric Swalwell took down Stark in November, and now there’s talk that Khanna might see Honda as a similar target in 2014.

Khanna’s campaign papers never specified the district or year in which he would run, and he has said he’s still mulling where and when to make his bid. “My decision on whether to run will not be based on Washington politics, it will be based on conversations in the local community,” he said early this month. “I want to determine where I can best help in aiding the community and improving our economy.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR Senile Columnist

    If RoK wants to serve the locals, why doesn’t he challenge the useless Zoe L or clueless BarLee?

  • GV Haste

    Got to love the Howard (YEOW!) Dean endorsement.

    “Progressive Democrats have relied on Mike for many years as he has consistently championed the values we share”
    (meaning we can always count on Mike for a knee-jerk party line vote)

    “The people of the 17th Congressional District can continue to count on Mike to stand toe to toe with those who seek to roll back the progress that our grassroots efforts have produced”

    Oh yeah, as though Ro was a Tea Party member who was gonnan outlaw abortion and start building a nuclear power plant in Milpitas.

    BTW, these fear based endorsements sound awfully familiar. Just like the ones we heard when the entire Bay Area delegation rallied behind Pete Stark.

  • JohnW

    Re: #2

    First, Howard Dean’s reference to “those who seek to roll back the progress that our grassroots efforts have produced” was about the Republicans, not about Ro.

    Second, there is nothing wrong with somebody like Howard Dean giving an early endorsement to a respected incumbent Democrat. Let’s not make is sound like Mike Honda is another Pete Stark. Mike Honda has engaged in none of Stark’s bizarre behavior.

    As a youngster, he and his family were hauled away from their California home and possessions to spend four years in an internment camp in Colorado. Before getting into politics, Honda served in the Peace Corps and was a teacher and school principal, who was also a school board member. Agree with him or not on issues, the man deserves some respect.

  • Independent Voter

    What I find interesting is that 23 of the 43 members of the CAPAC did NOT endorse Honda. I think think that is very significant considering the majority of the caucus he chaired did not endorse.

    Also, I disagree with the assessment that Khanna maybe made a career miscalculation in not challenging. Keep in mind that if Khanna would have challenged Stark, Ellen Corbett would’ve jumped in creating a strong likelihood that Stark and the Independent candidate, Chris Pareja, likely would’ve emerged as the top 2 winners in the primary, leaving Swalwell, Corbett, and Khanna out in the cold. With that being said, I think Khanna was VERY smart in deciding to sit that race out.

  • GV Haste

    Re: #3,
    “As a youngster, he and his family were hauled away from their California home and possessions to spend four years in an internment camp in Colorado.”

    Look that policy and act was shameful.
    Having said that, Mike Honda was only 1 year old when he entered the camp, and it was closed when he was age 4 years and 3 months old.
    So he spent about 3 years there at a very young age.

    No doubt the experience affected his entire family for years afterwords, but as a 1 year old, to barely 4 years old I doubt he fully comprehended the situation.
    The fact of it would not affect my decision on his abliity to now serve effectively.

    His other history, much more important. He has lived a impressive life for which he should be proud.
    Whether he is the best representative going forward is another matter entirely.

  • JohnW

    Re #5

    I agree that “whether he is the best representative going forward” is always the proper question. If somebody wants to challenge him, great. Competition is good. However, I would ask this: As an incumbent with a good record, why shouldn’t he receive the endorsement of party leaders? Any Democrat running against him has the burden of making a case as to why Honda should be turned out of office to make room for a fresh face.

    This is not a career politician, clinging to his office and its perks until his dying breath. He may get there one day, but I see no evidence that his time is past. In contrast to Pete Stark, he has served in Congress only since 2001. He spent most of his life in the real world, doing good things outside of politics. He didn’t run for his first paid elective office until 1990, at age 49.

    I disagree in the strongest way with your dismissive observations about his experience in the Japanese-American internment camp. Granted, this experience alone does not qualify him for public office, any more than McCain’s POW experience qualifies him to be a senator or president, or Chuck Hagel’s combat experience qualifies him to be Secretary of Defense.

    However, Honda’s experience has influenced him to be passionate on civil rights issues. Somebody who went through that, even at the age of 4, remembers. However, even if he didn’t remember a day of it, he would be shaped by the knowledge that his family had all their possessions taken away and, upon returning to California, worked as sharecroppers. He would be constantly reminded during family conversations. Instead of turning all this into something negative, he did just the opposite.

  • Elwood

    @ John W #6

    One of your best, John.

  • GV Haste

    “I disagree in the strongest way with your dismissive observations about his experience in the Japanese-American internment camp”

    Please,that was hardly dismisive. I was merely responding to “your” leading off his resume with that point.
    You put it right on top as one of the reasons we should consider him “the man deserves some respect.”
    when considering whether someone else should have the effrontery to challenge him in our democracy.
    Not unlike those who said we should respect Pete Stark for all the things he did 30 years ago, and THUS should vote to keep him in office, and that NO ONE should challege him.

