CA17: Poll shows Honda with commanding lead

A new poll shows Rep. Mike Honda with a commanding lead over fellow Democrat Ro Khanna and two Republicans in the June 3 primary election.

Honda, D-San Jose, is at 40 percent, Khanna is at 21 percent, Vanila Singh is at 8 percent and Joel VanLandingham is at 6 percent with 24 percent still undecided, in the poll of 528 17th Congressional District voters who either already have cast vote-by-mail ballots or are likely to vote by or on June 3.

The poll – conducted Tuesday through Thursday by SurveyUSA on behalf of San Francisco’s KPIX-TV – has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

“This poll shows that voters overwhelmingly prefer Congressman Honda and want him to continue his record of delivering for the district,” Doug Greven, Honda’s campaign manager, said Friday. “Mike Honda has a strong 40 percent in a four-way primary race, while Ro Khanna has squandered what was once a $1.3 million advantage last year to barely get half the support that Congressman Honda has.”

The poll’s release comes on the heels of new Federal Election Commission reports showing Honda’s campaign now has a slight cash-on-hand edge over Khanna’s for the first time, pointing to a more level playing field this summer and fall should the two of them finish on top in the June 3 primary.

But those now supporting Singh or VanLandingham might be more inclined to vote in November for Khanna than for Honda, who is one of the House’s most liberal members. And this poll already shows Khanna leading Honda among independents, who account for almost 32 percent of the district’s registered voters.

“We’re pulling close and have the momentum because Ro is laying out a concrete and positive vision for how to prepare people for the jobs of the 21st Century and how to reform the dysfunctional Congress that is standing in the way of that progress,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Friday. “People are tired of the status quo and are looking for fresh energy and a new direction. That’s what Ro’s offering and the voters are responding.”

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

    “This poll shows that voters overwhelmingly prefer Congressman Honda and want him to continue his record of delivering for the district,” Doug Greven, Honda’s campaign manager, said Friday.

    “Overwhelmingly prefer” ?
    Uh, the poll said, 40%. Pete Stark got over 42% in June 2012.

  • Crazy_Like_A_Fox

    Interesting that 24% of voters are still undecided. That can be interpreted in a couple of different ways. One, most of the undecideds will swing towards Honda due to voters being complacent and voting for the name they recognize. Or two, these are informed voters who will tilt towards Khanna. Hard to tell, but I suspect the latter. Honda has the name ID advantage and has had 14 years to win the support of voters. The fact that there are a large number of undecided voters could spell trouble for Honda if he doesn’t have their support now. If he finishes under 50% in the primary, he is vulnerable. If I recall, Swalwell made a 12 point swing between the primary and general elections to defeat Pete Stark with limited resources compared to Khanna. If Khanna finishes within 15 points of Honda in the primary, there could very well be a path to victory in November for him if he plays it right. It will be interesting to see the primary election results in a couple of weeks, but I’m not quite convinced yet that re-election is in the bag for Honda.

  • Marga

    This poll shows that Honda’s numbers are in quick decline. A year ago he was polling at 57%, some months later he was at 49% and back in March he was at 46%. Now he’s at 40%.

    Khanna’s numbers, however, doesn’t seem to have improved much – though he is at 30% among those who have actually voted (Honda is at 40% with this group as well). So it looks like undecideds are choosing to either vote for Khanna or not vote at all.

    What the vote does show is that neither Republican does have a prayer of making it past June. It’s not a given, however, that Khanna will get all of Republican votes, however. As things stand, conservatives are just as likely to vote for Mike Honda as for Ro Khanna. Khanna will have to seriously veer to the right, without harming his Democratic base, if he wants to get all those votes. After all, it’s much easier to get to 50% from 40% than from 30%.

  • Marga

    One thing to keep in mind is that a “likely voter” is someone who is likely to cast a vote, but not necessarily a vote in that race.

    9% of people who already voted are recorded as being “undecided”.

  • Guest

    Marga is right, Mike Honda’s numbers are going down at a rapid rate, he’s been in a freefall for some time. I expect this trend to continue – as more voters learn about Ro Khanna. I think come election day you will see a stronger showing for Khanna – his campaign team has a sophisticated GOTV operation going, best I ever seen in a congressional race.

  • Elwood

    Thank you, Ro’s staff! Stiff upper lip and all that!

  • Elwood

    A good PR person can spin an impending disastrous defeat into some sort of moral victory.


  • Marga

    They could, but these numbers don’t look bad for Khanna. Two months ago, the question was whether Khanna would make it past June. That’s no longer an issue.

