Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration official who’s challenging Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, fired back Friday at the national progressive leaders who had smack-talked him a day earlier.
Khanna, 36, of Fremont, took questions from reporters near his booth in the main exhibit hall at Netroots Nation, the national convention of liberal online activists running through Saturday night in San Jose.
On Thursday, Democracy for America chairman Jim Dean and Progressive Congress executive director Charles Chamberlain had belittled Khanna’s attempt to unseat Honda, D-San Jose, who they hailed as a progressive hero. Chamberlain used the words “Republican lite” and “hack” to describe Khanna.
His record, he noted, includes staunch opposition to the Iraq war and the PATRIOT Act; two years in President Obama’s Commerce Department; and a track record of helping to raise money for other Democrats.
Asked in what ways he might be more progressive than Honda, Khanna replied he would’ve voted differently than Honda did on lobbying reform; Khanna said he believes lobbyists should be made to disclose their bundling of contributions, and should be banned from giving gifts to lawmakers. He said he also wouldn’t have approved pay raises for Congress, as Honda did, at a time when so many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet.
And he said he would bring a “laser focus” on job creation for the middle class which he believes Honda has lacked.
Though House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi had once supported Khanna – when he was raising money for what everyone believed would be a bid to succeed Rep. Pete Stark after Stark’s retirement – she now supports Honda.
“I have a lot of respect for Leader Pelosi … and I understand her support of Mike Honda’s many years of service,” Khanna said Friday, but he believes national endorsements won’t make much difference to 17th District voters. “I’m very locally focused.”
Speaking amid the hustle and bustle of almost 3,000 liberal activists, Khanna said he understands online criticism of his bid to unseat Honda and even welcomes it as an important part of the democratic process.
But while Honda’s campaign volunteers had blanketed the convention Thursday, signing up supporters and handing out stickers, and Honda briefly addressed the California caucus, Khanna said he’s less interested in being a “talking head” or political grenade-thrower and more interested in serving constituents by cooperating across the aisle to get things done in Congress.