The last Republican to represent Silicon Valley in Sacramento has endorsed Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in his bid for an eighth term, and is calling for other Republicans to do the same.
“I’ve admired Mike for as long as I’ve known him,” Cunneen said in a statement issued by Honda’s campaign. “In the Assembly, we worked together on technology and education issues. Most of all, Mike’s integrity and good character have served our region well. His hard work and seniority has consistently delivered for Silicon Valley, including his bipartisan work to secure funding for the BART extension that is delivering thousands of jobs.
“As a previous supporter of Republican Vanila Singh, who is no longer in the race, I ask that other Republicans join me and switch their support to Mike Honda, who will continue working hard to represent all of us in Silicon Valley,” Cunneen said.
Cunneen served in the Assembly from 1994 to 2000; Honda served there too from 1996 to 2000. Honda defeated Cunneen in the 2000 House race 54 percent to 42 percent.
Cunneen later served as president and CEO of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce and as an executive at Applied Materials and Cisco Systems. Now he’s a principal at California Strategies, a consulting, lobbying and communications firm.
Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law said “there’s a potential upside for the voters here: Jim Cunneen can now advise Rep. Honda to engage in frequent debates, something Jim demanded and the Congressman agreed to in the 2000 election.”
“Working families in the 17th district aren’t concerned by insider politics and influence peddling. If they were, Rep. Honda wouldn’t have failed to receive a majority of the vote in the primary after seven terms delivering for special interests,” Law said. “Ultimately, this demonstrates that the Congressman has become part of a political system that has to change if the people, not the insiders, are to get the representation they need and deserve.”
Unofficial results show Honda won 48.2 percent of the vote in June 3’s primary while Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont had 28 percent; two Republicans, Vanila Singh and Joel VanLandingham, were eliminated.
Though Khanna generally is considered slightly more moderate than Honda, who is among the House’s most liberal members, a poll in late May showed 19 percent of the 17th Congressional District’s Republicans supported Honda while 18 percent supported Khanna. Other local Republican elected officials who’ve endorsed the incumbent include Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, Sunnyvale Vice Mayor Jim Davis, Santa Clara Vice Mayor Jerry Marsalli, Santa Clara Councilman Patrick Kolstad and Sunnyvale Councilwoman Tara Martin-Milius.
Yet Honda’s liberal supporters have blasted Khanna as being “Republican-lite.”
“Tonight, Silicon Valley voters decisively chose Mike Honda, the true, grassroots progressive in the race, over the billionaire-backed, Republican-lite Ro Khanna,” Democracy for America executive director Charles Chamberlain said in an election-night email. “With the registered Republicans now out of the race, Democracy for America members look forward to continuing to make clear that Mike Honda is the only progressive Democrat in this race — a job we expect to be made considerably easier as Republican-lite Ro Khanna inevitably begins making the same right-wing pitch to voters that he used to ‘win’ the support of fringe-right millionaires and billionaires.”
Local Republicans who’ve endorsed Khanna include Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, former Newark Mayor Dave Smith, former Cupertino Mayor Richard Lowenthal, former Sunnyvale Mayor Jim Roberts and Milpitas Councilwoman Debbie Giordano.
Cunneen ran in 2000 as a moderate Republican who was savvier to the tech sector’s needs, much as Khanna is running as a Democrat now. He and Honda debated a few times in the run-up to that election.
But 14 years later, as a seven-term incumbent, Honda’s campaign says he’ll debate Khanna only once.
“Congressman Honda is going to do a debate,” spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Wednesday. “It’s just been two weeks since the primary so we haven’t figured out the details yet.”
Khanna has been pressing Honda for months to meet for multiple debates. In his April 27 meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, Honda committed “to some debates” (at around 30:00):
Honda: “It’s part of democracy, I’ll be subjecting myself to it. I’m prepared to do that after June 3, there’ll be a one-on-one and we’ll have a nice vigorous exchange.
Q: “So whoever, if you make the November runoff – I’m asking right now – and we sponsor a debate for our endorsement meeting between the two runoffs, you will accept?
Honda: “We can sit down and talk about it. I’m not going to say yes right now, but…”
Q: “Why not?
Honda: I think it’s, it could be premature, but I can do that, I can sit down and talk, you or whomever from the editorial board.
Q: “But you’re not going to commit at this point.”
Honda: “At this time, I will commit to some debates.”
And at the only pre-primary event at which the candidates shared a stage – a League of Women Voters forum May 3 in Fremont – Honda said he would debate Khanna after the primary:
Q: “Are you going to agree to any other debates in the rest of the campaign, in the general?”
Honda: “I think that, that makes sense because it would be one-on-one.”
Q: “So you would expect after june 3 to have more…”
Honda: “…I expect to do that.”