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CA17: Officials defend Honda on BART project

Call it the “Battle of the Truth Squads.”

People who’ve been involved in BART’s extension to San Jose have asked Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration official challenging fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda, to stop what they say are misleading attacks on Honda’s role in the project.

Khanna’s campaign on Feb. 14 and again on Feb. 25 posted to its “Truth Squad” website items claiming Honda had inflated his record on the BART extension and other work he has done in Congress; I wrote about the Honda campaign’s response last week.

honda.jpgBut Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta; state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Valley Transportation Authority chairman and San Jose Councilman Ash Kalra; former VTA general manager Michael Burns; and former Santa Clara County Supervisor Rod Diridon Sr. wrote to Khanna on Sunday urging him to “to correct the information on your website and what is given to the media by your campaign, and avoid further distortions of Congressman Honda’s record.”

“Mike Honda’s leadership on this issue in Washington and in the district has been vital to bringing BART and the thousands of accompanying jobs to our area,” they wrote. “Your questioning of such leadership undermines your credibility as a candidate and is not appreciated by those of us who have been working on this issue for decades.”

Khanna’s campaign is sticking to its claim that Honda has inflated his record on what he actually did.

Ro Khanna“Our concern has been and remains that Congressman Honda is taking sole credit for securing $900 million for the BART extension,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Monday. “We have always appreciated that the Congressman played a constructive role in the project but voters are tired of politicians who take credit for a project that resulted from the work of countless individuals over a long period of time. Voters deserve a discussion of these issues, and that is why Ro has proposed monthly debates hosted by local media outlets – a proposal that has still gone unanswered by Congressman Honda’s campaign.”

It seems Law was talking about moments like this, when Honda tweeted this during President Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28:

Honda tweet

Though too late for the letter, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood weighed in Monday with his own support of Honda’s role in the project.

“Congressman Mike Honda is a dogged and effective advocate in Washington for the BART extension. The merits of such a solid project and Mike’s consistent support were key contributors to my decision to recommend the extension for a ($900 million) Full Funding Grant Agreement,” LaHood said in a statement shared by Honda’s campaign. “From my days on the House Appropriations Committee, I remember Mike’s commitment to securing funding to get the project going – he is a vociferous advocate for improved transit in the Bay Area.”

Read the full letter (with footnotes!), after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, March 3rd, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

CA17: Mike Honda’s allies cite favorable poll

Rep. Mike Honda holds a lead of at least 19 percentage points over Democratic challenger Ro Khanna, according to a new poll released Thursday morning by a national liberal group that’s backing Honda.

The poll of 17th Congressional District voters conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of Democracy for America found Honda, D-San Jose, leading Khanna by 19 points when they and a third candidate, Republican Vanila Singh, are identified by their party affiliations. In fact, Singh finished ahead of Khanna though within the poll’s margin of error.

Without being told the canddiates’ party affiliations, voters preferred Honda over Khanna by 35 percentage points, with Singh a distant third. In one-on-one matches, Honda led Khanna by 22 points and led Singh by 38 points. And the poll found 61 percent of respondents approve of Honda’s job performance.

“Mike Honda has earned the support of Silicon Valley voters and he continues to have their support today, no matter how many max-out contributions millionaire and billionaire CEOs and executives pour into Vanila Singh and Ro Khanna’s campaigns,” said Democracy for America executive director Charles Chamberlain.

Honda and Khanna have been pot-shotting each other for months, with Honda accusing Khanna of being in the pocket of Silicon Valley millionaires while Khanna notes Honda is accepting a lot of PAC and Washington money while Khanna’s fundraising base is more Bay Area-centric.

Without taking the poll as gospel, Khanna’s campaign still sees progress.

“It is encouraging to know that, in a matter of months, Ro has increased his support from 5 percent to 26 percent while Rep. Honda’s lead has plummeted from 52 to 19 points and he’s now well under 50 percent – a danger sign for any incumbent,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Wednesday night. “It’s clear that Ro’s campaign of energy and ideas is connecting with voters, who are tired of the stasis and dysfunction in Congress. The trends are very much in favor of change this November.”

