CA17: Honda won’t go to media-sponsored debate

Rep. Mike Honda will not take part in a televised debate with his 17th Congressional District rivals that would double as the San Francisco Chronicle’s pre-endorsement interview, a campaign spokesman said Monday.

honda.jpg“Congressman Mike Honda will be at the May 3 debate organized by the non-partisan, community-based League of Women Voters,” spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Monday. “This televised debate, which has been in the works for months, and which all of the CA-17 candidates have been invited to, is the only debate Congressman Honda will be participating in prior to the June 3 primary election.”

The three League of Women Voters chapters sponsoring the May 3 event in Fremont are calling it a forum, not a debate; candidates there will not have any opportunity to question or respond to each other directly.

That sits poorly with Honda’s Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, who for months has been urging Honda to take part in debates.

Khanna said he has accepted an invitation to take part in a debate hosted by the San Francisco Chronicle, KPIX-TV and KCBS radio. Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said the debate will be conducted at KPIX’s studios in San Francisco either on April 16, April 17 or April 23; the format will include opening and closing statements from the candidates as well as questions from local media panelists, voters and the candidates themselves.

“Residents of the 17th District will benefit from an open debate, moderated by members of the local media, about who is the best candidate to address the unique challenges and opportunities facing our community,” Khanna said in a statement issued Monday. “Voters are tired of old-style politics and campaigns that consist of little more than sloganeering and demagoguery. With the challenges our nation faces today, the people deserve better.”

Republican candidate Dr. Vanila Singh of Fremont, who entered the race at the start of this year, still has not yet decided whether to take part in the May 3 League of Women Voters event or the Chronicle/KPIX/KCBS event, campaign manager Scott Luginbill said Monday.

Republican candidate Joel Vanlandingham of San Jose, who entered the race earlier this month, said he intends to take part in the League of Women Voters event but has not yet been invited to the Chronicle/KPIX/KCBS event.

And Republican candidate Vinesh Singh Rathore of San Jose, who also entered the race this month, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

UPDATE @ 2:23 P.M.: Kembaiyan notes Honda is scheduled to meet with the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board in April, and campaign manager Doug Greven is talking with the Chronicle about seeking its endorsement, too.

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.

  • Willis James

    Wow, Honda is really looking weak.

    If he isn’t capable of handling a debate with skill and ability, what makes us think he is capable of discharging his duties in Washington, out of site of the voters?

    One could easily suppose he is just one of those congressman filling a seat and without any clout or ability to shape the future for his district.

    It would appear that unlike Rep George Miller and Henry Waxman, that Honda is just interested in hanging on.
    A very nice, but ineffective, seat warmer.

    The high tech center of the South Bay hardly needs only a “nice guy” to fight for their interests.
    A VCR guy in a zip drive era

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Most dee-baits jus wastin time

  • JohnW

    Honda has nothing to gain and everything to lose by debating. That doesn’t mean he is “looking weak.” It just means he is denying the opponent an opportunity to gain traction.

    As bad as Pete Stark was, I wonder if he might have survived the challenge from Swalwell if he had refused the joint appearances with Swalwell. They were fiascoes for Stark and only added to his problems.

  • letsbehonest14

    I’m sure Honda’s campaign is looking at the possibility of debating Khanna as a “lose-lose” choice. However, I do disagree with you, John. When one is the incumbent with 40 years of public service background, depriving the voters of an opportunity to compare the candidates is the definition of a man running scared and thus, by definition, looking weak. “Hide Honda” might be the strategy of his campaign, but voters will decide how much that bothers them or not. I’m betting that it will.


    A loss for the voters in the district. Honda has made the decision that he does not have participate in an open non partisan debate. Perhaps this why many voters have given up on voting. The way for voters show there displeasure is by voting for Khanna in June who is for honest and accountable government

  • Willis James

    I think many voters are going to be thinking Honda needs more than just a tune -up to be up to date and vigorous in representing the district.

    Come late October a Honda campaign parade and rally may look more like the following


    Will voters want to send that Honda back to Washington to lead them into the future?

