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Obama staying neutral in Honda vs. Khanna rematch

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When Mike Honda and Ro Khanna squared off two years ago to represent Silicon Valley in Congress, Honda’s seemingly interminable list of big name Democratic Party backers included none other than Khanna’s former boss, President Barack Obama.

But not this time around. The president is not endorsing in this year’s rematch, the Democratic National Committee said Thursday, handing Honda another setback as he tries to defend his seat against a better-funded challenger while also confronting an ethics probe.

“I think it might be a telling sign as to where some national Democrats think the race is going,” said Kyle Kondik, a University of Virginia congressional elections expert. “As a Democratic incumbent you’d love to have the backing of the incumbent Democratic president. This is something that the Honda folks would have to explain to their donors.”

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Rep. Tom McClintock endorses Ted Cruz

Rep. Tom McClintock, one of California’s best-known conservatives, endorsed U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for the Republican presidential nomination Thursday.

Tom McClintock“This election is too important to leave to chance,” McClintock, R-Elk Grove, said in Cruz’s news release. “Ted Cruz is the only top tier candidate we can be absolutely certain will govern conservatively and constitutionally; who will stand his ground no matter what the pressure and articulate our positions boldly and convincingly to the American people. After nearly three decades of disappointments, our next president needs to come from the Republican wing of the Republican Party.”

Cruz called McClintock “an unwavering leader in working to reduce government spending, reign in our debt and work for conservative reforms. He has consistently fought against the Washington Cartel. We need more leaders like Tom in Washington to protect conservative principles. I am thrilled to have Tom’s support in working together to restore the principles America was founded on.”

McClintock, 59, was elected to the House in 2008 after eight years in the state Senate and two stints – from 1982 to 1992 and from 1996 to 2000 – in the Assembly. He finished third behind Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrat Cruz Bustamante in California’s 2003 gubernatorial recall election, and lost 2006’s election for lieutenant governor to Democrat John Garamendi.

McClintock quit the Tea Party-dominated House Freedom Caucus in September, saying the group’s political showmanship – particularly its threats to partially or totally shut down the federal government – actually undermines conservative goals in Congress. Cruz was among key architects of the third-longest government shutdown in U.S. history, in October 2013.

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CA17: Khanna tops Honda again in fundraising

Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna significantly outraised incumbent Rep. Mike Honda in 2015’s final quarter, and now has about three times as much money banked for their electoral rematch this year, according to initial reports from both campaigns.

Both Democrats want to represent the 17th Congressional District, which lies in the heart of Silicon Valley and is the first district outside Hawaii in which Asian-Americans make up a majority of voters. Khanna, a Fremont resident who served for two years in President Barack Obama’s Commerce Department, lost 2014’s bruising, nationally watched election by 3.6 percentage points as Honda held on for an eighth term.

Ro KhannaKhanna’s campaign said Wednesday that he raised more than $500,000 and spent about $117,000 from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, leaving him with more than $1.7 million cash on hand and about $52,800 in outstanding debt.

“I am proud to see support for our campaign to strengthen the middle class create this type of enthusiasm and energy,” Khanna said in a news release. “Because we refuse to take PAC and lobbyist money, we’re going to need our grassroots support to take on the special interests and bring change to Washington. As we grow our campaign in 2016, we will continue to fund a grassroots campaign that engages and empowers the people of the 17th District.”

Khanna spent big on television ads and campaign consultants in 2014’s primary, leaving his campaign almost broke in the final weeks before that November’s general election; a super PAC called Californians for Innovation independently spent about $776,000 on his behalf to help bear him over the finish line.

Honda’s campaign said Wednesday that he raised $290,250 and spent $276,137 – a much higher burn rate than Khanna’s – in 2015’s fourth quarter, leaving him with $571,266 cash on hand and $20,907 in outstanding debt.

honda.jpgThe congressman “has raised more money at this point in the campaign cycle than in 2014, and like last time, the campaign is on track to raise the resources necessary to win this race,” campaign manager Michael Beckendorf said. “Even without the luxury of conservative millionaires and billionaires bankrolling his campaign, Mike Honda will win this race because he is the only candidate who has a track record of reaching across the aisle to deliver for Silicon Valley while standing up for justice and equality.”

But it’s not just re-election for which Honda is raising money. His campaign in the first three quarters of last year paid out a total of about $109,000 to two Washington, D.C., law firms and a San Francisco crisis-communications shop to combat the ongoing ethics investigation of which he’s a target. The House Ethics Committee is still probing whether Honda’s office and campaign broke House rules or federal laws by sharing resources, and it’s not yet known how much he paid his lawyers and spokespeople in the year’s final quarter.

Neither candidate’s full report to the Federal Election Commission is available yet; the filing deadline is Jan. 31. Khanna outraised Honda in 2015’s third, second and first quarters, too.

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Barbara Lee is running for Dem Caucus vice chair

Rep. Barbara Lee has launched her campaign to become the House Democratic Caucus’ vice chairwoman, asking her peers for support.

Lee, D-Oakland, official threw her name into contention for House Democrats’ fifth-highest leadership post with a letter Tuesday; Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood, declared her candidacy for the post last month. Current vice chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., is limited to two terms in the post, and Democrats are expected to pick a new chairman and vice chairman soon after November’s elections.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“As Vice Chair, I will work to find innovative ways to champion the issues that are important to you, your district and our caucus,” Lee wrote in her letter to fellow House Democrats. “In 2013, I identified an opportunity to expand Democratic leadership on ending poverty in America. Together with our leadership, we launched the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity which works for the more than 46 million Americans struggling to make ends meet while developing pathways for these families into the middle class.”