    We see Honda’s numbers going down slowly, but steadily. In a moment of bravado or plain foolishness, he promised to debate Khanna after June. After attacking Khanna and lying about him, I don’t think Honda can expect Khanna to go easy on him. So he’ll either pull out and be portrayed as an aloof lying Congressman afraid of his opponent, or make a fool of himself in front of cameras. My bet is that he’ll chose option 1, but that will cost him a couple of points at least. At this point, he can’t afford to lose any.

    This is not to say that Khanna’s path is guaranteed. A significant proportion of undecideds seem to be choosing not to vote rather than go his way. The negative campaigning that Honda will surely engage in all of the summer, and that Khanna may finally resort to, may turn off voters and stop them from voting altogether – but will benefit Honda who starts up ahead. Khanna needs to convert both conservatives and liberals to his side, and reach them to begin with and his coffers are much emptier than once upon a time.

    I’ve been saying for a long time that this race is 50-50, I’m still giving those odds today.

  • Elwood

    “this race is 50-50, I’m still giving those odds today.”

    Marga, I hope you open a casino.

    I’d really like to play there.

  • letsbehonest14

    Mike Honda won in 2012 with 73% of the vote. He’s been in politics for 40 years…near universal name id. When he released his first poll in March 2013, he had a 54 point lead over Khanna (57-3). Since then, Honda’s own polling had his support go from 57 to 49 to 45 to now 40. So Honda’s initial lead has been reduced from 54 to now 19 points. So I’m baffled….did Khanna “squander” $2mm to build name ID and a strong ground game and gain 18 points on Honda? Or was it really Honda who “squandered” $1mm and BLEW 35 points in his initial lead over Khanna. Yes, Honda still leads, but in politics it’s ALWAYS about trend lines. Khanna will continue to narrow the gap for June 3 and then will slingshot around Honda the same exact way that Swalwell defeated Stark. That’s the beauty of the top two system.

  • Elwood

    And pigs will fly!

  • Ricardo CB

    Let’s be really honest!!! I would choose an incumbent with long running history of public service starting with grassroots previous to entering local politics, over a district shopping, resume packing, “park and recreation commission is beneath my huge self worth to attend diligently”, “I praise you profusely in 2012, but now I will go after your seat because that fits my huge ego”, “uhhh, plan changed and now I am going after Honda seat, but let me keep your contribution anyway”, “I have to run for something because I get that itch every two years” candidate with “money can buy me love” mode…Well, as Beatles would sing, “money can’t buy me love”…letsbe-not so-honest14, “if-and only if-you are getting paid”, I hope you get a good chunk while that money lasts…

  • Guest

    Honda doesn’t even live in the 17th district, he doesn’t have his Congressional office in the district either. Honda cannot even legally vote for himself. It’s a little unbelievable really, an incumbent refusing to live in his own district. This tells you his commitment to the 17th district is awfully weak, he doesn’t care enough to even live in the district. Ricardo CB’s thesis here is voters should keep voting for Honda because he’s always been “there”, he’s been in office forever Hey, he’s not even “there” because he’s declining to even bother to move “there” – the 17th district.

  • Marga

    I could just as fairly say that I would chose a dynamic, intellectually gifted, stateman-in-the-making, with a profound commitment to civil liberties and sound economic principles vs. a fall-asleep-on-the-job, don’t bother to vote, too arrogant to live/work in the district, PAC-money-loving, do-nothing Washington politician.

    But neither characterization is fair. I do mention how interesting it is, however, that it’s the incumbent and his supporters who are engaged in negative campaigning. It’s sad. What I wanted most for Honda was for him to win or lose with dignity. That is no longer to be.

  • letsbehonest14

    Thank you, Marga, for your thoughtful response. I received a direct mail piece yesterday from Rep. Honda that is the 3rd negative piece he’s sent thus far (Khanna has sent none). This one’s the most sleazy, false, manipulative and desperate to date. I had months ago decided to back Khanna as an improvement over Honda….but now, I am just saddened by the dishonorable ways that Honda has been acting. I used to respect his service, but I no longer do. His actions will forever tarnish the way I view the man. Khanna won my vote first, but if I were still an undecided, Honda’s recent tactics would clearly lose my vote now.

  • Marga

    I think Honda’s campaign consultants are really doing him a disservice.

    I, like many others who’ve switched our support to Khanna, and even the press, have not spoken about the big elephant in Honda’s room, because we want to honor his long and distinguished service in Congress. He has stood up for civil liberties, he’s voted the right way and continues to do so. Win or lose in November, he should preserve his dignity.