Follow after the jump to see the results as presented by DFA:
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Posted on Thursday, February 27th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, polls, U.S. House | 19 Comments »

CA17: George Takei to raise money for Honda

Rep. Mike Honda is trying to take his campaign fundraising to warp speed with a reception next month featuring actor and internet sensation George Takei of “Star Trek” fame.

George TakeiThe March 20 reception in San Francisco – location known only to those who RSVP – seeks anywhere from $50 for basic entry to $1,000 for a host committee level or $2,600 for an “Oh Myyy! Giver,” a nod to Takei’s renowned catchphrase.

Honda, D-San Jose, could definitely use a boost – he was out-raised in every quarter of last year by his Democratic challenger, former Obama administration official Ro Khanna of Fremont. Dr. Vanila Singh, a Republican from Fremont, is also in the 17th Congressional District race.

The hosts include venture capitalist Andrew Rappaport and his wife, Deborah; Ted Fang, president and executive director of the AsianWeek Foundation and a former editor and publisher of the San Francisco Examiner and AsianWeek; Yahoo! employee and Democratic activist Regina Wallace-Jones; i-Human Patients CEO Norm Wu; Palo Alto City Councilman Marc Berman; personal injury attorney Dale Minami; business attorney Quyen Ta; Four Freedoms Fund senior program officer Henry Der; Realtor Pam Rodgers; and UC-Hastings law professor Carol Izumi.

Takei, 76, might be as famous now for his social media presence and activism as for his iconic role as Mr. Sulu in the original “Star Trek” television series and related movies.

Posted on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

CA17: Khanna & Honda argue Honda’s record

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s campaign claims Rep. Mike Honda is inflating his record on jobs and education, while Honda claims Khanna doesn’t understand how Congress actually works.

My earlier post on Khanna’s jobs agenda drew a response from Honda’s campaign, which in turn led Khanna’s campaign to reiterate claims it first made Feb. 14 that Honda has accomplished little during his seven terms in the House.

“Congressman Mike Honda has authored only one bill in his entire Congressional tenure that became law: ‘to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1750 Lundy Avenue in San Jose, California,’” Khanna’s campaign said in an e-mail Tuesday afternoon. “Not a single bill that Congressman Honda has authored (other than the aforementioned post office naming) has been voted on in the House.”

Khanna’s belief that this means something underscores his lack of political experience, Honda’s campaign retorts.

“Because of how Congress works, with only a certain number of bills getting passed every year, legislators who want to get things done have to be savvy about how they go about it: there’s a big difference between just having your name on a bill and actually delivering results. And Mike Honda delivers results,” spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said.

So, let’s hash this out, one issue at a time, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

CA17: Ro Khanna rolls out his jobs agenda

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna rolled out his jobs plan Monday, including teaching computer coding in public schools, boosting the number of women in tech careers, preparing more young workers for manufacturing jobs and boosting the minimum wage higher than even the president wants.

Khanna talks to Access Closure workers after his speech 2-24-14 (photo by Josh Richman)Khanna described the plan in a speech to about 100 employees at Access Closure, a Santa Clara medical-device manufacturer. The company employs about 345 workers nationwide including about 210 in the Bay Area; jobs on the manufacturing floor, which require only a high-school diploma or equivalent, start at about $40,000 per year.

“I can’t think of a better place to do this,” Khanna said, noting the company is a U.S.-based manufacturer that’s exporting some of its product and expanding while paying its workers a living wage.

But duplicating the success of a company like this requires leadership and action from Washington, said Khanna, a Democratic challenger to Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in the 17th Congressional District.

Honda lacks a comprehensive jobs plan, Khanna charged. “There’s been an absence of leadership on his part … and beyond that an absence of willingness to have a conversation,” he said, noting Honda’s refusal thus far to promise a debate before the June primary.

Read about Khanna’s seven-point plan, after the jump:
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Posted on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Lawmakers seek update on power station attack

Silicon Valley’s House members want an update on the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation of the sniper attack on PG&E’s Metcalf power substation last April.

METCALF plant 020614Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose; wrote a letter Thursday to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

“Although the damage from the Metcalf incident was largely contained, the potential for a catastrophic attack impacting both our electric grid and communications infrastructure is evident,” the lawmakers wrote. “As we understand it, rolling blackouts throughout our region were narrowly averted. The Metcalf attack, while sophisticated, was relatively small. A larger attack is not difficult to imagine and the effects could be crippling.”

