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CA17: Khanna taps diplomat to arrange debates

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna has named a former U.S. ambassador to Australia to lead “debate negotiations” for his campaign with that of Rep. Mike Honda.

But diplomacy takes at least two willing participants, and so far, Honda hasn’t signaled that he’s willing to debate his fellow Democrat before June’s primary election.

BleichKhanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont, issued a release Monday noting media outlets including the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, NBC Bay Area, KPIX 5, The Huffington Post, and TechCrunch have expressed interest in hosting a 17th Congressional District debate. Jeffrey Bleich, the release said, “will be playing a key role in overseeing a fair and open debate process.”

“Debates are fundamental to the Democratic process,” Bleich said in the release. “We should all have a chance to hear the candidates share their visions for this important district, and voters expect that from their candidates. Ro has offered the kind of ideas that we need to grow Silicon Valley’s prosperity and prepare young J open dialogue between both candidates.”

Khanna said Bleich’s “leadership in the debate process will help ensure that voters benefit from an open and transparent conversation on the key issues facing hardworking families in the Bay Area. The people have grown tired of old-style politics and campaigns that consist of little more than sloganeering and demagoguery. With the unique challenges facing our community and our nation, the voters deserve better.”

Vivek Kembaiyan, spokesman for the Honda campaign, said Monday the incumbent remains in wait-and-see mode. “Given how early it is (the full field of candidates isn’t set yet), the campaign has not made any decisions yet regarding debates.”

Dr. Vanila Singh, a Republican from Fremont, also has announced she’s seeking the 17th Congressional District seat. A spokesman for her campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Bleich, of Piedmont, served as the U.S. ambassador to Australia from 2009 to 2013; earlier, he had served as special counsel to President Obama. After his diplomatic posting, he returned to his partnership in the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

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.

  • Elwood

    I think Ro should debate Vanila.

  • JohnW

    He could consult Clint Eastwood on having a debate with an empty chair.

  • Mary Shine

    With someone of Jeffrey Bleich’s stature negotiating the
    specifics of a debate schedule with the Honda campaign–President Obama relied upon Bleich’s negotiation skills after all–it will be impossible for Mike Honda to continue avoiding a debate with Ro Khanna before the primary on June 3rd.

  • JohnW

    According to Wiki, Bleich became friends with Obama more than 20 years ago when he tried, unsuccessfully, to recruit him out of law school to be a law clerk for a D.C. Court of Appeals Judge. Time will tell if he has more success recruiting Mike Honda as a debate opponent.

  • Elwood

    “it will be impossible for Mike Honda to continue avoiding a debate”

    Wanna bet? See you at the debate. I’ll have the popcorn concession.

    No doubt Honda is trembling in his boots.

  • Mary Shine

    Former U.S. Ambassador Bleich’s Facebook page, and especially his farewell remarks to Australia, give a better sense of the measure of the man, his talent and
    achievement as a negotiator and diplomat. See, https://www.facebook.com/AmbBleich .

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Forget this dude. Let’s make the debate fun for all. I suggest Chuck E Cheese as the venue and Ronald MacDonald as moderator

  • FremontCA17

    Wow. Bleich is a serious player in Democratic politics. Kudos to the Khanna campaign for getting such a respected leader.

  • Elwood

    Wow indeed! Wow! Wow! Wow!

    Who the bleep is Bleich any way?

    Never heard of him And I’ve been to a LOT of dimmiecrat rodeos.

  • @disqus_Ptv415LeGl:disqus, I’d love to buy you coffee one day.