    But if Honda’s own campaign continues to injure Honda’s reputation by conducting a campaign full of lies and chicanery, well, perhaps Honda’s legacy would be best protected by addressing that elephant.

  • Elwood

    Who’s the carpetbagger here? Honda whose long time home was redistricted out of his district or Khanna who goes office shopping with a bag of money?

    If you could buy votes with ego, Khanna would be the no contest winner.

    What a schmuck!

  • Marga

    Honda didn’t get “redistricted out”. His house is still in the Congressional district which he represented for a decade. He just chose not to run in that district, and run in the adjacent one so that all the incumbents would get a district to run in.

    Now, Ellen Corbett faced the same situation, but at least she moved to the district she’s running for, even though she may very well not be elected.

  • Guest

    If Honda’s neighbors on his street need some help on a federal matter – like a VA matter for example -he has tell them, “Sorry, can’t help you. Go see Zoe Lofgren!”. This is just ludicrous. Honda’s refusal to live in his district, something he can easily do, is just a head scratcher. Isn’t the reason most people run for Congress is to help out their neighbors, get them the representation they sometimes need on federal matters. I think so. I recall reading Tip O’Neils bio, he used to go home on the weekend and walk the central business district of Cambridge, stop by the druggist, the cleaners, local lunch spots, he’d shoot beers at local bars and so forth. As he was doing this constituents would give him feedback on their views, they would ask for advice, hit him up for favors sometimes. His walking tour was an effort to check the “pulse” of his district, get a feel for what was going on in peoples lives. I mean the central role of a Congressman is to mix with his constituents – be as close to the people as possible, I think. Yet Honda – amazingly – doesn’t want to live in his district, or even hang out there, from what I can see. He won’t even move his office to the 17th district. If he did this Zoe Lofgren would be down 10 federal jobs, and the 17th district would up the jobs! I think Honda’s refusal to move to his district is significant, I think this shows Honda has that old “safe seat” mentality. In the old days you had those gerrymandered districts, you also had the closed primary, because of this local Congressman could ignore their constituents (see Pete Stark) and get away with it. I got news for Honda, his seat isn’t “safe” – not anymore – and he likely won’t holding the seat by next January. I think Ro Khanna will beat him, no question in my mind about that.

  • Marga

    In reality, though, once people are elected to Congress, they live in DC.

  • Elwood

    Keep up the good work, Ro’s staff!

    What are you all going to do for a living after the election?

    Find some other turkey with more money than scruples?

  • Elwood

    “He was displaced from his former district by redistricting.”


  • Ricardo CB

    Manga, with all due respect, someone who runs against an “honorable” incumbent only to suit his constant urge to get elected “somewhere” and waste all that money among Democrats when that money could support so many Dem candidates throughout the country is “the ULTIMATE negative” in my books. Many good politicos start at municipal levels, or at least at the state level to hone the legislative skills, and to really learn the local issues before moving on to higher offices. Not to say that is the law or the only way, but whenever someone is trying to buy a seat after multiple shopping of districts to run is unacceptable, at least for me…but then, that’s me!! Everyone is free to support anyone, but if I were whats-his-name, I would wait and build a record to run on, instead of trying to walk in and buy a district. This campaign will be the most expensive one by the time November rolls around, and it’s not even a Dem-Rep campaign…really, really sad…

  • Ricardo CB

    If this is your best argument for voting for whats-his-name, you are in trouble…make sure you get paid well before the campaign folds into oblivion…

  • Ricardo CB

    And also the ugly side of how money buys votes for a candidate who has only mouth and money to run on, since there is no hard record of accomplishment to tout. You can talk the talk, and come up with paper after paper…this is a free country, but where is the walk to prove that he will do that? Where is the beef? When you miss almost half of the Parks and Recreation board meeting, why do you even accept a position that you think is beneath you as the attendance record would indicate? Why go to Commerce when you don’t stay with the president and serve long enough so you CAN make a difference? It seems he stayed just two years so he can say he was there…District shopping, and resume packing is not something a credible candidate would run on…I can see the tantrum every two years….”I wanna seat, I wanna seat”!!! ‘don’t care where!!! I wanna seat!!! I want that big cookie!!! Find me a seat to run!!! Yadiyadiyadi…

  • Ricardo CB

    “Congressman Honda, of course, is an outstanding representative for our area,” Khanna says in the video. “It’s a privilege to have him from this area.” hahaha…until he woke up one day and said; I wanna run, I wanna run…I wanna district…I wanna candy…

  • Marga

    Ricardo, I understand where you are coming from. A year ago, I was exactly where you were. The narrative of the good, old Congressman and the arrogant upstart who puts his personal ambition above what’s good for country and party is very seductive. I also suspected he was a plant by the Obama administration, Wall Street or other interests to take out a venerable liberal.