Somebody fired rifle rounds last April to take out 17 transformers and 6 circuit breakers, causing $15.4 million in damage at the facility near Coyote Ranch Road in South San Jose. Nobody was hurt and nobody lost power, but circumstances suggest it was a planned attack.

Given the Bay Area’s high concentration of Fortune 500 companies, patent generation and economic productivity, a successful attack on the area’s power grid “would impact not only our region but our country as a whole,” they wrote.

The lawmakers asked Johnson to respond by March 14 with a summary of his department’s work on the incident, including the initial emergency response; work since the incident on improving protection of critical infrastructure, emergency mitigation and coordination with other agencies; recommendations for more improvements; and guidance on whether any congressional action is needed.

Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Homeland security, Mike Honda, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

CA17: Don’t call Ro Khanna a millionaire

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna took umbrage at being called a millionaire by one of Rep. Mike Honda’s supporters and fellow House members.

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, on Tuesday invited contributors to a March 17 fundraiser in Monterey Park on Honda’s behalf. The email didn’t specifically name Khanna, but it seems clear Chu wasn’t talking about Dr. Vanilla Singh, a Fremont Republican who entered the race last month, when writing that “Rep. Honda is facing a tough race against a well-funded millionaire.”

Well-funded, yes: Khanna, an attorney and former Obama administration official from Fremont, had about $1.97 million banked for his 17th Congressional District campaign as of the end of 2013, while the incumbent Honda, D-San Jose, had about $623,000.

But millionaire, no. Khanna’s campaign issued a “Truth Squad” communiqué Tuesday noting Khanna “is the son of immigrants, and the product of a middle-class upbringing. Today, Ro is still paying off his own student loans. Ro is not a millionaire.”

“This fundraising email from Congressman Honda’s supporter is just the latest example of a baseless attack waged against Ro,” Khanna’s campaign added. “Candidates and their allies should stick to the facts instead of engaging in ad hominem personal attacks. Congressman Honda should call on Congresswoman Chu to correct her misstatement and set the record straight.”

Chu’s response said nothing of Khanna’s own wealth.

“Ro Khanna’s campaign is well-funded and fueled by maxed-out contributions from far-right conservative millionaires like Peter Thiel and Marc Leder who are actively working against our efforts to move the country forward,” she said via e-mail Tuesday night. “Mike Honda has been a tireless champion for the Asian-American community and his district, as Khanna has said so himself. I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure Mike is re-elected.”

Chu succeeded Honda as chair of the Congressional Asian-Pacific American Caucus in 2011.

Posted on Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

CA17: Khanna taps diplomat to arrange debates

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna has named a former U.S. ambassador to Australia to lead “debate negotiations” for his campaign with that of Rep. Mike Honda.

But diplomacy takes at least two willing participants, and so far, Honda hasn’t signaled that he’s willing to debate his fellow Democrat before June’s primary election.

BleichKhanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont, issued a release Monday noting media outlets including the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, NBC Bay Area, KPIX 5, The Huffington Post, and TechCrunch have expressed interest in hosting a 17th Congressional District debate. Jeffrey Bleich, the release said, “will be playing a key role in overseeing a fair and open debate process.”

“Debates are fundamental to the Democratic process,” Bleich said in the release. “We should all have a chance to hear the candidates share their visions for this important district, and voters expect that from their candidates. Ro has offered the kind of ideas that we need to grow Silicon Valley’s prosperity and prepare young J open dialogue between both candidates.”

Khanna said Bleich’s “leadership in the debate process will help ensure that voters benefit from an open and transparent conversation on the key issues facing hardworking families in the Bay Area. The people have grown tired of old-style politics and campaigns that consist of little more than sloganeering and demagoguery. With the unique challenges facing our community and our nation, the voters deserve better.”

Vivek Kembaiyan, spokesman for the Honda campaign, said Monday the incumbent remains in wait-and-see mode. “Given how early it is (the full field of candidates isn’t set yet), the campaign has not made any decisions yet regarding debates.”

