Which Bay Area House seat will Ro Khanna seek?

My esteemed colleague Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle has just posted a blog item about Ro Khanna moving toward a run in the 17th Congressional District, now represented by Mike Honda, rather than the 15th District, now represented by Eric Swalwell.

Ro KhannaKhanna, you’ll recall, is the former Obama Administration Commerce Department official who raised an eye-popping $1.2 million in the last quarter of 2011, but chose not to challenge Rep. Pete Stark in 2012. Swalwell did, and now he’s Congressman Swalwell while Khanna is cooling his heels at Silicon Valley law powerhouse Wilson Sonsini and deciding on his next move.

Some had assumed Khanna, 36, of Fremont, would mount a 2014 challenge to the freshman Swalwell, 32, of Dublin, but it’s no secret that Khanna’s congressional campaign committee’s statement of organization specified neither the year in which he would run nor the district.

I’d heard the same rumors as Carla, and so this was among the topics I raised while having coffee with Khanna this morning at Suju’s on Thornton Avenue in Fremont, and he’s still playing it cagey – all he would say is that he’s considering all his options.

From where I sit, looking to Honda’s seat instead of Swalwell’s might make a lot of sense for Khanna. The 17th District is much more the heart of Silicon Valley than the 15th District, and Khanna’s expertise is in manufacturing, entrepreneurialism and innovation – hence his recent book on those topics.

Also, the 17th District is the continental United States’ first majority-Asian-American district, and the source of much of the money that Khanna raised in that explosive final quarter of 2011. (In fact, Honda lent his name to one of the bigger fundraisers Khanna had that season, a few years after Khanna had donated $1,000 to Honda’s 2008 campaign.)

There are a few ways this could go. Honda’s interest in an Education Department post during Obama’s first term was no secret, and it’s not beyond the pale that he could be interested in an Obama Administration post now – if not in education, than maybe the Peace Corps (of which Honda is a proud alumnus) or something that utilizes all the experience Honda, 71, has accrued in advocating for minority political action and civil rights (the EEOC?)

Or, Honda could seek an eighth House term in 2014 and Khanna could run against him. California’s top-two primary and that district’s voter registration ratio (44.4 percent Democrat, 19.1 percent Republican, 31.7 percent no-party-preference) make it likely they’d prevail in the primary and face each other in November.

Khanna could make a much stronger play for the district’s nonpartisan and Republican voters than Honda can, as Swalwell did against Stark. But I don’t think this would look much like the Stark-Swalwell smackdown of 2012, which went very negative; though Stark and Honda both are arch-liberals beloved by labor, Honda’s by most accounts is a more likeable personality and going negative on him might be counterproductive.

Still, Khanna could make a case that Honda – although a good and praise-worthy liberal Democrat – hasn’t been as effective in representing the young, tech, forward-looking voters and innovative business interests of Silicon Valley as Khanna could. It would be interesting to see whether Khanna can fire up his fundraising again in a meaningful way; what campaign consultants he can attract; and what endorsements he gets, particularly from local officials and from other members of Congress.

If Khanna does run in the 17th District, Swalwell heaves a huge sigh of relief. He’ll still probably face a challenge from fellow Democrat Ellen Corbett, who’ll be term-limited out of the state Senate in 2014; she opened a campaign committee last year too, and with fundraising not nearly so robust as Khanna’s, she too chose not to challenge Stark. “I would be honored to serve in Congress, but it’s too early to discuss 2014,” she told me in November.


Which local House members are targets in 2014?

With House elections only a month behind us, eyes are already turning toward the 2014 election’s landscape.

The fine folks at renowned political prognosticator Larry Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” have tagged several Northern California House members as potentially vulnerable in 2014:

For Republicans, they might take fresh shots against Rep.-elects Scott Peters (D), Ami Bera (D) and Raul Ruiz (D), who all defeated Republican incumbents in razor-thin races. They may have some other opportunities across the state, particularly if some unsuccessful but promising 2012 challengers — Ricky Gill (against Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney) and Kim Vann (against Democratic Rep. John Garamendi), among others, decide to mount rematches.

The difficulty for Republican candidates in California, though, is that their statewide party is in rump status, akin to Democrats in Texas — and, unlike demographics in Texas (which might very slowly move in the Democrats’ direction), demographics in California provide little hope to resuscitate the California GOP.

The article also notes the potential for a fight in the 10th Congressional District, where Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, beat back a challenge this year from former NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez, a Democrat from Stockton. “Hernandez is openly considering a repeat run, although he might wait until 2016 — a clear indication that he understands the turnout problems Democrats have in midterm elections.”

Meanwhile, Rep.-elect Eric Swalwell – the Dublin Democrat who unseated 20-term Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, last month – today tells Roll Call exactly what we reported right after Election Day: that it’s never too soon to consider who’ll be coming at you two years hence.


Pelosi bids ‘adieu’ to Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, took a break from the rhetorical carpet-bombing of the fiscal cliff faceoff yesterday for a floor speech thanking the departing California Democrats, including two from the Bay Area – one who retired, and one who was unseated.

John Boehner“Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for yielding, Mr. Miller. I know that we have a time limitation so I will begin by associating myself with the remarks of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo who spoke so beautifully and knowledgeably about our colleagues who are leaving, who are from California, who are leaving. I rise today to thank my colleagues, who are our friends, and our partners from the great state of California.

“The Members we honor in this special order – I’m just going to do this cause its way down low.

