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.
Khanna, 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.