CA17: Honda mingles at Silicon Valley econ forum

I spied with my little eye: Rep. Mike Honda slapping backs, shaking hands and otherwise mingling with Silicon Valley’s business elite at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Regional Economic Forum on Friday morning in Mountain View.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, took part in a panel discussion entitled, “How can Washington, D.C., help Silicon Valley succeed?” with Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; SendHub.com CEO Garrett Johnson; ChargePoint vice president Dimitrios Papadogonas; and SunPower CEO Tom Werner. The moderator was Working Partnerships Executive Director Cindy Chavez, a former San Jose councilwoman, current Santa Clara County supervisorial candidate and longtime Honda ally.

They were speaking to about 400 local government and business leaders – key constituencies that Honda wants on his side as he faces an electoral challenge from fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration official. Khanna’s campaign strategy depends in large part on convincing voters he’s more in touch with Silicon Valley’s needs than Honda.

Honda clearly tried to prove otherwise Friday as he talked on topics including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Outside, he insisted this isn’t a new cause for him – he said he started at least six or seven years ago, with bills to consolidate approximately $2 billion in STEM education grants that were spread across almost a dozen federal agencies, and to elevate STEM education to the level of a presidential committee.

He said he also has pushed for additional financial support to college students who want to teach STEM subjects, and for having more personnel with technology and corporate backgrounds working on Capitol Hill either as fully-paid interns or permanent staffers: “Most congresspeople don’t have a background in everything that you need.” And, he said, he wants President Obama’s push for universal preschool to include STEM education that starts in the pre-kindergarten to third-grade years – an earlier start to introduce a future workforce to the wonders of science.

Khanna – a former deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Commerce Department – also has emphasized STEM education as a cornerstone of his campaign, but has suggested that Honda is late to the party on this issue.

My chat with Honda was briefly interrupted by Palo Alto Councilman Marc Berman, who greeted the congressman with a hug and a vow of support. Honda said Berman had been a student volunteer for his first House campaign, back in 2000.

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

    Curious crowd. Blondie Granholm was a flop in Michigan. She couldn’t create a job in Lansing, how the heck could she help DC do it? As for RoK, he’s more in touch with his ego than jobs creation. Honda was probably showing off how he downloads apps without any help.

  • JohnW


    As a Michigander at heart, I’ll speak up for Granholm. That probably doesn’t surprise you.

    The manufacturing sector was falling apart years before she took office. Don’t know how anybody could have “created jobs” with Detroit and that whole part of the state coming unglued even before the big meltdown in 2008.. It’s not like her GOP successor, Rick Snyder is setting the world on fire. Granholm did lots of budget cutting and dealt with the same gridlocked, divided government, “we’re here to disrupt, not govern” tea party politics as we see in D.C.

    I had the pleasure of living in Michigan during the termd of George Romney followed by Bill Milliken from my home town, both great and moderate Republican governors. But those were boom days for Detroit.

  • Bluecollar voter.

    One of the reasons I’m so excited about Ro Khanna’s candidacy for Congress in the 17th district is his expertise in job creation, cutting edge strategies to put people back to work in the US – at decent wages. Few would argue we need to revitalize the manufacturing base in US – President Obama said this is a recent speech – but we need members of Congress with concrete ideas on how to do this. I was reading somewhere 30 years ago we had like 20 million manufacturing jobs, now we are down to 11 million, this is one of the reasons the middle class is getting hammered so bad, decent paying blue collar jobs are disappearing. Maybe we will never go back to 20 million jobs, but we can need to keep the manufacturing jobs we have, let’s build on this, let’s turn the tide and create more manufacturing jobs in the US. We need to make things and sell them in the US and abroad, we must do this if we are to remain a world economic power.
    One of the reasons I was so down on Pete Stark, and down on Mike Honda as well, is these guys are clueless on how to stem the tide of US jobs disappearing. In fact, jobs have been disappearing in droves on their watch – they have just fiddled away in Washington – playing partisan power games – while the middle class has been decimated. To correct this, I think we need new members in the NorCal Congressional delegation, new members who have concrete ideas and strategies on how to put people back to work. This young law professor-economist Ro Khanna – just 36 is overflowing with ideas on how to get our economy moving again, here locally, and in the US as a whole. I feel real strongly we need change agents in Washington, not the same old 70’s era partisan hacks like Mike Honda, so I think this Ro Khanna will be a great addition to the NorCal delegation.

  • RR senile columnist

    Prez BO “needs” members of Congress with “concrete ideas” on job creation. He can’t do it without RoK. What’s wrong with other 300+? Are they all retired dentists?

  • Bluecollar voter.

    #4 Simple common sense tells you we are not going to deal with the issue of unemployment and under-employment in the bay area and nationally by re-electing elderly 70’s era politicians, like Honda, Pete Stark, or Lynn Woolsey. These members, of former members – Pete Stark just got kicked out by angry voters – are or were in their 70’s and 80’s, they haven’t worked in the private sector in decades, they don’t understand what’s going on this new economy we have now. The rules have changed, the old ways aren’t working – you can see this all over the place, huge pockets of affluence in some sectors of the economy, while other sectors are bleeding jobs, like manufacturing or construction. I do not believe this generation – this old cohort in the NorCal delegation like Honda, Stark or Woolsey, are or were equipped to deal with the whole issue of chronic unemployment and the disappearing middle class.
    In order to solve these problems you need to go younger, we need to move the younger generation into these congressional seats. We have an emerging cohort of young leaders now in the bay area – like Ro Khanna, Erik Swalwell, or Gavin Newsom – just to name a few examples, who are really into cutting edge job creation strategies. Khanna, for example, is absolutely obsessed with new job creation strategies, so is Newsom, they are meeting constantly with young business owners, young high tech people, labor leaders, they are constantly getting feedback on what we need to do – as a state, to turn our economy around.
    Frankly, when you look at what was going on in the NorCal delegation with these older members – like Stark, Honda, and Woolsey they are or were basically semi-retired Representatives, hanging around because the job pays great and has such great benefits. Once in awhile they might drop in on a high tech conference or something, but they have or had no passion for putting people back to work, don’t understand the structural changes going on in economy, or the ramification of trade policies, nor do they have the energy anymore to get up to speed on this stuff.
    Nancy Pelsoi, in my view, is holding up bringing in these new young leaders into the NorCal delegation – she fought tooth and nail to keep Swalwell out, and now she has ordered her supporters to rally around Honda, who has a rep for being a bumbler and underachiever. The NorCal delegation needs to get into the future, this is why I strongly support Ro Khanna for the 17th district. Let’s put people back to work, let’s put people in office who know how to put people back to work.

  • Elwood

    @ Bluecollar Voter

    How much is the Khanna campaign paying you?

    Whatever it is, it’s not enough.