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CA17: Khanna & Honda spar over Trump reference

The dark specter of Donald Trump has reared its ugly, inexplicably-coiffed head in the never-ending battle between Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and two-time Democratic challenger Ro Khanna.

Michael Beckendorf, Honda’s campaign manager, sent out a fundraising email Wednesday evening that name-checked the GOP presidential frontrunner.

Dear Friend,

I’ll cut to the chase:

honda.jpgMike Honda has spent his career fighting for justice and equality in Washington — and the Republicans can’t stand it. That’s why they’re aligning themselves, again, with our opponent, Ro Khanna, in attacking one of the nation’s leading progressive champions.

It’s shameful — and we can’t let Donald Trump’s Republican Party get away with [it].

Contribute $3 or more to our campaign before tomorrow’s deadline to help us fight back.

At a time when fear is rising again in American politics, we cannot afford to lose Mike Honda’s voice in Congress. Can you speak up today to support our campaign?

Khanna responded with an angry Facebook post:

Ro KhannaRep Mike Honda, is there no limit to what you will do to hold on to office? Everyone knows that I am a ‪#‎Democrat‬ inspired by my grandfather who spent years in jail under British colonialism, and have stood up against hate and racial profiling my whole life and in our community. Yet, today you sent out an email to raise money conveniently misrepresenting my party affiliation, and ignoring that I worked for President Barack Obama or that I have a record of standing up for civil rights and civil liberties. You imply that somehow I or my supporters would not stand up to hate and bigotry. That is a new low.

Once elected, I will work across the aisle to solve the issues that face our nation and be a strong voice for justice and human rights. What I will not do is engage in ad hominem, non-fact based attacks. I will not stoop to that level when dealing with either Democrats or Republicans or independents.

How about having 4-5 real debates Rep Honda instead of hiding behind your political consultants with cheap political attacks? Emails like the one below is exactly what’s wrong with politics. ‪#‎CA17‬

It’s true that some Republicans are supporting Khanna, even if only as an “anyone but Honda” vote, and that Khanna’s campaign calculus involves getting such votes – as any competent campaign would under our top-two primary system. And while plenty of Republicans are appalled by Trump’s rhetoric, there’s no denying that he has been the party’s frontrunner for all but three days since mid-July and currently is close to his all-time high, according to averages of national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics.

But it’s also hard to imagine any Trump supporter casting a ballot for Khanna – especially given that they could vote instead for conservative Republican Ron Cohen (in the primary, anyway). Beckendorf’s email never explicitly says Khanna is a Trumpist or a Republican, but rather implies that Trumpists or Republicans are using Khanna as a tool to unseat Honda – a sentiment that won’t sit well with the many Democrats who prefer Khanna.

“Neither the GOP nor Trump have ever, in any way whatsoever, shown any support of Khanna. Indeed, you have to embrace Trump’s method of politicking to even make such allegations,” wrote Margarita Lacabe, an Alameda County Democratic committeewoman from San Leandro who lives in a different House district but received Honda’s fundraising email.

“I know that like Pete Stark before him, Honda will not give up in his quest for re-election, but his staff should show respect for Honda’s past accomplishments by making sure he runs a dignified campaign,” wrote Lacabe, a longtime Khanna supporter.

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.