Lee also touted her work on the Appropriations, Budget and Steering and Policy committees, as well as her stints as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, executive board member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and vice chairwoman and founding member of the LGBT Equality Caucus.

“In these roles, I have built diverse coalitions that advance our shared Democratic values,” she wrote. “Simultaneously, I have reached across the aisle to deliver bipartisan results, such as creating the bipartisan and bicameral HIV/AIDS Caucus and authoring or co-authoring every major piece of HIV/AIDS legislation signed into law since 1998. The importance of listening to others with different points of view and new ideas has been critical in these and many other efforts.”

“It is an honor to work with you, side by side, to further our shared values and fight to ensure opportunity for all. I know firsthand the depth of your passion, talent and experience. It is this diversity of experience that is the backbone of our caucus,” she concluded. “I hope to serve you as the next Vice Chair and I look forward to continuing our discussions.”

Lee, 69, was first elected to the House in a 1998 special election to replace her mentor and longtime employer, Rep. Ron Dellums of Oakland, who retired mid-term. Earlier, she served in the state Senate from 1997 to 1998, and in the Assembly from 1991 to 1997.

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Lofgren leads Dems in urging stop to ICE raids

A Bay Area congresswoman helped lead 146 House Democrats in urging President Obama to suspend Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids targeting Central American families and children.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Downey; and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., sent their letter to the White House just hours before the president was scheduled to deliver his final State of the Union address Tuesday. The entire Bay Area delegation except for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, signed the letter.

Lofgren is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

The lawmakers wrote that the Department of Homeland Security operation “has generated widespread fear and panic in immigrant communities and has far-reaching impacts beyond the alleged targets for removal.” And it has raised due-process concerns “including meaningful access to legal counsel for mothers and children after apprehension and DHS officers reportedly using deceptive tactics to gain entrance into private residences,” they wrote.

“For these reasons and others, we believe that this operation should be immediately suspended until we can ensure no mother or child will be sent back to a country where they would face persecution, torture or death,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Democrats blasted the Obama administration for failing to provide a comprehensive refugee solution for those fleeing from violence in Central America.

“Your Administration has used family detention, Spanish language communication campaigns in Central America urging people not to come to the United States, and financial assistance to Mexico to deter, arrest, and return those fleeing violence,” they wrote. “This strategy has proven to be ineffective, as mothers and children continue to arrive at our Southwest border seeking refugee protection. Desperate Central American mothers and children will continue to flee to the United States and seek protection, regardless of the deterrent actions taken by this Administration.”

A regional solution to the crisis should include refugee screening and resettlement, the use of safe havens in appropriate third countries, temporary protected status for those in the United States, the use of priority refugee processing, and other humanitarian remedies, all in cooperation with other countries and non-governmental organizations, they wrote.

“The goal of this comprehensive refugee approach should be to ensure that Central American refugees, particularly mothers and children, are able to live free from an endless cycle of violence and persecution,” the lawmakers concluded. “We urge you to immediately halt the current enforcement actions towards Central American mothers and children and take steps to engage in a comprehensive effort with our hemispheric partners to address this regional refugee crisis in an appropriate humanitarian manner.”

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Your House member’s State of the Union guest

Here are the special guests whom Bay Area members of Congress are bringing to President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: Black Lives Matter movement co-founder Alicia Garza

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin: Fremont Police Chief Richard Lucero, a gun-control advocate

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough: Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who first published findings on the impact of chronic traumatic encephalopathy on football players; Omalu is portrayed by Will Smith in the film Concussion.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: Amanda Wilcox, the legislation and policy chair for the California Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Wilcox’s daughter, Laura, was shot to death in 2001.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael: Ali Rezaian, brother of Jason Rezaian, the Iranian-American journalist and Washington Post Tehran bureau chief who has been imprisoned in Iran since July 2014; the brothers are Marin County natives.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose: Irene Bueno, whose family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines; due to the slow legal process, her aunt and cousins were separated for many years. Honda will introduce family reunification immigration legislation in March.

Rep Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose: Sameena Usman, government relations coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ San Francisco Bay Area chapter.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto: Intuit CEO Brad Smith, who hosted Eshoo and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for a tour and Q&A with company executives.

UPDATE @ 3:34 P.M.: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson earlier Tuesday questioned the wisdom of allowing two members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, to attend the State of the Union. Both Lofgren and Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., brought them as invited guests.

“They have done things that are clearly, you know, not pro-American,” Carson said on CNN. “If they are our buddies, let’s put that clearly out there. And if they’re not our buddies, let’s not be giving them access to the ability to further carry on what they call a civilization jihad and to change us from a Judeo-Christian foundation to a Muslim foundation. We have got to be smarter than that.”

But Lofgren told me this afternoon that Carson’s comments are “sadly misinformed,” and she was delighted that Usman had accepted her invitation as a means of “highlighting patriotic Americans who are also Muslims.”

“She has been a terrific leader in our community for civil rights” not only among Muslims but in the Bay Area at large, Lofgren said. “To suggest somehow that she is un-American is just pathetic … It’s ignorant and sad, but luckily it’s very clear Dr. Carson will not be our president, so I guess he’s entitled to his ignorant statements.”