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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:

(Click to enlarge…)
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 | 7 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 »

CA17: Honda & Khanna comment on Obama & ISIL

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, gave rather similar assessments Thursday of President Obama’s speech on action against the Islamic State.

honda.jpg“The threat of ISIL is beyond anything we have seen in the last 13 years since the horrors of 9/11. We have seen that ISIL has no limits to their gross brutality,” Honda said. That is why I support the President’s call to dismantle ISIL through robust regional and international partnerships, supporting local capacities in Iraq, and expanding humanitarian assistance, but without US combat troops on the ground.”

“Only an inclusive and united Iraqi government, in which the rights of all minority groups are respected and represented, will effectively defeat ISIL and extremism,” he continued. “We cannot afford to make the same mistakes of the past. As I have repeatedly said, any sustained military action should be brought to debate and a vote in Congress.”

Ro KhannaKhanna said “President Obama did the right thing in speaking directly to the American people and outlining our nation’s role in leading a coalition to degrade and eventually destroy ISIL.”

“I’m encouraged by his focus on building a coalition of nations and his decision to provide support to those already fighting ISIL on the ground rather than committing American soldiers,” Khanna said. “The next step is for Congress to vote on the authorization of force. That is the system of checks and balances that our Founding Fathers created. But it relies on members of Congress having the courage to take a position instead of sitting on the sidelines and ducking the tough decisions.”

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

CA17: Honda-Khanna debate details not yet final

Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign has accepted an invitation to debate his challenger, fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, but the details are still in flux, the campaigns and a debate organizer said Monday.

Honda & Khanna (photo by Jim Gensheimer, Bay Area News Group)The Huffington Post and San Jose State University are working together to host the event – that much we know.

Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Monday that his team accepted a proposal that the hour-long debate would be held on Tuesday, Oct. 14 or Thursday, Oct. 16. The format, Kembaiyan said, is a single moderator plus a panel consisting of Bay Area journalists and SJSU faculty, with questions selected by the Huffington Post but not provided to either candidate ahead of time. After a coin-toss determines the order of speakers, there will be no opening statements; instead, they’ll get right to two-minute responses with 90-second rebuttals and, at the panelists’ discretion, one-minute discussion extensions. Each candidate will finish with a two-minute closing statement.

A leak of some of this information on Friday caught Khanna’s campaign unawares, drawing anger that the debate (singular, they note, after Honda agreed earlier this year to “debates,” plural) wouldn’t happen until well after vote-by-mail ballots go out on Oct. 6.

“The Honda campaign apparently felt it would be acceptable to hold a debate that a large portion of voters wouldn’t get to see before they cast their ballots,” campaign spokesman Tyler Law said in a statement issued Monday. “Why doesn’t Congressman Honda want his constituents to see a debate?”

Khanna had tweeted to HuffPo Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim on Friday that he’s “happy to participate. But be honest and have it before absentee drops instead of enabling Honda games.” Grim replied, “We can work with that. Will get back to you with a date before ballots drop;” he later tweeted that it’s “a reasonable request, to be sure.”

Kembaiyan wouldn’t say Monday whether Honda will accept an earlier date, reiterating that Oct. 14 or 16 “was the proposal we got and which we accepted. We hope that works out.”

But Grim said Monday that “it’s still being worked out, it’s very early in the process” and that Friday’s leak “left the impression that something was finalized” when in fact it’s not.

In other 17th Congressional District news, the Berryessa-North San Jose Democratic Club – the only local Democratic club to have endorsed Khanna, back in February – voted 33-12 last Thursday to switch its endorsement to Honda. Club president Tim Orozco couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Club member John Comiskey, as quoted in a Honda campaign news release, said the club changed its endorsement because Khanna since the primary “has shown his true conservative colors” with endorsements from Republican former Rep. Ernie Konnyu and the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. “The vote of the club reflects the knowledge that there is only one true progressive in this race, and he is Mike Honda.”

But club member and Khanna campaign volunteer Mary Morris blogged last Wednesday about the process, noting Khanna had attended the February endorsement meeting and Honda didn’t. Pushing for a re-vote, she said, was “the epitome of pettiness. … Do we really want a congressman whose staff, under his leadership, needs two chances to get something done?”

UPDATE @ 1:39 P.M.: “Congressman Honda skipped both of the Berryessa-North San Jose Democratic Club forums, and every other Democratic club forum throughout this campaign,” Law said in an email. “His handlers can desperately spin Ro’s recent endorsements from Democratic Mayor Chuck Reed and the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, but voters are much more concerned with the Congressman’s absenteeism and whether or not he is still up to the job.”

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

CA17: Khanna disavows Ernie Konnyu’s words

Apropos of my “please don’t help me” story in Monday’s editions, Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna on Tuesday repudiated the words of one of his most vocal Republican supporters.

Ernie KonnyuGOP former congressman Ernie Konnyu already had complicated Khanna’s life a bit by trying to rally tea party support for his bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose. More recently, Konnyu drew unwanted attention by getting into a Facebook argument with Republican former Assemblyman Jim Cunneen – who has endorsed Honda – over the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce PAC’s support of Assembly candidate and Campbell councilman Evan Low. Low has led the fight on lifting the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donation by gay men.