  • JohnW

    Well, we’re both speculating. We’ll know soon enough.

  • Hisazo

    As a fellow AJA, I am very disappointed that Honda is running from this debate. Even though he is slowing down, he ought to have pride in who he is. Might be time for Mike to just commit seppuku. Running for reelection this way is neither dignified nor honorable.

  • JohnW

    “Commit seppuku?” Owww! A bit harsh, don’t you think? I mean it’s just politics.

  • Hisazo

    You’re right. It was harsh. I guess what I mean to say was, I wish he would just follow the leadership of George Miller and Henry Waxman, and bow out gracefully. I am pretty disappointed in Mike though.

  • Josh: One minor correction — it appears that unlike the May 3 forum the media-sponsored debate won’t be broadcast on T.V./cable/radio but only “livestreamed” and posted on the web. To wit, “Our goal is to provide voters with an opportunity to compare the candidates and their agendas in an unfiltered, in-depth discussion,” said editorial page editor John Diaz, in the invite. “The debate would be live-streamed and then posted on our respective news websites through the election season.” (http://blog.sfgate.com/nov05election/2014/03/24/south-bay-rep-honda-refuses-debate-invite-from-chron-2-other-media-outlets/)

    Although I agree Mike Honda should participate, the broadcast media sponsors should actually attempt to ensure a vast audience sees and hears the debate. Recording it in a studio and then livestreaming a supposedly major event takes away any real value from the event.

    Also, the media sponsors shouldn’t exclude candidates wily-nily until at least after the next FEC filing deadline.

  • Elwood

    Always good to hear from Ro’s staff!

    Thank you, boys and girls.

  • letsbehonest14

    Considering that the May 3 organizers clearly stated in Josh’s previous blog that their event was a forum and specifically not a debate, I found Honda’s Press Secretary statement to be comical. How many times did he use the word “debate” in his quote? 3 times? nice try, Mr. Kembaiyan. Just cause you say something doesn’t mean the voters are dumb enough to be fooled. Rep Honda has 100% declined to participate in any debate the way that any voter would define it and especially Daniel Webster. Nice try….

  • Elwood

    Always nice to hear from Ro’s loyal staff.

    Keep up the good work.

    Considering how much money he has he must pay pretty good.

  • Richard Woulfe

    Honda – clearly – has a “run and hide” strategy insofar as debates are concerned. This “run and hide” strategy, as I recall, was Sonny Liston’s strategy when he fought Ali in 60’s. I listened to that fight on the radio, I recall it like yesterday. While Liston was running and hiding from Ali- trying to avoid getting pummeled – Ali was doing his rope-a-dope strategy. In looking at this issue – the fact that Honda is “running and hiding” regarding debates, it’s pretty clear to me Honda’s consultants and campaign operatives are concerned Honda will get chopped up in a debate setting by Ro Khanna. This Khanna fellow is a brilliant Yale educated -lawyer, Honda, in contrast is well known for being a bumbler, he’s a awful public speaker, and he’s has a terrible record to run on to boot. Honda has done almost nothing in his 14 years in the House career! Nothing! Got to think Honda’s campaign operatives are working overtime to find stuff Honda has done during his years in the house, but they can’t find much, that’s obvious. So their solution is to muzzle Honda and keep Honda from debating, it’s a “run and hide strategy”, that’s clear,. Honda, obviously, is too chicken to debate. I think that’s stinks, Democracy requires vigorous debates by candidates to be

  • Elwood

    Gee, you Ro staffers really are following your talking points very well. It’s the same silly c**p in every one of your posts.

    Let me see if I can help you stay on message. It’s very simple. “Ro good, Honda bad!”

    The rest is simply redundant reiteration which makes you look stupid.

  • Elwood

    “Liston was running and hiding from Ali- trying to avoid getting pummeled – Ali was doing his rope-a-dope strategy”

    Obviously you know as little about boxing as you know about politics. If Liston was running around the ring while Ali laid on the ropes it would have made a very dull fight.

    I believe you’ll find the one using the rope-a-dope in this fight is Honda. I almost feel sorry for poor naive Ro.