Dr. Vanila Singh, a Republican from Fremont, also has announced she’s seeking the 17th Congressional District seat. A spokesman for her campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Bleich, of Piedmont, served as the U.S. ambassador to Australia from 2009 to 2013; earlier, he had served as special counsel to President Obama. After his diplomatic posting, he returned to his partnership in the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

Posted on Monday, February 17th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Lawmakers urge Obama to reclassify marijuana

Eighteen House members, including six from the Bay Area, wrote to President Obama today urging him to use his authority to move marijuana off the federal government’s list of most-restricted drugs.

Marijuana currently is listed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a list for drugs deemed to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States and a lack of accepted safety under medical supervision. The lawmakers’ letter says this “makes no sense” for marijuana, and calls on the president to instruct Attorney General Eric Holder to reclassify the drug.

“Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system,” the letter says. “Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana.”

The letter comes days after Obama told the New Yorker magazine that he believes marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, a comment that has brought criticism from anti-drug activists.

Among those signing the letter were Reps. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton. The only Republican among the 18 signers was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach.

The Controlled Substances Act gives authority for rescheduling controlled substances to Congress, but it also grants executive branch authority to the U.S. Attorney General and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Several rescheduling bills have gone nowhere in recent years.

“President Obama just told the nation during his State of the Union address that because Congress has been unable to act, he would take executive action where he could on behalf of helping the American people,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access. “The president has the authority to reclassify marijuana and could exercise that authority at any time.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Jared Huffman, marijuana, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Dems ‘pre-endorse’ some Bay Area candidates

Local Democrats voted Saturday to recommend that their state party endorse Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski in the 10th State Senate District, and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti in the 16th Congressional District.

Some other candidates – including Rep. Eric Swalwell in the 15th Congressional District and Elizabeth Echols in the 15th Assembly District – didn’t have enough votes to win these “pre-endorsements,” but can make their cases at the California Democratic Party convention next month in Los Angeles. And some races were so split as to allow no endorsement at all.

Democrats gathered Saturday for their regional caucus meetings, choosing among their party’s offerings for offices. Per the party’s rules, a candidate who gets 70 percent or more of the vote is recommended for endorsement and placed on the consent calendar to be ratified at next month’s convention in Los Angeles.

If one candidate receives more than 50 percent but less than 70 percent of the vote for a district, the race will go to the caucuses held during the March Convention. And if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, no endorsement will be made in that race.

Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, was kind enough to tweet and Facebook the results from the Region 5 caucus meeting:

In the 17th Congressional District, incumbent Honda, D-San Jose, reportedly got 122 votes to challenger Ro Khanna’s 11 votes at Saturday’s caucus meeting, so Honda goes on the consent calendar for endorsement at the convention.

In the 15th Congressional District, incumbent Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, reportedly got 45 votes to state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett’s 26 votes while three people voted against making any endorsement; Swalwell, having a majority but not 70 percent, will make his case again at the convention.

In the 10th State Senate District, Wieckowski reportedly got 105 votes, patient advocate Roman Reed got eight votes and former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi got no votes, so Wieckowski goes on the consent calendar for endorsement at the convention.

In the 15th Assembly District, Echols – a former Small Business Administration regional administrator – reportedly got 45 votes, former Richmond councilman and school board member Tony Thurmond got 17 votes, East Bay Municipal Utility District board president Andy Katz got 5 votes, attorney Sam Kang got no votes, and four people voted against making an endorsement; Echols, having a majority but not 70 percent, will make her case again at the convention.

In the 25th Assembly District, former Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler reportedly got 18 votes, San Jose Councilman Kansen Chu got 16 votes and Ohlone College Board of Trustees member Teresa Cox got 10 votes, while Milpitas Councilman Armando Gomez won no votes. With no candidate achieving a majority, there will be no party endorsement in this race.

After the Region 2 caucus meeting, Sbranti issued a news release announcing he had received 97 percent of the vote for the 16th Assembly District race, and so will be placed on the convention’s consent calendar for endorsement; other Democrats vying for that seat include Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich and Orinda Vice Mayor Steve Glazer.

And state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, announced he received a unanimous endorsement recommendation to succeed Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, when the latter retires from his 11th Congressional District at the end of this year. No other Democrats of any renown are seeking the seat.

Posted on Monday, February 10th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, Mark DeSaulnier, Mary Hayashi, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 7 Comments »