[Leader Pelosi Adjusts Podium Height]

“Recognize the, demonstrate the extraordinary diversity of our great Golden State. They hail from northern California and southern California, from the Bay Area, to the greater Los Angeles [area], to San Diego. They bring Californians’ wide range of interests, and aspirations to the floor of the House every day. Working side-by-side with the entire California delegation, their service, our service has strengthened the Golden State; the commitment of our departing Members has strengthened the Congress; their achievements have advanced the character of our country. Each of these Members has brought a unique voice to the table; yet each shares the same core values – a devotion to public service, a dedication to opportunity, a belief in the promise of America.

“Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey spent her career fighting to improve the education of our children, the economic security of their families, the protection of our workers, as well as our coastline, as Congresswoman Eshoo mentioned. With her departure, I won’t say retirement because she is not a retiring person, the Bay Area loses a powerful advocate in Congress and the nation loses a tireless progressive leader. It was, I think, Mr. Miller said ‘400 times that Lynn Woolsey came to the floor to speak against the war, our involvement in the war in Iraq.’ Thank you, Congresswoman Woolsey. So, it’s about the patriotism of this Congress and of the participation as patriots of our colleagues from California.

“Whether it’s the education of our children, whether it is the health of our people as demonstrated by Congressman Pete Stark. Why we all owe you Pete Stark, a great debt of gratitude. He has been a fixture in the fight to build and strengthen the pillars of health and economic security for the American people. From his seat on the Ways and Means Committee, to the House floor, he always remained a fierce fighter for Medicare and a passionate advocate for the Affordable Care Act because he believed that health care was a right for all Americans, not a privilege just for the few. His legacy will live long in a stronger support for the well-being of our seniors, our families, and our middle class. I hope it is a source of pride, I know it is to your family, that so many of your colleagues respect you so much and honor your leadership and service here.”

More, after the jump…
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Fortney Stark DID win an election last month.

Perhaps Congress hasn’t seen the last of the Stark family.

Though 40-year incumbent Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, has just been unseated by fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell, Fish Stark – the congressman’s 17-year-old son – was elected president of the 2012 Princeton Model Congress last month in Washington D.C., chosen by an electorate of 853 participating students from across the nation.

Here’s his stump speech:


Fish Stark – whose actual name is Fortney Hillman Stark III – is a senior at the Key School, a private school in Annapolis, Md. He’s pictured in the photo below standing between the two “Fish 2012” signs, wearing a red tie and yellow name tag.

Fish Stark
(Click photo to enlarge.)

Note the campaign slogan: “We Need Stark Change.”

The 24-student Key School contingent did well – not only did President Fish reign, but they also managed to pass 18 bills while one student won a gavel (comparable to a first-place award) and two others won honorable mentions.


Pete Stark must close his office this Friday

Rep. Pete Stark, defeated in this month’s election by a fellow Democrat after 40 years in the House, must close his Capitol Hill office Friday.

Debbie Curtis, his chief of staff, said House rules require lame ducks to be out of their offices by Dec. 1, and Stark’s shutdown is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday. The computers there are networked to those in Stark’s district office, so those will go offline, too.

Stark, D-Fremont, is being assigned a cubby in the Longworth House Office Building with a computer, two chairs and a phone forwarded from Stark’s existing office line, she said.

“We will still be checking our voice mail,” Curtis said, and should Congress be ready to act on the so-called “fiscal cliff” in the next few weeks, “He’ll be there and he’ll vote, he’ll just go to the floor and work from there … He can absolutely vote without having his office.”

The House’s calendar shows the week of Dec. 3 is a D.C. work week, with votes possible from 6:30 p.m. Monday through 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6; the following week can see votes from 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11 through 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14.

Stark’s staff has posted this notice to some of the constituent service sections of his website:

I’ve been honored to represent the East Bay in Congress for the last 40 years. As you may know, I was not re-elected. My office will be closing on November 30th.
The 13th Congressional District will be divided among Rep. Mike Honda, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Congressman-elect Eric Swalwell. You should ascertain which district you now reside in and reach out to the appropriate office based on that information. Please visit: http://www.acgov.org/ms/addresslookup/ to verify your new district.

Curtis said constituents with current case work have been contacted, and if they so desire, their information is being passed along to Lee, Honda or Swalwell; also, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are helping 15th Congressional District constituents during the transition.

“We’re trying to make it the least inconvenient for people that we can,” she said.

Stark was defeated by Eric Swalwell, a Dublin city councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, who is still attending freshman orientation and hiring staff but has not yet been assigned a permanent office. The new, 113th Congress takes office at noon on Thursday, Jan. 3.


Pete Stark to speak at American Atheists meeting

Rep. Pete Stark is on the verge of leaving the House after 40 years, but that doesn’t mean he’s not in demand.

Stark, who had been Congress’ only avowed atheist, will be a featured speaker at the 2013 convention of American Atheists, the group announced today.

“Congressman Stark proved that the assertion that one needs to be religious to be elected is false – atheists CAN and DO get elected to Congress – we just need to do it more often,” American Atheists President David Silverman said in a news release.

Stark, D-Fremont, announced his atheism in 2007, and in early 2011 introduced a resolution designating February 12, 2011 as Darwin Day. H.Res. 81 stated, “Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol of scientific advancement and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity.”

Pete Stark (photo by Aric Crabb) “Congressman Stark has never apologized for being nonreligious, and was re-elected again and again, as an atheist, based on the issues and his record,” American Atheists Managing Director Amanda Knief said in the news release. “His speech, which will focus on atheism and politics, will surely be an exciting and unique experience, well suited to our 50th Anniversary Convention.”

About 1,500 people are expected to attend the convention March 28-31 at the Hyatt Regency in Austin, Texas, the city in which Madalyn Murray O’Hair founded the organization in 1963.

Stark was unseated in this month’s election by fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor.