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.
“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.