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CA17: Khanna mailer, Honda letter create buzz

Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s new mailer attacks incumbent Rep. Mike Honda as a diehard, partisan, tax-and-spend liberal – a move that Honda’s liberal supporters say calls Khanna’s own loyalties into question.

The mailer asks “Have you had enough of Mike Honda?” and cites various sources to underscore how Honda, D-San Jose, consistently votes a liberal line, including on budgetary matters.

(Click to enlarge:)
Khanna mailer p1

Khanna mailer p2

Khanna mailer p3

Khanna mailer p4

Democracy for America – a national grassroots liberal group that supports Honda and has already been criticizing Khanna since mid-2013 as “Republican lite” – blasted the mailer out to its email list Wednesday.

“As the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, it’s obvious to me that Ro Khanna is campaigning like a Republican,” DFA founder Howard Dean wrote in that email. “Real Democrats don’t use ‘liberal’ as an epithet or attack fellow Democrats for standing up for progressive values like making sure the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.”

Meanwhile, Khanna’s campaign is once again accusing Honda of using taxpayer dollars to fund what basically amounts to a campaign mailing.

Much like the pre-primary “franking” complaint Khanna filed in May, Khanna’s campaign says an Oct. 3 letter that Honda’s office sent to constituents serves no real official purpose. The letter is a litany of Honda’s accomplishments – various instances of money he has brought back to the district, legislation he has cosponsored or supported, and so on.

“You can count on me to work to close the skills gap and increase the competitiveness of our workforce, and to continue to work to deliver for our district,” the letter concludes. “Thank you again for letting me serve you in Congress.”

Wonderfully, Khanna was among the constituents who received it.

(Click to enlarge:)
Honda's franked letter to Khanna

As I noted three years ago when Republican challenger Ricky Gill leveled a similar complaint against Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, House members must submit their mailers to the House Franking Commission for an advisory opinion. They cannot contain personal biographical material, make direct references to an election, make statements of a partisan tone or ask for money. The House also imposes a 90-day blackout period on mass mailings prior to an election; that means Honda probably sent these letters only to parts of his constituency, or sent different letters to various segment to get around it being a “mass mailing.” (Read the full checklist here. Or if you really want to know more, click here for the full manual.)

But there are no prohibitions on stating your positions on policies or touting your record or accomplishments as an elected member of the House of Representatives.

Posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

CA17: A closer look at Honda’s & Khanna’s polls

I’ve just posted a story about new internal polls released by Rep. Mike Honda and his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, in the 17th Congressional District: Khanna’s poll shows a dead heat, while Honda’s shows him with a 15-point lead.

Both campaigns have veteran pollsters – David Binder for Khanna, and Lake Research Partners for Honda. But any poll’s accuracy depends on the sample’s composition, and these have some interesting quirks.

Khanna’s poll respondents were 46 percent Democrats, 27 percent independents and 23 percent Republicans; Honda’s poll respondents were 46 percent Democrats, 30 percent independents and 21 percent Republicans. The district’s overall voter registration is 44 percent Democrat, 32 percent independent and 19 percent Republican, though that may not be the breakdown of the district’s likely voters.

Also, Khanna’s poll respondents were 51 percent white, 29 percent Asian and 12 percent Latino, while Honda’s poll respondents were 43 percent white, 38 percent Asian and 13 percent Latino. The U.S. Census estimates the 17th District is about 33 percent white, 52 percent Asian and 16 percent Latino.

Finally, Honda’s poll, conducted Oct. 7 through 12, indicates 21 percent of respondents already have voted by mail – that seems awfully high, given that ballots just went out Oct. 6. Only 1 percent of the respondents to Khanna’s poll, conducted Oct. 8-9, said they already had voted.

Posted on Monday, October 13th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

CA17: Some of Honda’s wins seem shared at best

Rep. Mike Honda has been touting his accomplishments on the campaign trail this week, but a few of those accomplishments appear to be his by extension.

During Monday night’s televised debate between Honda, D-San Jose, and Democratic challenger Ro Khanna, Honda responded to Khanna’s jibes that he’s not bipartisan enough by rattling off a few examples of bills or issues on which he has worked across the aisle.

