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CA17: Thoughts on whether Khanna will run again

Someone just asked me – in a Facebook comment beneath my Monday-morning quarterbacking of the 17th Congressional District race – whether I think Ro Khanna will run again in 2016. I wrote a lengthy reply, and then thought, “Hey, this looks like a blog item!”

My slightly modified answer: I honestly don’t know – a lot depends on whether Mike Honda keeps his victory-speech “promise” that this won’t be his last term.

If he runs against Honda again, it’s hard to see how anything will have changed in his favor in 2016.

    1.) He’ll be starting with $0 instead of the $1.2 million he’d raised when people thought he would succeed Stark.
    2.) Honda will be at least the same candidate as he is today – he’s not scandal-prone, so I doubt there’d be many new negatives – and might be better, after having the next two years in which to step up his legislative game.
    3.) The bigger turnout of a presidential year – when Californians will be flocking to the polls to elect a Democratic president – may or may not help him. Yes, I know Khanna believes bigger youth, independent and Republican turnout this year would’ve put him over the top. But 2016 will see many more older Democrats turning out as well, and given their registration margin in the district, the overall increase could still break in Honda’s favor.

And it would be hard for Khanna to run in any other incumbent. Given his 2004 primary challenge vs. Tom Lantos, his hope to succeed Pete Stark in 2012, and this year’s run against Honda, trying again in a fourth district would give credence to those who call him a carpetbagger, and would deprive him of the grassroots support and Silicon Valley identity he has already built.

But an open seat might be a different story. Consider the ages of many of the local members: Honda, 73; Anna Eshoo, 71; Zoe Lofgren, 66. Even presidential coattails won’t help Democrats re-take the House in 2016, and if any of these were to tire of being in the minority and decide to retire, I think Khanna could make a credible play for the seat assuming he’s not up against a party-endorsed, better-funded foe. That means Khanna will have some fence-mending to do with the party, though…

Posted on Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 15 Comments »

CA17: A little more Khanna-Honda post-mortem

My story in today’s editions explores why Ro Khanna’s campaign to unseat Rep. Mike Honda didn’t succeed, but there was more to my interview with Khanna than we had room for in this article.

I sat down with Khanna minutes after he delivered his concession speech Friday night. At that time, Honda led in unofficial returns by 3,658 votes, or 3.66 percentage points. Another 27,853 votes have been tallied in Santa Clara and Alameda counties since then, and as of Monday morning, Honda leads by 4,637 votes, or 3.62 percentage points.

CONGRESSMAN CANDIDATE RO KHANNAFirst, some more math. Khanna had said Friday that he and his consultants had hoped 150,000 to 160,000 votes would be cast in this race; in a district of about 296,000 voters, that would’ve meant turnout of about 51 to 54 percent. As of Monday morning, only about 128,000 ballots have been tallied – a turnout of only about 43 percent – and as Khanna notes in the story, his key constituencies of young voters, independents and Republicans were among the least likely to vote.

In Election Day’s earliest returns – absentee ballots that came in early enough that they’d already been processed by 8 p.m. Tuesday – Honda led by about 7 percentage points, a lead that narrowed later that night and in the following days. Khanna said that indicates Honda did better among earlier voters, while he was far more competitive among those who did their vote-by-mail ballots at the last minute or who voted at the polls on Election Day.

“We’d always said this was a race against time,” he said Friday. “If we’d had a couple more weeks, maybe we would’ve pulled ahead.”

Also, Khanna was more effusive in his praise of his deepest-pocketed supporter than I could fully explain in the story.

I had pressed Khanna about the $857,000 spent by Californians for Innovation, the super PAC formed by his supporters to do independent spending on his behalf; much of that spending came in the campaign’s final month, and about half that money was contributed late enough that the donors’ identities won’t be revealed until December.

I asked whether this had been a double-edged sword for him – the radio ads and mailers kept his name out there after his own campaign had run out of money, but the independent and somewhat shadowy spending might’ve discomfited some supporters who had been proud to back a candidate who shunned PAC and lobbyist donations to his own campaign. Khanna said he was OK with it.

“I was very open to say that if there were supporters who wanted to come to our defense, they should” – and he’s thankful that they did, he said. “I’m glad that there was someone there to set the record straight, I didn’t discourage it… but I think it’s unfortunate that we had to go there.”

The biggest super PAC donors – at $250,000 – were Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold and his wife. Honda’s late ads noted Arnold had worked at Enron, a company which before its collapse in 2002 had gamed California’s electricity grid to cost the state’s residents billions of dollars in surcharges.

“I do know John Arnold, we had a long conversation about pension reform and his desire for new leadership in the Democratic Party,” Khanna said, noting Arnold has also supported Democrats like outgoing San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. “The idea that he’s a right-wing kind of person is just false… He and his wife are an incredibly decent couple and I’m very proud of their support. I regret that they were attacked in the campaign, I think they’re good people.”

Posted on Monday, November 10th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

CA17: Super PAC backing Khanna has spent $812k

The super PAC that’s spending independently in support of Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s campaign has reported another $250,000 in spending, this time on radio ads – which means someone has put another big load of money into it.

