CA17: Honda and Khanna battle for GOP votes

With two Democrats having survived the 17th Congressional District’s primary to advance to November’s general election, the battle is on for the district’s Republican hearts and minds.

Weeks after Jim Cunneen – the last Republican to represent Silicon Valley in Sacramento – endorsed Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, for an eighth term, Republican former Rep. Ernie Konnyu has now cast his lot with Democratic challenger Ro Khanna.

Ernie Konnyu“I have been in touch with Ro and his staff and look forward to help unite Republican and independent voters who supported me in the western portion of the Congressional district with the thousands of voters already backing Ro Khanna,” Konnyu, 77, of San Jose, said in a statement issued Friday.

“My aim is to deliver to the House of Representatives a new bi-partisan Congressman from Silicon Valley ready to lead for jobs and greater Silicon Valley successes,” he said. “I trust that Ro will be good for America and great for Silicon Valley.”

Konnyu was a South Bay Assemblyman from 1980 to 1986, when he was elected to serve what was then the 12th Congressional District. He served only one House term, primaried out in 1988 by a more socially moderate Republican, Tom Campbell.

Honda finished first in last month’s primary with 48 percent of the vote, and Khanna – a former Obama administration official from Fremont – finished second with 28 percent. Republican Vanila Singh of Fremont got 17 percent and Joel VanLandingham of San Jose got 7 percent, and so they were eliminated.

Only 19 percent of the district’s voters are Republican while 44 percent are Democrats and 32 percent state no party preference, but that GOP fifth of the electorate could be a crucial bloc if either campaign can mobilize it. While many had assumed Republicans might favor Khanna – generally seen as being a smidgen to the right of the ultra-liberal Honda, or at least, more attuned to the tech sector’s needs – a poll in May found 19 percent of GOP voters favored Honda while 18 percent favored Khanna.

Singh sent a Fourth-of-July email to her supporters Friday saying that in recent weeks she has been “reaching out to voters, volunteers, and donors to keep this exciting and impressive movement that we have begun in motion! I am humbled by the endless amounts of phone calls I have been receiving both locally and nationally. This proves that we have laid the organizational foundation that will endure for those who share these ideals.”

“As we celebrate our independence today, I hope you can join me in preserving their vision by continuing to fight for our beloved country,” Singh wrote. “These next couple months are just the beginning of an inspirational movement and it is imperative that we keep a presence at this very pivotal time in our nation. I want you to remember that these campaigns are about the people – make sure your voice is loud this November!”

The message, however, made no mention of an endorsement.

Honda and Khanna appear to be equally matched in campaign money to spend from now to November. You can bet that some of that money will be spent wooing the Singh and VanLandingham voters who are now up for grabs.

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 wonder what the Khanna campaign promised Konnyu?

    I smell a payoff.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    This race stinks!

  • JohnW

    Ro has a hard road to hoe.

  • Guest

    I think Honda will struggle to get Republican votes. All the Khanna campaign has to do is remind Republican voters of Honda’s long record of supporting higher taxes and massive federal spending. Honda’s mantra since he’s been in Congress is tax, tax, tax – Honda is the foremost advocate of raising taxes in Congress, not just on plutocrats – which everybody favors, but on all workers. His orientation is we cut the deficit by raising taxes.
    I like this Ro Khanna mindset better. His mantra is middle class jobs, middle class jobs, middle class jobs. The guy is obsessed with re-building the middle class for the long term. This, by the way is the right course. You get these people working in 9 buck an hour jobs back making decent wages they become tax- payers, not earned income recipients. Then the deficit goes down. The mantra of every Congressman today should be, “how many middle class jobs have I created in my district”. Ro Khanna get’s it, Mike Honda doesn’t. Honda is the road-to-ruin candidate, Khanna is the hope and opportunity candidate, I think.

  • Elwood

    Thank you, Ro’s staff! Please define plutocrat.

  • Elwood

    Down on the farm we said “hard ROW to hoe.”

  • JohnW

    That too. From what I’ve read, that is the farming version of what was originally a nautical phrase: “A LONG RODE TO HO.” “Rode” being an anchor line, and “ho” referring to pulling the line back to the ship — “Ho as in “heave-ho.”

    But as a fellow Kansan in my youth, I can relate to the farming version. At Michigan State University, I was in the agricultural fraternity, ALPHA GRABBA HOE.