DEBATE BETWEEN REP. MIKE HONDA AND CHALLENGER RO KHANNAOne example he cited was H.R. 2061, the digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2013 by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista. The bill standardizes and publishes the U.S. government’s reports and data compilations on financial management, procurement and aid, with the goal of creating more transparency for taxpayers, improving federal management and reducing costs.

“Darrell Issa and myself, we passed the DATA bill, the DATA Act, that requires the government agencies to tell people where the dollars are spent, how much it is, and to be transparent about it,” Honda said. “I think that’s across the (aisle) work.”

And cosponsor it he did, though at the last minute. Honda signed on as the last of 10 cosponsors on Nov. 18, 2013 – six months after it was introduced, and the same day the House overwhelmingly passed it 388-1. Honda and Issa also co-authored an op-ed piece in the Silicon Valley Business Journal praising the bill, but that was this past June, more than a month after President Obama had signed the bill into law.

When asked specifically what Honda did to help pass the bill, campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan reiterated that Honda had supported the bill, co-authored the op-ed and was “one of 10 co-sponsors who worked to get the bill passed in the House and signed into law.”

Also, in a mailer appearing in voters’ mailboxes this week, Honda claims he “secured $8.6 billion this year for early childhood education programs across the country, so every child can begin school ready to learn.”

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Honda_Track_Proof_2_001

That’s a reference to the Head Start program, for which funding was included in a big omnibus spending bill passed by the House in December on a 376-5 vote and signed into law in January. Honda wasn’t a cosponsor.

“No bill is done by one person alone, but Congressman Honda has the influence, experience, and relationships to deliver for his constituents in a way no freshman can,” Kembaiyan said. “Congressman Honda used his position on the specific Appropriations subcommittee that oversees education funding to make sure Head Start received the $600 million increase that is benefiting children throughout the district and the country.”

Honda is the least-senior of five Democratic minority members on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

Khanna’s campaign is giving no quarter on these claims.

“In a desperate attempt to rewrite his almost nonexistent legislative record, Congressman Honda is taking credit for things he didn’t do,” spokesman Tyler Law said Thursday. “This troubling strategy of misleading voters is yet another reason why the 17th District needs new leadership.”

UPDATE @ 7:53 P.M.: I was unaware when I posted this item that Calbuzz earlier had posted something similar. We’re all covering the same race, seeing and hearing the same things, and talking to many of the same people; it seems Honda’s assertions are deemed newsworthy far and wide.

Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

CA17: Dems spend almost $100k on Honda’s behalf

The television ad that Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, debuted last week is remaining on the airwaves this week courtesy of the California Democratic Party.

The party’s contribution means Honda, D-San Jose, can keep his own powder dry for further ads shoring up his position against Democratic challenger Ro Khanna.

“Our country needs more leaders like Mike Honda, who works hard, behind the scenes if necessary, and delivers results for his constituents and our country,” California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said in a news release. “From his passionate work on educational equity, to expanding Social Security benefits for our seniors, to his unfailing advocacy for equal treatment of all people, Mike embodies the best values of our Party.”

Party spokesman Tenoch Flores said the party is paying almost $100,000 to air the ad; he wouldn’t list the channels on which it will air, but said it’s running in cable systems across the 17th Congressional District.

Also, in case you missed it (though I don’t know how anyone could), tonight is the big Honda-Khanna debate. Don’t miss it!

Posted on Monday, October 6th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

CA17: Mike Honda launches first TV ad

Rep. Mike Honda on Monday launched the first television ad of his 2014 re-election campaign:

Honda, D-San Jose, ran no television ads before the June primary; his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, ran five, significantly depleting the much larger bankroll that Khanna had enjoyed. Now Honda has more money banked, and is starting with a classic incumbent’s ad: Touting his own record while never mentioning his opponent, so as not to give his foe any publicity.

“This ad reflects a central theme of Congressman Honda’s re-election campaign, emphasizing his record of delivering for his constituents, including $900 million in federal funding for the BART extension to San Jose, which is creating 13,000 jobs,” Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release. “Ro Khanna had a free pass on the air during the primary election, but we are planning to have ads on television from now until Election Day.”

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said “an ad touting the Congressman’s ability to secure earmarks that no longer exist and taking credit for something that happened over a decade ago won’t change the fact that he has only passed one bill to name a post office in fourteen years and has one of the worst attendance records in Congress. That’s the real record that voters will be assessing as they cast their ballots.”