    As alluring a narrative as that was, no matter how much I looked, I could not find any foundation. The money that flows to Khanna, flows to him because he is the real deal: a brilliant statesman-in-the-making, who combines a solid understanding of economic theory with a profound and life-long belief in the values of democracy, the rule of law and the dignity of human existence. He inspires. And as I’ve said before, he provides the potential for giving the Democratic party the liberal answer to Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz that we need so very much.

    As much as I liked Khanna, Honda provided the other half of the equation for my shifting of support. To understand that, watch the video of the Chronicle endorsement interview with him. You may want to fast forward to the part where he condones the severe human rights violations committed by the Obama administration by saying that Obama was a constitutional law professor, so what he has done must be legal. Or just watch the whole thing. And then watch the interview with Khanna.

    I get the point about playing party politics and blah blah blah – but I think our country is in a crisis and we can’t put party above our citizenry. We need to elect the best candidates we can possibly chose, and it’s not even a question anymore that in CD17 that is Khanna.

  • Marga

    Ricardo, Khanna is polite. I’m not sure why anyone in the Honda campaign believes voters should hold that against him.

  • Marga

    The problem with Honda’s campaign focusing on the “missing parks & rec commission meetings” point, is that most voters are likely to have seen “Parks & Rec”. That pretty much provides the answer to your question of why Khanna would not want to start in city politics 🙂

  • Ricardo CB

    Marga, I am an average voter…I would hold that against him as I would wonder what changed Khanna’s attitude in short time, even to a point of running against him…What did Honda do or not do in that short period for Mr. Khanna to change his attitude so radically? Other than I wanna run, I wanna run somewhere!!! We criticize professional politicians…but when we do that, we should seriously consider why the politician entered the politics in the first place; and I believe Honda entered with all honorable intentions. On the other hand, we should also criticize professional candidates, and their intentions for entering politics…I would like to see their true colors and records through local elected positions. Not somebody who can produce a bag full of money just to buy numbers in the poll…I sincerely believe that tilts against public interest…just my personal humble thought!! So in light of that, what he said not too long ago, and what he is doing now, exposes him as a position hungry professional candidate going from district to district looking for ways to get elected. Polite? May be…but it shouts out “opportunist” to me…you say what you say, and how the heck you spend $3 mil telling everybody he’s gotta go so I can get me candy I’ve been coveting from district to district…Marga, you seem to have very good political sense…but for me, one of my first test of gauging any politician is “what kind of human being is he/she”? They say “anything goes” in politics, but to challenge an ethical, honorable, kind hearted, hard working incumbent of the same party just so he wants an office somewhere dose not bode well…now, if Khanna was around the district long time, and all along was not happy with what Honda was doing, and brought up the courage and support to challenge the incumbent, I would give him all the right…but when you have to buy support with $3 mil, he is not honorable…again, just my humble personal opinion…

  • Ricardo CB

    Marga, besides the talk, talk, talk by Khanna, and money, money, money, where’s the pudding? Where did he prove even one iota what he is saying? I’ve heard lot of talks by new comers (I am old..), but when they went to Sacramento and DC, most of those talks did not pan out…I will consider supporting him if he has any solid record of backing up his talk while serving in lower offices that may be beneath his seemingly huge ego…we are not electing sophists…Ryan showed his colors and honed skills and philosophy working as an aide to Kasten, Brownback, and Kemp for six years…Cruz served multiples years and key positions honing his skills…if you really think Public Parks and Recreation, Commerce for two years would groom him to match and challenge Ryan and Cruz, you are not as astute as I thought…though I still value your thinking as shown on your many postings…

  • Marga

    No, Ricardo, you are not an average voter. You are someone who is profoundly and blindly committed to Honda.

    The average person understands publicly spoken niceties as such. And it’s not like what Khanna said was untrue, Honda has been a great representative. Has been. Again, I wish his campaign would have the same amount of respect for his long service, and not force discussion on that topic.

    Indeed, the reason why Khanna has to spend $3M to win this seat, is that he wants to win it fairly, by selling himself to voters for who he is, rather than for who he is not, as Swalwell did when he ran against Stark. I find it foolish but admirable, and it definitely increases my respect for Khanna.

    I get that you see Khanna as district-shopping. I don’t. I think his challenge of Lantos was done for exactly the right reasons, knowing full well that he would lose and that it would cost him politically, but that he had to make a point about the evils of the Patriot Act. He fully earns my respect for that position.

    And I think that when someone lives in a city that is divided into two districts, it’s perfectly natural for that person to explore running in whichever district most behooves him. I don’t blame Honda for doing exactly the same thing. To me, it makes perfect sense that Khanna would have run in CD15 if it was an empty seat, but when it became clear that any campaign would be against an incumbent, he’d choose to go for CD17, which is better suited to his political agenda.

    I know you’d like to have seen Khanna rise through local office. But that’s not where his strengths lie. He’d be wasted and maybe frustrated out of his mind in City Council.

  • Marga

    You are right, Ricardo, there is no proof. I am going on hope alone. That audacity of hope that Obama spoke about, and that when placed upon him slapped us back on our faces. I would be so easy to despair and say “never again”.

    But if we don’t dare to hope, even when we’ve been disappointed time and time again, what is left? Cynicism? Giving up?

    What has fed my hope on Khanna is that I’ve spoken with many people who’ve known him throughout the years, and they assure me his positions, his philosophy of life and government has been consistent. He’s not someone whom – like Swalwell – will say what others want to hear.

    But again, it’s just hope. But also, if not Khanna, whom? Any way you see it, Honda’s days are numbered. If Khanna doesn’t win and chooses not to run again in ’16, Honda’s next opponent will not be as kind as Khanna has been. It’s bad enough to have Swalwell in CD15, I don’t want to see a Swalwell clone in CD17 as well.

  • Ricardo CB

    Marga, “He’d be wasted and maybe frustrated out of his mind in City Council”….exactly…democracy is not the most efficient method of decision; but we need to live by it as there is no better method that I know… and one needs to learn to work the process, not with mouth, but with seasoning, however minimal!! And I am not sure if you are alluding DC is any better, if not worse!! So my guess is that (as you said) he will be wasting his time and may be frustrated out of House and will be running for Senate in two years…please do not place Ro’s name around Obama. I did not support President Obama, I supported Hillary for having more experience, and I thought Obama could have waited more to hone his political/governing skills…I think I am proven right on that. As bad as Republicans are in disrupting Obama agenda, Obama could have done better…But, to even remotely equate Ro to Obama would be truly audacious…urghhhh…as someone said in a campaign long time ago, Mr. Potato(E), you are no Kennedy!

  • Willis James

    Sorry, but look around at local house members. How many worked their way up from city councils?

    Leon Panetta

    George P Miller

    Pete Stark

    Nancy Pelosi

    Barbara Lee

    Pete McCloskey

    Many others who never held elective office prior to becoming members of congress.

    How about JFK?

  • Marga

    I don’t believe that a stint in City Council prepares you any better for Congress than a stint in the Commerce Department, which is probably, not at all. I do hope, however, that the average intelligence, preparation and attention to public policy is greater in DC than in your average City Council. If it’s not, then we’re really doomed.

    And I hope that Khanna is not like Obama: someone willing to betray the core principles he campaigned on, that has caused more harm to the democratic process than any president in the history of the US. A comparison with Obama, would be an insult.

  • Ricardo CB

    Mr.James, City Council would be a figure of speech…all those listed above were engaged in the political process starting from ground up as legi aide etc. where leading to more responsible positions in government, etc.

  • Willis James

    I see, just what we want, for all new congressmen/women to be part of the insular and clubby “ground up” political process.
    Actually “ground up” is a good description of what happens to their vitality and imagination, after they have served for so many years in congress and other government positions.

    Pardon me if I want some fresh faces.
    BTW, Pete McCloskey was NOT part of some governmental agency prior to being elected to congress.

    And he was certainly a breath of fresh air. Not selling out to this group or that.

  • Ricardo CB

    you and I agree on something finally…Pete McCloskey was indeed a breath of fresh air…now, for you to even remotely (however minutely) compare Ro to congressman McCloskey who had illustrious military career spanning almost forty years with multiple decorations would be ridiculous…based on PM’s record, if he were to say something, I would listen with both ears and mind wide open…let us not go off on tangent…you are trying to pretty up a pig (okay, a smart pig, but that’s dime a dozen…), and there is so much one can do!!! I wanna pig who had put some years down in worthy affairs, and proven credibility…city council would be one of the options…