CA17: Khanna disavows Ernie Konnyu’s words

Apropos of my “please don’t help me” story in Monday’s editions, Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna on Tuesday repudiated the words of one of his most vocal Republican supporters.

Ernie KonnyuGOP former congressman Ernie Konnyu already had complicated Khanna’s life a bit by trying to rally tea party support for his bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose. More recently, Konnyu drew unwanted attention by getting into a Facebook argument with Republican former Assemblyman Jim Cunneen – who has endorsed Honda – over the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce PAC’s support of Assembly candidate and Campbell councilman Evan Low. Low has led the fight on lifting the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donation by gay men.

“How sick is it that a business group endorses a liberal so left that he wants to change the law to allow blood donations by gays,” Konnyu wrote on Friday, Aug. 8. “This, even though the current law forbids it since such blood has a risk of transferring the deadly AIDS virus. Yes! Gay pride is worth more with Evan Low than our citizens’ lives.”

Konnyu has accused Honda’s staff and supporters of waging a “war of hate,” using “demonizing tweets” against him for his comments; last Thursday, he tweeted a challenge to Honda to introduce a bill to overturn the FDA policy.

Low and others issued a statement Tuesday urging Khanna to disavow Konnyu’s remarks.

“His continued silence on this issue raises concerns that he may share Konnyu’s views, and I urge him to join me, Congressman Honda, and the thousands of Americans nationwide who would like to see the FDA change its views,” Low wrote.

James Gonzales, president of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee – a Silicon Valley LGBT political group – said “this kind of homophobic rhetoric has no place in our politics, from any politician of any party. We hope that Ro Khanna will quickly condemn these comments by Konnyu and denounce his support.”

Khanna issued a statement later Tuesday saying his positions and record “on defending marriage equality and the rights for all people is unequivocal.

Ro Khanna“I believe that any laws discriminating against LGBT individuals are unconstitutional. Full stop. While I am proud of all the support this campaign has received, I find any discriminatory statements from my supporters – whether they be homophobic, racist, or sexist – to be completely unacceptable and not reflective of my or my campaign,” he said.

Khanna said he has always respected Low’s public service, but Low now “has marginalized what could have been legitimate advocacy by recklessly saying that I could possibly agree with discrimination. This striking example of hypocrisy represents the worst of politics.”

Honda and Low remained silent when a union-backed national super PAC sent out a mailer just before June’s primary election that said Khanna’s policies would send jobs overseas and “outsource our jobs,” Khanna noted – a mailer Khanna calls “racially coded and xenophobic.”

“Unlike Congressman Honda, I will always speak up when those who support me use language that is not in line with my values,” Khanna said.

The FDA’s policy dates back to 1983 and has been in place in its current form since 1992 but is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Red Cross, which say the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted. Honda in 2008 supported San Jose State University’s effort to bring attention to the issue by suspending campus blood drives; started a petition against the ban last year that has been signed by more than 51,000 people; and has joined with several dozen other members of Congress in urging the FDA to lift the ban.

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.

  • Ernie Konnyu

    Since when is protecting the Nation’s blood supply against HIV 1 and HIV 1/2 carriers anti-gay? Gay rights do NOT trump safe blood supply as both are important so FDA doctors must win this fight.

  • Guest

    Evan Low is a stooge. The only issue he runs on is gay rights and overturning the FDA’s ban of blood donations by gay men. That’s all fine and dandy, but seriously. What else does he stand for? All of his sponsored crap that shows up on my Facebook feed is related to this issue and this issue only. Despite what anyone thinks of Khanna, at least he speaks up when he disagrees with his supporters unlike Honda who just turns and looks the other way. Honda is becoming a bigger joke by the minute! If he is re-elected in November, his constituents will be an even bigger joke!!

  • Guest

    I think it worth noting Eric Swalwell – a frosh Congressman – has now passed twice as many bills in Congress as Mike Honda has. Honda, of course, has been in Congress 14 years. Honda, as many have noticed – including all five newspapers in his district (they are endorsing Ro Khanna in the 17th district) – has been a low energy “caretaker” Congressman. He does just enough work to get by. Clearly the underproductive Honda stayed in office year after year because of the closed primary and gerrymandered districts. That, Along with PAC and lobbyist money (see Jim Cuneen) – which always goes to incumbents, has kept the under-performing Honda in Congress, year after year. Honda’s continual refusal to debate Ro Khanna – given his record – he’s been unbelievably un-productive – is obviously a key reason he doesn’t want to debate. He’s passed a single bill in 14 years. What’s he going to say at the debate ” given me 14 years more and I’ll promise you I’ll pass another bill”. I grew up watching the late – and great – San Francisco Congressman Phil Burton. He served the same amount of time in the House as Honda. He wasn’t likeable and friendly like Mike Honda, but boy he got stuff done. He worked 90 hours a week, rolled over everybody who got his way, and as a result left a body of work that is just staggering (see Golden Gate National Seashore Park). His protege – retiring Congressman George Miller, has been equally great. He’s not too likeable either, but boy he got stuff done.
    I think the labor leaders backing Honda – and the professionals politicians too – are missing the boat here in mindlessly backing the weak and ineffectual Mike Honda. This Ro Khanna is a worker, he’s a major thinker – a person just brimming with new ideas, you elect this guy to this 17th district you are going to see a new member that’s going to shake things up – like Burton and Miller did. In a different way, but he will shake things up. Khanna is an innovative thinker, a change guy, that’s the kind of representative that works for a cutting edge district like the 17th. the final thing I want to say here is this. Everybody following this race knows Khanna is being backed by all these high tech CEO’s. I’m a blue collar guy – don’t much like CEO’s -especially the modern ones -but I believe if you elect this Ro Khanna to this Congressional district he will hammer these CEO’s right away to stop sending middle class jobs overseas and put them in the 17th district, and in our state too. Ro Khanna ‘s candidacy – if you have been following it – is all about creating middle class jobs for the future. If anybody can hammer these CEO’s, Khanna can, the guy just doesn’t quit.

  • Elwood

    Always good to hear from Ro’s staff.

    Got anything lined up after November?