On that note, Khanna rolled out his third direct-mail piece of the general-election campaign:

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VBM 3 Side 1

VBM 3 Side 2

Here’s my story from early August about Khanna’s attack on Honda’s attendance record.

Posted on Monday, September 29th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

CA17: Unpacking the Honda e-mails story

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s supporters are abuzz over today’s San Jose Inside story that says Rep. Mike Honda’s staffers violated House rules against mixing campaign activity with official business.

Sourced from emails provided by a former Honda aide who says he quit after being pressured to help out on the campaign, the story’s most biting claim is that Honda’s chief of staff, Jennifer Van der Heide, early last year coordinated with Lamar Heystek, then the Honda campaign’s political director, on whom to invite to a State Department roundtable.

Heystek wrote that he had compiled “a list of South Asian tech/investment folks who’ve donated to candidates in the past” but not to Honda. Van der Heide replied, “Great lists — how are we doing outreach to them for $? Can we at least collect emails and send newsletters or something if we can’t do straight asks electronically now? Also do you have the list of the South Asians now endorsing/supporting MH? I want to make sure we are including all of them. Invites going out first thing Monday morning.”

This constitutes a mixing of official and campaign events that’s verboten under House ethics rules (House Ethics Manual, page 150), even though Van der Heide’s e-mails came from her personal account and not during work hours, the story says. Heystek left Honda’s campaign in March 2014.

Honda office spokesman Ken Scudder issued a statement Wednesday evening saying “it is the policy of the Congressman, and under the rules of House Ethics, for the office to keep separate official work and campaign activities.

“While it is commonplace for office staff to choose to volunteer their time on campaigns, all of our staff who volunteer do so on their own time and volition, and without the use of official resources,” the statement said. “In this instance, while not a violation of House Rules, we should have taken more care to prevent the appearance of coordination.”

Honda’s campaign declined to comment Wednesday, as did Khanna’s.

It’s not entirely clear what sort of influence Honda or his staff would’ve been peddling here; whether those who attended were eventually hit up for campaign donations; and if they were, whether and how much they gave.

Honda’s staff told San Jose Inside that the event in question was a Feb. 21, 2013 roundtable at Santa Clara University with Mitul Desai, who at the time was senior advisor for strategic partnership in the State Department’s South and Central Asian Bureau. (The event appears in San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra’s archived calendar for February 2013.)

Yet when Desai’s boss, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake Jr., joined Honda a month later to host a roundtable at Microsoft’s Sunnyvale campus on the U.S.-India relationship, Honda sent his constituents an e-newsletter basically inviting anyone who wanted to attend:

2013 roundtable invitation

Nor is there evidence that Honda himself knew of the emails anytime before today. Still, there’s at least an appearance of impropriety if not an out-and-out ethical violation in official staffers and campaign staffers conferring about whom to invite to official events. Your thoughts, readers?

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

CA17: Khanna’s mailers tout record, attack Honda

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna, seeking to unseat fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, has sent out his first mailers of the general-election season – one positive, one negative.

The first mailer outlines Khanna’s record at the U.S. Department of Commerce, his experience teaching economics at Stanford, and his expertise on manufacturing, as well as his media endorsements:

(Click to enlarge:)
Khanna positive mailer

The second mailer highlights what Khanna says is Honda’s poor productivity and attendance:

Khanna negative mailer

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said in a news release that the ads “will outline a clear contrast between Congressman Honda’s history of not showing up and not getting the job done, with Ro Khanna’s record of growing American manufacturing jobs and championing bold policies to move the 17th District forward.”

“Contrary to the Honda campaign, which falsely attacked Ro’s tenure at Commerce and has relied on its Super PAC to send racially coded mailers, our campaign will continue to highlight only the facts behind Rep. Honda’s record,” Tyler added. “We expect that the more voters learn about his failure to show up and deliver, the more eager they will be to vote for change.”

But Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied later Wednesday that Khanna’s “desperate campaign will do anything to win, from misrepresenting Congressman Honda’s record of delivering for the district – like $900 million for the BART extension that is creating over 10,000 jobs – to embracing right-wing positions, like cutting pensions for middle-income workers, and right-wing supporters who are organizing The Tea Party Express on his behalf.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

CA17: Honda-Khanna debate details finalized

Final details have been set for the first – and most likely, only – general-election debate between Rep. Mike Honda and his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna.

NBC Bay Area has joined with KQED, the Huffington Post and San Jose State University to co-host the event at 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6 in the NBC Bay Area studios in San Jose.

The 17th Congressional District debate will be moderated by NBC Bay Area Anchor Raj Mathai and will include four panelists: lead panelist Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post; Thuy Vu, host of KQED Newsroom; Melinda Jackson, an SJSU associate professor of political science; and LooLoo Amante, an SJSU student and director of external affairs for the university’s Associated Students. The candidates will be notified of the topics 72 hours in advance; Mathai and SJSU Professor Larry Gerston will offer analysis after the debate.

The showdown will air live on NBC Bay Area, and will be re-broadcast on KQED World at 9 p.m. that evening and on KQED Plus at 11 p.m. KQED Public Radio will also broadcast the debate live on its stations in San Francisco (88.5 FM) and Sacramento (89.3 FM), and the debate will also be streamed live on nbcbayarea.com and on The Huffington Post’s online streaming video network, HuffPost Live. And of course, I’ll be there to tweet and report.

“This is going to be one of the most-watched races across the country this November, and this debate has been long anticipated,” Rich Cerussi, president and general manager of NBC Bay Area, said in a news release. “We’re proud to bring such a strong group of partners together to provide a forum for the candidates to discuss the issues that matter to voters, and help Bay Area voters make an informed choice.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

CA17: Honda & Khanna on Tesla’s ‘gigafactory’

Tuesday brought another terse exchange in the 17th Congressional District race, as Rep. Mike Honda encouraged electric-car maker Tesla Motors to put its next battery factory in California while Democratic challenger Ro Khanna accused Honda of being late to the party.

Tesla logoPalo Alto-based Tesla builds its cars at the former New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, but recently decided to site its first “gigafactory,” for producing the batteries on which those cars rely, in Nevada. California had offered the company a tax-break package that ultimately wasn’t as large as the $1.25 billion deal Nevada was willing to make.

Honda, D-San Jose, joined with Reps. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert; Jim Costa, D-Fresno; and 21 other lawmakers in writing a letter last week to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, urging him to consider the Golden State next time.

“While any state would be thrilled for the opportunity to add thousands of high-tech manufacturing jobs, California has the supply of qualified workers to meet Tesla’s current needs, and the educational infrastructure to support further growth,” they wrote. “Our delegation is dedicated to continuing our thriving relationship with Tesla and supporting its prosperity in every way possible. We look forward to continued discussions at every level of government and hope that you will make California the home of your next Gigafactory.”

Honda announced this in a news release Tuesday, in which he noted that “as the world capital of innovation, it makes sense that Tesla’s next Gigafactory be in Silicon Valley.

“Our highly-educated workforce, abundant renewable energy resources, and world class research institutions makes the Bay Area a natural partner to build Tesla’s Gigafactory,” Honda said. “I look forward to working with Tesla, Governor Brown’s Administration, and my colleagues in the California Delegation to bring this game-changing battery facility to Silicon Valley.”

Too little too late, Khanna said later Tuesday.

“Congressman Honda is shutting the barn door after the animals are long gone,” he said in a news release. “We needed active leadership when the decision was being made – not after we lost the competition. It’s as if Congressman Honda just woke up and discovered that 6,500 good jobs have left the building.”

Khanna wrote an op-ed last week suggesting better political leadership might’ve helped California land the Tesla battery plant, though what to offer the company ultimately was up to state lawmakers and the governor, not members of Congress.

Posted on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Most Bay Area House members oppose ISIS plan

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jerry McNerney were the only greater Bay Area House members who voted Wednesday in favor of President Obama’s plan to beat back the Islamic State in part by training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels.

The House voted 273-156 to add an amendment authorizing Obama’s plans to a short-term spending bill passed shortly after that will keep the federal government operating through mid-December. Voting yes were 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats, while 85 Democrats and 71 Republicans voted no.