    I’m not some fan of Khanna’s, I’m just tired of all the folks circling the Democratic Party wagons every time anyone dares to challenge a incumbent.
    We need a continual refreshing replacement of the blood in the system. Far too many Democrats (I’m one) are so stuck in the incumbents-forever mode, such that we’ve ended up retaining seriously worn out politicians for whom public office has become their lifestyle.
    We don’t need to wait until they turn into Pete Stark before we look for someone new.
    A dismal decline should not be the initiating point for replacement.

    You should be encouraging the widest possible choices for the voters instead of being in the mode of hanging onto folks who might be well past their prime.
    The entire Democratic Party scene has become far to clubby.

    I wish ever single Democratic congressmember in the Greater Bay Area would have a serious Democratic challenger. They could all use it.

    Again, thank God for the two measures that have brought us to this point.
    1. Fair(er) Reapportionment Commission
    2. The new Top Two runoff system.

    BTW, the Democratic Party, and all the Bay Area congress members opposed both those measures.
    Democratic Party state chairman, John Burton, traveled the state “arm in arm” with the Republican Party chairman, trying to defeat both those measures.
    Together they appeared all over the state media.
    What anti-democratic idiots they were. So obviously only out for the interests of entrenched politicians.

    To Hell with them and that stuffy attitude.
    We want democracy, not the spoon-fed version we’ve been given for so long.

    I hope Honda and Khanna have a rough and tumble battle.
    If Honda wins, fine. Lets get the issues out there and see who has the best ideas for the future.

  • Independent Voter

    Re: #8

    GV Haste really hits the nail on the head. Honda is undeniably a honorable man, however Congress has been broken for years and we really need folks in there who truly understand the economy and technology, especially here in the heart of Silicon Valley. Elections shouldn’t be about biography. It should be about who can do the most for voters.

    I hope Khanna decides to run as I would very much look forward to hearing him and Honda debate the issues. I could be wrong, but my gut tells me Khanna has a far more articulate vision and plan for the future of Silicon Valley than any of the current delegation does at this time. Time will tell and we shall see.

  • JohnW

    Re: # 8 and 9

    I’m all for the competition. Bring it. I was and still am an enthusiast for the open primary/top two system, However, I don’t agree with the notion that it is somehow inappropriate for party leaders to endorse an incumbent and that doing so is always to be construed as “circling the wagons.” For sure, I would agree that was the case with Pete Stark. But endorsements are an integral part of organized politics.

    I get the impression that, if Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders decided to throw Honda under the bus and endorse Ro Khanna, you would be touting that as proof of Khanna’s virtues as a prospective candidate. But endorsing Honda, who happens to be the incumbent rather than the challenger, is somehow sleazy. If Ro Khanna is your guy in 2014, go for it.

    And yes, GV Haste, I found your comments about the internment camp (“He was only 1 year old…So he spent about 3 years there as a very young age”) to be very dismissive. And, I would add, clueless!

  • GV Haste


    As to his ability to serve as a congressman I found your inclusion of his life from age 1 to 4, to be less than a convincing element in why one should give him extra consideration should he run against Khanna.

    BTW, by way of comparison, I’ve often thought all the mention of Barack Obama’s “experience” overseas to also be over emphasized. We often hear how Obama has a extra understanding of world issues because of the time he was in Indonesia. He was there beteen 1967 and 1971, from the age of 6 until age 10. A nation I spent considerable time in during my twenties.

    Now, if I’m not gonna give Obama much extra credit for what he learned from age 6 to 10, then I’m hardly gonna give Honda that much for what he absorbed from age 1 to 4.
    I suppose if Honda hadd left the camp at age 2, you’d still be making that case. Personally I remember only tiny glimpses of what my life was like prior to age 4 years and 3 months.

    As to my statement being clueless, well, I guess we are talking about different issues and their importance for the future of that congressional district.

    We all have our histories from which we draw understanding about the world. I don’t think one set of circumstances trumps others. The entire world moves on. Nations don’t seem to dwell as deeply in that past as you seem to.

    I highly doubt our nation will ever repeat that treatment of a group of citizens.

  • Elwood

    “I highly doubt our nation will ever repeat that treatment of a group of citizens.”

    My, you are a cockeyed optimist, aren’t you?

  • JohnW

    Re: #11

    To set the record straight, I never said what happened to Honda and his family was a reason to vote for him. I referenced it as a meaningful part of his history that influenced what he chose to do with his life. It’s not a matter of giving him “credit” for what he absorbed from 1 to 4.

    I’m not in Honda’s district. I’m neutral as to whether he or a challenger would be the best person to represent the district going forward. What I initially reacted to was your portrayal of Honda as another “Pete Stark” case in your comment @2 — as somebody who is senescent, out of touch and unworthy of the endorsements.

  • GV Haste

    JohnW, You say…
    “What I initially reacted to was your portrayal of Honda as another “Pete Stark” case in your comment @2 — as somebody who is senescent, out of touch and unworthy of the endorsements”

    I reviewed my posts. The closest to that definition that I could find was as follows…

    “We don’t need to wait until they turn into Pete Stark before we look for someone new.
    A dismal decline should not be the initiating point for replacement.”

    In those sentences I never suggest that Honda is senescent or out of touch. I only suggested that we need not wait for either condition to show up before we look for and encourage other quality candidates to come forth.
    The current system in place within the party is to indeed wait until either a senescent condition becomes apparent or they become woefully out of touch, or a combination of both finally forces everyone’s hand.
    Or as in the case of Swalwell, someone not in the fold, decides to take the matter into their own hands.

    This district is in the heart of Silicon Valley. Imagine if the leadership in the industy followed the sclerotic patterns find in our congressional staffing patterns. We’d still be playing Pong.

    We need candidates who are willing to be a bit disruptive. Who bring new ideas, even ones that upset entrenched groups that drag their heels.

    So you bet, I hope Honda has one or more stiff challengers. Every district should have the kind of competition that forces new ideas to be considered.
    We are hardly going to be getting imaginative proposals from a local congressional delegation that averages over 70 years old, which was the case going into the last election.
    The youngest of the 8 members was Jackie Speier at 62.

    That group is suppose to lead the most dynamic high tech area of the nation with forward thinking?
    We need some “disruption”, just like we find in the most dynanmic local companies.

    Sorry, but I don’t see that kind of leadership and new ideas coming from Mike Honda.

    Like you, I don’t live in that district, but I welcome some real democracy which only occurs when the voters have real choices that aren’t hand picked by party insiders. Of course many of them also gave support for Ro Khanna, but when push comes to shove, they seem to all revert to the rule book, support the incumbent. That policy carried to its extreme in the case of Pete Stark.

    We don’t need a repeat of that old pattern.

  • JohnW

    @11 GV Haste

    “I’ve often though all the mention of Barack Obama’s ‘experience’ overseas to also be over emphasized…extra understanding of world issues because of time he was in Indonesia”

    That’s a bit of a straw man, because nobody, least of all Obama, seriously suggests that a few grade school years in Indonesia are the source of Obama’s understanding of world affairs. However, connect that with some other dots, and it adds up. Like having a PhD mother who worked for the Agency for International Development and the Ford Foundation in Indonesia. Like being the son of a Kenyan father. Like going to high school in a multicultural state like Hawaii while it was still in its early years of statehood. Like taking a minor in international relations at Columbia. That doesn’t make him Henry Kissinger, but it’s a start.

  • GV Haste

    JohnW, Regarding Obama, look, he is certainly more traveled than George W Bush 43 was. Also more preceptive about the world.

    He saw his father for all of 1 month in 1971.
    In 1988 he spent 3 weeks in Europe and 5 weeks in Kenya.
    Later he spent “several months” in Bali while writing his book which the publisher had a deadline for.
    Some travel, but like most fast track political careers he just didn’t have time to experience the world in any great depth.

    In my mind, short trips, especially to tourist spots, lead to little understanding.
    The one trip to Kenya was significant since he would have seen the real culture.

    Sad that so many of our top political leaders are clueless about the world, learning most of what they know from the NY Times and Time magazine.

    Myself having lived for several years in Hawaii, I hardly count that as international experience.

    Don’t get me wrong, Obama is OK internationally.

  • Elwood

    Anyone who learns most of what they know from NYTimes or Time mag is in deep doo doo.

  • JohnW

    Re: #16 GV Haste

    First, going back to an earlier point you made, I definitely agree with you about the advanced average age of the Bay Area congressional delegation and the limited pool of high quality successors.

    As for Obama, I’m glad that you think he is “okay internationally.” But I never suggested that his adventures as a tourist were the source of his pre-presidential internationalist awareness and perspective. Dwelling on the math of Obama’s paternal connection to Kenya (“saw his father all of 1 month;” “one trip to Kenya) sort of misses the point.

  • lovestohike

    Mike Honda is a complete utter jerk – totally unaware of his district – does his own thing and stomped on Stage 4 cancer victims
    Those who support his clown are those who love excessive taxation,
    christian persecution – he never shows up for christian events
    and has voted for endless debt and passing it on to our kids
    Mike Honda is nice looking ethnic
    but nasty horrible idiotic representative
    Get a new Job
    and get out of my district and do something for a district
    that likes excessive taxes and hurting cancer victims.

  • lovestohike

    Mike Honda is such a bad rep that anyone who runs against him should highlight this lunatic’s record.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    If RoKha is destiny’s child, why doesn’t he take on a Repub incumbent??