Unfortunately, while Federal Election Commission rules require disclosure of spending within a day or two, the Californians for Innovation super PAC won’t have to disclose its donors again until after this 17th Congressional District election is in the history books.

Californians for Innovation, formed this summer by Khanna supporters, already had spent about $305,000 by mid-October on direct mail to help Khanna in his bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Several late expenditure reports showed $256,441 in additional spending in the month’s second half – and then, with another report filed late Wednesday night, $250,000 more.

So the running total is now almost $812,000, all but $72,000 of which has been spent in October. As of the middle of the month, the committee had reported raising only $480,000.

Super PACs can take unlimited contributions, and this one’s biggest disclosed donors by far – $250,000 – are Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, a former Enron trader, and his wife, Laura. Another $25,000 came from OO Investment LLC; corporate registrations filed in California and Delaware don’t disclose OO’s executives or members, and the lawyer who filed the papers – Myron Sugarman of San Francisco – hasn’t returned calls or emails seeking comment.

Super PACs are forbidden by law from communicating or coordinating activities with the candidates or campaigns they support or oppose. Law said Monday that he, Khanna and the rest of Khanna’s campaign have “no idea” who’s behind OO Investment LLC.

The Working For Us PAC, a union-funded super PAC, spent about $140,000 to send out several mailers on Honda’s behalf before June’s primary election.

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

CA17: Khanna launches ‘PAC-Mike’ video game

The increasingly ugly 17th Congressional District race now has its own video game.

Democratic challenger Ro Khanna launched www.pacmike.com Monday, taking a page from the classic Pac-Man video came to highlight the $778,000 that Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, has accepted in campaign donations this cycle from political action committees and other committees.

Meanwhile, Honda launched his own website Monday – RightWingRo.com – and a new mailer to highlight Khanna’s support by conservatives that Honda’s campaign says are of questionable character.

PAC-Mike basically functions like the old arcade game, though when PAC-Mike eats one of the “power pills” at a corner of the maze, up pops a message such as “A full quarter of Rep. Honda’s money has come from the Washington, DC beltway this cycle (and 30% this month).”

(Click to enlarge:)
PAC-Mike

“No matter how much the Honda campaign tries to change the conversation away from his record of not showing up and not getting the job done, the fact remains that Ro is the only candidate to say no to all PACs and special interests,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said in a news release. “That’s a critical difference between the candidates and one of the reasons there’s so much momentum behind our grassroots campaign.”

Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied that “no amount of gimmicks can change the fact that Ro Khanna is relying on a Super PAC funded by his biggest donors, including $250,000 from a Texas hedge fund billionaire who made a fortune as an energy trader at Enron and $25,000 from a company with little publicly-available information.

“Voters know that while Mike stands up for those who need it most, Khanna is just a puppet of the millionaires and billionaires who want a return on their investment that will not benefit the hardworking people in this district,” Kembaiyan said.

The fact is, both candidates have benefited tremendously from the largess of organizations and people that have little in common with the district’s working families.

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

CA17: Honda blasts firm fined for wage theft

Rep. Mike Honda talked tough Thursday against a Fremont company that the Labor Department has fined for unfair labor practices – the CEO of which is a donor to and endorser of his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna.

Electronics For Imaging paid several employees from India as little as $1.21 an hour to help install computer systems at the company’s Fremont headquarters, federal labor officials said Wednesday.

Honda, D-San Jose, issued a statement Thursday saying these practices “constitute the most egregious type of wage theft and employee abuse. They undermine fair labor competition among businesses, and if left unaddressed they would erode the idea that this is an economy of opportunity.”

Honda said the Labor Department “operated within their guidelines to deliver justice” – a $3,500 fine plus payment of more than $40,000 in back wages – but wage laws must be updated to deter such things “especially for a publicly traded, multi-national corporation that generated $197.7 million in revenue in its last quarter.”

“As soon as Congress comes back into session, I will introduce a commonsense change in our labor laws which will ensure that there a strong, effective minimum penalty in place for offenders, and increase the maximum penalty enough to deter unscrupulous employers from contemplating wage abuses against workers in the United States,” Honda said. “We will send a message that wage abuses are human rights abuses and competitive abuses that will not be tolerated by our economy and society.”

EFI CEO Guy Gecht contributed $2,600 to Khanna’s campaign in September 2013, and is listed among Khanna’s tech-executive endorsements on the campaign’s website. (UPDATE @ 5:19 P.M.: Khanna’s campaign has just removed Gecht’s name from the endorsement list.)

“The inexcusable exploitation by Electronics for Imaging goes against everything that Silicon Valley stands for,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Thursday. “Their behavior is not representative of the hardworking and honest people who live and work in the 17th District, and should serve as a reminder of why we need strong labor laws in this country. Ro is encouraged that they have been fined by the Labor Department and is committed to forcefully confronting any company that engages in wage theft.”

UPDATE @ 5:45 P.M. FRIDAY: The Alameda Labor Council, which staunchly supports Honda, has called upon Khanna to refund Gecht’s money; Khanna has declined.

Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 30 Comments »

CA17: Honda launches attack ad against Khanna

Rep. Mike Honda rolled out a new television ad Monday attacking Democratic challenger Ro Khanna for having right-wing billionaires support his campaign, for favoring tax breaks for the rich and companies that offshore jobs, and for not being committed to protecting Social Security.

But Khanna’s campaign says Honda, D-San Jose, is making up many of the ad’s charges.

Honda’s campaign says this six-figure ad buy comes after Khanna’s campaign has been on the attack for weeks, including a recent mailer attacking Honda by calling him a “liberal Democrat.”

“After losing the primary by 20 points, Khanna’s entire campaign has been about attacking Congressman Honda, and today we’re hitting back,” Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release. “Voters need to know that Khanna is more concerned with representing his wealthy right-wing donors than the people who are working hard in this district to get by.”

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said the ad is flat-out wrong.

“It’s a shame that after 14 lackluster years in office, Congressman Honda is resorting to false attacks and a ‘guilt-by-association’ strategy that ignores the facts,” Law said. “More than ever, this race is a clear choice between an old school politician with one of the poorest records in Congress and a new leader with a clear vision for creating good-paying jobs, fostering innovation, and preparing our children for success in life.”

Khanna sent an email to his supporters Monday morning calling the ad “full of lies” and saying that while his campaign does “not have the money for television, we will respond in the press, in mailers and on the ground.” Reports filed last week with the Federal Election Commission showed Honda still had close to $1 million banked for his campaign as of Sept. 30 while Khanna’s campaign was running dangerously low – a tremendous reversal of fortune, given that Khanna had vastly more money for the campaign’s first year but spent most of it before June’s primary.

“My hope is that voters in Silicon Valley will see through this kind of politics,” Khanna wrote. “My hope is they will choose intellectually honest positions over distortion.”

Let’s examine the ad point by point, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, October 20th, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

CA17: FEC reports show Ro Khanna running low

Rep. Mike Honda still had almost $1 million banked for his re-election campaign at the end of September, while Democratic challenger Ro Khanna was almost out of money, new Federal Election Commission reports show.

Honda, D-San Jose, reported raising $412,167.16 and spending $450,861.74 in this year’s third quarter, and had $964,638.14 cash on hand as of Sept. 30 with no outstanding debt.

Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont, reported raising $323,291.72 and spending $972,139.27; he had $218,106.35 cash on hand as of Sept. 30, but with $140,980.31 in outstanding debt.

This is a tremendous turnaround from the campaign’s early days. Khanna had entered this race with a huge bankroll because he’d raised a record-setting $1.2 million in the final quarter of 2011, when people thought he would run to succeed Rep. Pete Stark in the 15th District. When Stark didn’t retire, Khanna pivoted instead to this 17th District race, and outraised Honda for the rest of 2013.

But Honda has outraised Khanna in the first three quarters of 2014, while Khanna spent most of his campaign’s fortune before the primary – in which he finished 20 points behind Honda.

Honda’s campaign said the new report shows Khanna’s campaign lacks enough money to meet its payroll and rent.

“With less than 20 days to go until Election Day, Ro Khanna is 15 points down and in the position of deciding whether to spend his little remaining cash on his large staff or on continued attacks on Congressman Honda,” Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release Thursday. “Our campaign has nearly $1 million in cash, $900,000 more than Khanna, and we are just now starting to spend the majority of our resources when voters are paying the most attention to the election.”

Honda’s internal poll showed him 15 points ahead; Khanna’s poll showed a dead heat, and spokesman Tyler Law said that’s helping raise new money.

“The fact that the race is now a dead heat is also helping our final push to Election Day, both in terms of grassroots enthusiasm and financing,” Law said Thursday morning. “In fact, in the three days since we released our poll, we’ve raised nearly $55,000. We expect that kind of support will continue in the final weeks of this race.

Law noted 70 percent of Khanna’s third-quarter contributions came from Northern California, while only 41 percent of Honda’s did.

“With recent polls confirming this race is wide-open and the momentum is on our side, it’s clear that our early investments in an aggressive mail program and focus on building a state-of-the-art grassroots organization are paying dividends,” Law added. “As we’ve said all along, our team will have the resources needed to win in November. Just as importantly, we did it without taking a single dollar from PACs or lobbyists and have raised the vast majority from right here in the Bay Area — a stark contrast from our special-interest and Washington-funded opponent.”

But Khanna is getting external help. Californians for Innovation – a Super PAC formed in August by Khanna supporter Ash Chopra of Menlo Park, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch – has reported spending $211,036.36 on the race this month forvoter data, mailers and postage.

Honda launched his first TV ad of the year on Sept. 29, and has had some help from the California Democratic Party to keep it on the air. Khanna, who aired a few ads before the primary, seems to be concentrating more on direct mail for his general-election advertising push.

UPDATE @ 4:58 P.M.: Click here to read the more complete story, including who’s bankrolling the pro-Khanna Super PAC.

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

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.”

(Click to enlarge)
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 »