Nancy PelosiPelosi, D-San Francisco, didn’t whip Democratic votes behind the scenes, but did make a floor speech in favor of the amendment in which she called the Islamic State’s brutality “outside the circle of civilized human behavior.”

“We wish that this action that we’re called upon to do today was not necessary,” Pelosi said. “But the fact is that, with the diplomatic, political and humanitarian foundation that the President has laid out, with the narrowness of the request that he is making to us – it is not pleasant; it is not easy; it is hard – but it really is necessary for the House to approve this.”

A McNerney spokesman didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment. (See update at bottom.)

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the measure “an important, initial step forward” against a group that “represents a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States, and House Republicans are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help keep America safe.”

But several Bay Area Democrats explained why they couldn’t vote for the plan.

honda.jpgRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, said he supports “the President’s call to dismantle ISIL through robust regional and international partnerships, support for local capacities on the ground, and expanded humanitarian assistance. Arming and training Syrians and Iraqis, and perhaps eventually supporting them with airstrikes, may push back ISIL’s gains. But it will not defeat extremism.”

“There is no lasting military solution to extremism. The only lasting solution is a political solution. One in which the rights and concerns of all religious and cultural groups are respected,” Honda said. “The US must focus on building partnerships in the region, and around the world, to encourage moderate Sunni groups in Iraq and Syria to move away from ISIL, and towards an alternative and inclusive future.”

“Simply arming the Syrian opposition groups comes with great risk,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, said in a statement issued after the vote. “Instead, we need a comprehensive strategy that includes a debate and vote in Congress that specifically authorizes the use of force against ISIL, and the involvement of a broad, international coalition of Muslim and Western countries to diminish ISIL and degrade their organizational capabilities.”

“To defeat ISIL, I support U.S. led airstrikes and the building of a real, substantive coalition of regional allies who will stand up to defend their own countries and existence. I do not support putting substantial U.S. resources in, and betting the house on, unproven ‘moderate’ Syrian fighters,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in an e-mailed statement. “Over the course of U.S. military history, this proxy-war approach has had disastrous results and no evidence in this case has convinced me the result would be any different.”

“I agree with the President’s decision to remove the threat created by ISIS but the plan laid out by the White House is still too vague,” Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, said in his statement. “I could not support the amendment without clear answers to how that threat will be removed and exactly what the United States role will be. ISIS remains a roadblock in creating stability in the region and they must be stopped. However, I am fearful today’s vote does not bring us closer to our ultimate goal of peace.”

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, issued a statement saying the vote “was not, as some have argued, a choice between supporting the President’s plan and simply doing nothing about ISIL. To be clear, I share President Obama’s assessment of ISIL as a brutal terrorist organization, I support the goal of destroying them, and I believe there should be an American role in a broad, multinational response to ISIL.

“My ‘no’ vote today is because this plan for a new American-led war in Iraq and Syria is being advanced without a proper congressional authorization as required by the Constitution, and because I believe the strategic assumptions underlying the plan are deeply flawed,” Huffman said. “Frankly, we should know better than to provide arms and training to fighters we know very little about – and what we do know is troubling. We should know better than to take the lead in fighting and funding this war without a real multinational coalition where the countries most impacted by the ISIL threat carry their fair share of the risk and cost. And we should know better than to do all of this on the basis of wishful assumptions and rosy assurances that the conflict will not escalate out of control.”

UPDATE 5:24 P.M.: McNerney just emailed me a statement saying that “taking military action is the gravest responsibility of our government, and I take my role in helping decide our nation’s policy very seriously.

“I support the current plan to engage and ultimately destroy ISIL, but it won’t be successful unless we can enlist an alliance of nations within the region that are fully and demonstrably committed to true democratic inclusion and are willing to fight for their own freedom,” he said, including training potential allied military units off the battlefield and arming competent and reliable allies.

“Meanwhile, the President must demonstrate America’s commitment to the region by using very limited American air power in conjunction with local military units to help prevent additional ISIL territorial gains. I do not support the involvement of American ground troops beyond their training mission, or the excessive use of American air power. Both of these are not needed and would likely be counterproductive in the end,” McNerney continued. “While I supported this amendment, I also urged my colleagues to consider the long-term effects of authorizing force: to our soldiers, to the innocent civilians, and to sustained stability in the Middle East.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, War on Terror | No Comments »