CA17: Mike Honda attacks Ro Khanna’s record

Rep. Mike Honda has sent another mailer which in part attacks Democratic rival Ro Khanna’s record, while Khanna has begun airing a television commercial taking Honda to task for his negative tone and refusal to debate.

The new mailer from Honda, D-San Jose, is mostly about his own accomplishments and endorsements, but a sixth of it is given to describing “Ro Khanna: A History of Looking Out for Himself.”

“When Ro Khanna was on the San Mateo Parks and Recreation Commission, he had the worst attendance record of any commissioner – and eventually just quit,” the mailer claims. “Later, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce, he failed to meet four of his six performance targets and resigned after just two years to switch careers again.”

The mailer also repeats previously reported incidents in which Khanna sang Honda’s praises in 2012, and in which donors who contributed to Khanna’s campaign when they believed he would run to succeed Rep. Pete Stark asked for their money back after he launched his campaign against Honda.

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He's Always Stood for Us - front

He's Always Stood for Us - back

Honda’s campaign provided an attendance tally Monday showing Khanna missed 10 of the Parks and Recreation Commission’s 23 meetings from February 2006 through March 2008. None of the other four commissioners had more than three absences during that time.

For the Commerce Department claim, Honda’s campaign cited a Government Accountability Office report from September 2011 which gauged the success of the department’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in supporting President Obama’s National Export Initiative, launched in 2010. “In fiscal year 2012, CS will implement revised performance measures that align more closely with the NEI,” a summary says. “Although CS did not meet four of its six performance targets in 2010, it achieved increases in most of its measures as it shifted to address NEI priorities.”

Khanna was a Deputy Assistant Commerce Secretary from August 2009 to August 2011, responsible for overseeing Commerce’s 109 domestic offices and implementing the President’s National Export Initiative to double exports over five years. His name does not appear anywhere in the 71-page GAO report.

Asked whether Honda’s campaign was claiming the GAO report had anything to do with Khanna’s departure from the Commerce Department, spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied, “the GAO report deals with the department Khanna worked for.”

“We’re saying that Khanna has a record of trying to build his resume, rather than actual public service,” Kembaiyan said. “This explains why he was so absent on the Parks & Rec commission, and why he left Commerce after just two years. He started raising money to run for Congress just one month after he left Commerce.”

Khanna’s campaign provided an August 2011 letter from Francisco Sanchez, then the Commerce Department’s Under Secretary for International Trade, commending Khanna for “leading an important agency during challenging economic times” and rendering valuable service to the nation.

“I particularly appreciated your bottom up leadership style in boosting the morale of the Commercial Service,” Sanchez wrote. “I know trade specialists across the country looked forward to your visiting their offices and listening to their concerns. I heard time and again from our trade specialists about your strong ability to deliver a message and your genuine regard for their perspective and contributions.”

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Monday that “frankly, it’s sad that after 14 years in Congress, Representative Honda feels compelled to continue launching false accusations even after he is called out in the press for his distortions.”

“This latest mailer is especially troubling as it targets President Obama’s Administration and misrepresents Ro’s successful record as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Commerce – a position that he left with a strong letter of commendation and then went on to write a widely praised book about,” Law added. “It’s time for Congressman Honda to end his smear campaign and focus on the important challenges facing families in the 17th district.”

Meanwhile, Khanna’s new TV ad – his fourth so far – blasts Honda for negativism and refusing to attend any pre-primary debates, only one candidates’ forum which didn’t let the contenders go head-to-head.

“Ro has run a positive and issues-based campaign,” Law said in a statement issued early Monday morning. “The voters want a new kind of leader who will work to end the dysfunction in Congress, not refuse to debate and then attempt to distract the voters with old-style political attacks. Frankly, Congressman Honda’s negative tactics are a disappointing reflection on his campaign – and on the Washington status quo he so eagerly defends.”

Republicans Vanila Singh and Joel Vanlandingham also are running to unseat Honda.

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’ve aspired all my life to be a Deputy Assistant Secretary.

    But, alas, it was not to be.

  • Marga

    Not a deputy assistant undersecretary? That would be the life!

  • Guest

    Mike Honda is” leading the charge” to the airport to go on special interest paid sightseeing junkets. According to records he leads NorCal delegation on junkets – last in bills passed, first in junket-taking. 1.2 million Californians out of work, many more underemployed, 25% poverty rate, 1 in 3 kids growing up in poverty in California. Income inequality approaching turn of the century robber baron era levels. Honda answer to all this misery? Increase number of sightseeing junkets! The middle class has shrunk to alarming levels during Honda 14 years on the job – he deserves pink slip, will get pink slip, I believe, despite all these Washington DC special interest paid attack ads. The only way we turn around sinking US economy – make it work for everybody, is too put get new blood in DC. It’s going to take a ton of work to turn things around, Ro Khanna is a work-horse, Honda junket-taking slug.

  • Elwood

    It’s all Honda’s fault? I never would have guessed.

    I thought it was all George W. Bush’s fault.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Honda is worn out; Khanna is power-hungry to an embarrassing degree. Vote for V. Singh