“How sick is it that a business group endorses a liberal so left that he wants to change the law to allow blood donations by gays,” Konnyu wrote on Friday, Aug. 8. “This, even though the current law forbids it since such blood has a risk of transferring the deadly AIDS virus. Yes! Gay pride is worth more with Evan Low than our citizens’ lives.”

Konnyu has accused Honda’s staff and supporters of waging a “war of hate,” using “demonizing tweets” against him for his comments; last Thursday, he tweeted a challenge to Honda to introduce a bill to overturn the FDA policy.

Low and others issued a statement Tuesday urging Khanna to disavow Konnyu’s remarks.

“His continued silence on this issue raises concerns that he may share Konnyu’s views, and I urge him to join me, Congressman Honda, and the thousands of Americans nationwide who would like to see the FDA change its views,” Low wrote.

James Gonzales, president of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee – a Silicon Valley LGBT political group – said “this kind of homophobic rhetoric has no place in our politics, from any politician of any party. We hope that Ro Khanna will quickly condemn these comments by Konnyu and denounce his support.”

Khanna issued a statement later Tuesday saying his positions and record “on defending marriage equality and the rights for all people is unequivocal.

Ro Khanna“I believe that any laws discriminating against LGBT individuals are unconstitutional. Full stop. While I am proud of all the support this campaign has received, I find any discriminatory statements from my supporters – whether they be homophobic, racist, or sexist – to be completely unacceptable and not reflective of my or my campaign,” he said.

Khanna said he has always respected Low’s public service, but Low now “has marginalized what could have been legitimate advocacy by recklessly saying that I could possibly agree with discrimination. This striking example of hypocrisy represents the worst of politics.”

Honda and Low remained silent when a union-backed national super PAC sent out a mailer just before June’s primary election that said Khanna’s policies would send jobs overseas and “outsource our jobs,” Khanna noted – a mailer Khanna calls “racially coded and xenophobic.”

“Unlike Congressman Honda, I will always speak up when those who support me use language that is not in line with my values,” Khanna said.

The FDA’s policy dates back to 1983 and has been in place in its current form since 1992 but is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Red Cross, which say the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted. Honda in 2008 supported San Jose State University’s effort to bring attention to the issue by suspending campus blood drives; started a petition against the ban last year that has been signed by more than 51,000 people; and has joined with several dozen other members of Congress in urging the FDA to lift the ban.

Posted on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

CA17: Khanna issues Honda ice-bucket challenge

As ugly as the 17th Congressional District battle is getting, at least there’s still a little humor and perhaps some charitable good.

Democratic candidate Ro Khanna on Saturday issued the now-ubiquitous challenge – to either donate $100 to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or make a video of dumping a bucket of ice water over one’s own head – to Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Anyone want to lay bets on whether Honda makes the donation or takes the dousing – or both?

Posted on Saturday, August 16th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

CA17: San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed backs Khanna

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has endorsed Ro Khanna in his bid to unseat fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda.

Chuck Reed

Reed, a Democrat who’s term-limited out of office at the end of this year, said Friday that as he prepares to leave public life, he’s been thinking about the future challenges Silicon Valley will face.

“I think our Silicon Valley team in Washington would be greatly strengthened if we add Ro Khanna,” he said, particularly for the sake of changing federal taxes and regulations that impede the region’s economy. “Silicon Valley’s interests would be his number-one priority.”

Khanna “understands the tech sector and the global challenges to the valley,” Reed said, and can make the region’s case “in a way that can get bipartisan support, which is certainly needed in the House.”

Reed said he called Honda earlier Friday to inform him of the choice, which was “a sad conversation.”

“It’s nothing personal,” he said, adding Honda is “an affable guy” and “has done a good job, but I think we need to step up our game in Washington.”

Khanna’s campaign was not immediately available for comment Friday.

Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Reed’s endorsement of Khanna is “not at all surprising.”

“Both politicians believe in stripping public servants of retirement benefits – even if that means decimating our public safety network in Reed’s case – and both have been labeled Republican lites,” he said. “Reed may call himself a Democrat, but his track record of pushing to overhaul unions, oppose gay marriage, block minimum wage increases and eliminate limits on campaign contribution suggest otherwise.”

Reed also has endorsed Republican Ashley Swearengin over Democrat Betty Yee in the race for the state controller’s office, Kembaiyan noted, and “has served as a faithful and longtime ally of San Jose Councilman turned evangelical right-wing activist Larry Pegram.”

“Reed’s endorsement of Khanna is just further reflection of his conservative values,” he said.

UPDATE @ 7:20 P.M.: “I think he did it because it’s what best for the future of Silicon Valley,” Khanna said of Reed’s endorsement Friday evening, despite Honda having represented the region for so long.

Taken together with endorsements from other Democrats like former state Controller Steve Westly and Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom, Reed’s backing says something about philosophical differences within the Democratic party, Khanna said.

Party leaders like President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are in Honda’s corner, but “Honda is a more orthodox, traditional Democrat” while Khanna said he has always made it clear he’ll reach out to independents and Republicans for a chance to work across the aisle in the GOP-controlled House. “It raises a question of what it means to be a Democrat from Silicon Valley.”

Posted on Friday, August 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 13 Comments »