CA17: Labor PAC boosts Singh to benefit Honda

A national, union-funded political action committee is paying for two mailers, one attacking Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna and the other supporting Republican Vanila Singh, both in order to help Rep. Mike Honda.

The Working for Us PAC certainly doesn’t want to see Singh win, but rather hopes that giving Singh a boost among the 17th Congressional District’s Republicans could cost Khanna votes. The goal is at least to give Honda a more comfortable victory margin in next week’s primary election, and at most to propel Singh past Khanna to give Honda an easier contest in November.

The PAC on Thursday filed an electronic notice with the Federal Election Commission announcing it was spending $45,113.69 on direct mail opposing Khanna and $21,425.75 on direct mail supporting Singh.

Click to enlarge:
Labor mailer for Singh_1

Labor mailer for Singh_2

Note the careful wording – “Vanila Singh: The Right Choice for Republicans.”

The Working for Us PAC has been funded in recent years by labor unions including the United Auto Workers; Service Employees International Union; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and United Food and Commercial Workers. The PAC’s president is veteran strategist Steve Rosenthal, the founder and former CEO of America Coming Together – a labor-funded, national voter mobilization group – and former political director of the AFL-CIO.

“Our primary goal here is to try to ensure the re-election of Mike Honda … who has fought every day of his career to improve the lives of working people,” Rosenthal said Thursday.

“We wanted to make sure Republicans know who the real Republican is,” he said of the pro-Singh mailer, claiming Singh’s and Khanna’s platforms aren’t so far apart.

In reality, this might be more of a headache for Honda than anyone else. Given last week’s poll numbers, it seems unlikely this mailer or anything else will get Singh into the top two – and if it doesn’t change the primary’s outcome, all it’s likely to do is provide Khanna a new talking point against Honda.

“Congressman Honda’s close supporters and Vanila Singh have formed an alliance,” Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan said Thursday. “This is a desperate move by people who claim to be progressive champions, but spend money propping up a Republican candidate. This is the worst type of old style politics and Congressman Honda should immediately denounce his close supporters who are engaging in this behavior.”

PACs making independent expenditures like this are forbidden by law from coordinating with any candidate’s campaign.

“We had nothing to do with this independent expenditure and aren’t going to be distracted by what other campaigns or groups are doing,” Honda spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Thursday. “Our campaign is focused on getting out the vote for Mike Honda on Tuesday and making sure that voters know about Mike’s record of delivering for the middle class families of Silicon Valley.”

But Singh campaign manager Matt Shupe said “if a PAC would like to tell Republican voters that Vanila Singh is the real Republican in the race, then we agree with that message and have been working for months by contacting tens of thousands of voters to inform them of the same thing.”

Khanna asked Honda in January to join him in signing a “People’s Pledge” to shun any independent expenditure committee or super PAC support in this race; Honda, who as an incumbent stood to lose more potential support by signing such a pledge, refused. The Working for Us PAC’s spending is the first independent expenditure in this race.

Joel VanLandingham, the other Republican in the race, called the PAC’s action “extremely disturbing.”

“The fact that they’re doing that with her (Singh) proves she’s an extremely soft target,” said VanLandingham, who has refused to accept contributions for his campaign. “This is the very, very reason I’ve been pushing the no-money campaign.”

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.

  • Marga

    What a stupid move. Honda had exploited the possibility that Khanna’s supporters had put up VanLandigham up for running against Khanna, and now they go and do the same thing. And it does open up the speculation that pro-Honda elements encouraged Singh to run. And all, as you said Josh, for naught – given those poll numbers, this mailer will do nothing to help her make it past June.

    BTW, what is your take about why she’s doing so badly among women and 35-55 yo’s?

  • FremontCA17

    This is absurd — so much for Honda being a progressive candidate. Backing Singh’s candidacy??!! I was already going to vote for Ro, but this gets me a lot more fired up.

  • @SLtalk:disqus, the SurveyUSA.com poll may accurately reflect support for Mike Honda . . . yet I cannot make any sense of how much of an understatement there is for Republican candidates in the data, especially in an election likely dominated by more “conservative-leaning” voters than “liberal-leaning” voters.

    Though I’m leaning more towards a Mike Honda versus Ro Khanna showdown for November 2014, I bet Vanila Singh comes much closer to 2nd place — perhaps with 21% or 23% of the vote — than most people expect.

  • Elwood

    Excuse me?

    The post I read said the mailers were from Working for Us PAC.

    Did you read a different post?


    The understatement of the Republican vote is that there is no real contested primary at the top of the ticket or hot button proposition. The only local contest that is driving turnout for conservative Republican voters in CA-17 is the city council race in West San Jose which represents only about 4% of the district. Also will be factor in November as the contest will likely feature a labor backed Democrat versus a Republican supported by the current city councilman Pete Constant and Mayor Chuck Reed.


    Great thing that we have campaign disclosure laws today. This tactic is straight out the Nixon playbook. Mike Honda’s labor supporters are channeling “All the President’s Men”. http://bit.ly/1tstRNt Great talking point for Ro Khanna in November.

  • Richard Woulfe

    I agree with other bloggers, it doesn’t get any sleazier than this. Mike Honda can retire the ‘nice guy” moniker forever, he’s become a total sleaze bag, brought to you by sleazy Washington DC PAC’s. That’s what happens when you stay in office too long – 40 years – ethics just go out the window.

  • Elwood

    Ro’s staff continues to be right on top of the situation.

    Every situation.

  • Marga

    Republicans may be reluctant to vote in general, but my point is that 6% of women in the poll said they’d vote for Vanila vs. 5% who would vote for VanLadingham. And while 9% of voters 35-49 (sorry, I had the age wrong before) said they’d vote for Joel, only 1% said they’d vote for Vanila. So women and 40-somethings are willing to vote Republican, just not for Vanila.

  • Marga

    What I find most interesting are the numbers for the 18% of voters who had already voted when they were polled. Of these, 40% went for Honda, 30% for Khanna, 12% for Vanila, 9% for Joel and the rest were undecided. I imagine that means they didn’t vote in this race.

    My bet is that in the absence of a real scandal breaking in the next few days, the vote will break similarly.

  • JohnW

    If you are correct about the final tally, that would suggest that Khanna could pick up the non-Honda votes and have a good shot at winning in November with a higher turnout. I’m not rooting for either candidate, but it’s an interesting race to watch and predict.

  • Guest

    Singh has been getting bad press in the SF Chronicle for months, apparently she is a bit nutty. She has not, for example, bothered to show up for her own campaign events. She skipped the only debate, and declined to meet with the editorial boards. The SF Chronicle also reported Singh targeted Stanford – her employer – with a highly suspicious $35,000 worksmen’s compensation case. Singh – who is a college professor – claimed she was injured on the job. I don’t know how a college professor can get injured on the job. A shelf of books fell down on her at the Stanford library? Or maybe she got carpal tunnel correcting papers? Taking down Stanford for money, that great citadel of south bay higher learning, geez how low can you go. So I think it impossible the flaky Singh will get a lot of votes, Republican voters are newspaper readers – they got whole story on Singh – thanks to ace reporter Csrla Maranuchi

  • Guest

    Khanna should beat these numbers on election day because of his massive GOTV operation, things are looking very good for Ro Khanna, I think.

  • Marga

    Actually she met with the Chron’s editorial board and they have the video on their website. She also met with the BANG’s editorial board, but they just put the audio of the interview and in a format that has been unplayable by any of my devices.

    In any case, Singh explained the worksman comp situation, I think it had to do with her hand getting caught in a hospital bed. She was a bit inconsistent with her story (i.e. she only had the hand seen because her colleagues urged her to, and yet she complains it still hurts her), but I think that’s true of most of us when we tell stories.

    But I’m just curious about why she does particularly badly with women vs. men, and with people in that particular age group.

  • 9% undecided who already turned in a ballot . . . sounds to me like that could be the under-vote. Though that’s pretty high. . . .

  • Elwood

    You go, Guest!

    Say hi to Ro when you pick up your check!

    GOTV! Ho, ho, ho!