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CA17: Khanna & Honda argue over campaign $$$

Rep. Mike Honda and Democratic challenger Ro Khanna got into another dustup over each other’s campaign contributions Wednesday, while a new report filed with the Federal Election Commission shows Republican challenger Vanila Singh gave her campaign a hefty loan.

PG&EKhanna says Honda, D-San Jose, should give back all the money he has ever received from PG&E’s political action committee because the energy utility now has been indicted on criminal charges related to 2010’s devastating gas explosion in San Bruno. But Honda’s campaign said Khanna should walk his talk by refunding money to contributors who say he pulled a bait-and-switch on them.

Honda raised $679,470.91 in the first quarter, and had $1,083,690.92 cash on hand and $22,472.21 in debts as of March 31. Khanna raised $464,220, and had $1,946,871.19 cash on hand and $93,613.53 in debts. As previously reported here, this is the first quarter in which Honda has outraised Khanna in this 17th Congressional District race.

Higher percentages of Khanna’s contributions came from California, and from Northern California in particular, than those of Honda’s, though that’s not surprising given Honda’s seven terms in Congress.

Singh raised $138,860 and loaned her campaign $74,000 in the first quarter, and as of March 31 had $300,422 cash on hand and $79,000 in debts including that loan. Among contributions she received was $2,000 each from the campaigns of Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and $1,000 from the campaign of Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md. Sessions – former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee – co-hosted Singh’s meet-and-greet with Republican doctors at last month’s state GOP convention; Burgess and Harris are doctors.

Republican Joel Vanlandingham has said he doesn’t plan to accept contributions.

Khanna issued a news release Wednesday announcing he sent a letter to Honda that notes Honda has accepted $28,000 from the PG&E PAC during his 14 years in Congress, including $6,500 in the past two cycles since the San Bruno blast; the latest contribution was $1,000 on March 21.

“In light of last week’s federal criminal indictment, I am asking you to return the tens of thousands of dollars in PAC contributions you have received from PG&E,” Khanna wrote, also urging Honda to join him in demanding that PG&E reveal which people within the company were responsible for the actions and decisions leading to the crimes alleged in the indictment. “I believe such steps are necessary to demonstrate to your constituents that you put the rights and safety of California consumers ahead of corporate PAC contributions.”

PG&E regularly gives money to House members on both sides of the aisle. In fact, the only Bay Area member who seems not to have received a contribution from the company’s PAC in this cycle is Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, in whose district the San Bruno blast occurred and who has been hard on the company ever since.

“Congressman Honda has confidence in the U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the case against PG&E, and expects that justice will be served,” Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Wednesday. “If Ro Khanna wants to talk about refunds, he can start by explaining why he isn’t refunding the thousands in contributions being demanded by his own donors.”

Indeed, a few people who contributed to Khanna’s campaign in late 2011 – when everyone thought he would run to succeed then-Rep. Pete Stark in the 15th District – asked for their money back this January, saying they don’t want it spent against Honda. Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan on Jan. 14 said it would be “impractical” to return contributions made more than two years earlier. But that’s exactly what Khanna’s campaign had done just a day earlier, his FEC report shows: The campaign on Jan. 13 refunded $2,500 to Carl Page of Palo Alto, who had contributed that amount in November 2011.

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law replied, “None of Ro’s past or current contributors is under federal criminal indictment for putting the public safety at risk.”

Meanwhile, amid all the national buzz about Khanna’s well-funded Democratic insurgent campaign, the latest FEC report gives a clearer picture of how that big bankroll is being spent. Details, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

CA17: Khanna’s second TV ad touts jobs plan

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna launched his second television ad Monday, highlighting the seven-point jobs plan he rolled out in February.

A news release said the ad “will begin airing widely” throughout the 17th Congressional District; spokesman Tyler Law wouldn’t specify the nature, duration or cost of the ad buy, except to say it’s “significant and open-ended.”

“Ro has centered his campaign on forward-looking ideas to grow the economy and create good paying jobs for families here in the 17th district,” campaign manager Leah Cowan said in the news release. “That’s why he is the only candidate to introduce a comprehensive jobs plan that recognizes the importance of improving education to transform the economy. Ro knows that we have incredible potential here in Silicon Valley and across the country, but he also understands that we can’t move the economy forward without fixing a badly broken Congress.”

Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont, is challenging fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose; Republicans Vanila Singh and Joel Vanlandingham also are in the race.

Khanna’s first TV ad, touching on Americans’ frustration with Congress and special interests, began airing March 25.

Posted on Monday, April 14th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 13 Comments »

CA17: More on the GOP candidate controversy

My article in today’s editions about whether Democratic House candidate Ro Khanna and/or his supporters had anything to do with getting Republican Joel Vanlandingham into the 17th Congressional District race had far more complexity than room in the paper allowed.

For one thing, there’s a personal element of bad blood between Vanila Singh – the first Republican to enter the race – and Romesh Japra, the Fremont Hindu Temple chairman who is a staunch Khanna supporter.

Vanila SinghWhen Singh entered the race to unseat Rep. Mike Honda in January, analysts said it could help Honda by stripping Khanna of GOP votes in June’s top-two primary election; in fact, a poll in February found Singh, largely by dint of her party, had leapfrogged slightly ahead of Khanna. But then two more Republicans – Vanlandingham, and another who was kicked off the ballot last week for petition signature irregularities – jumped into the race, potentially splitting the district’s small GOP base and helping Khanna surpass all Republicans in June and go one-on-one with Honda in November.

I hear Japra is a somewhat polarizing figure in the Indo-American community, wielding a lot of influence as chairman of the temple and of the Federation of Indian Associations. It’s the kind of influence some might resent in an old-country, political power-broker sort of way, but still significant enough that it would be hard for a candidate to snub him.

Singh said Wednesday that she and her parents were longtime friends with Japra, who even attended her children’s birthday parties as recently as last summer. But that ended abruptly when he learned she was considering entering this race, she said; since then, he has both spoken ill of her in the community and demoted her mother from a temple leadership position.

Romesh Japra“We’ve lost a friend, or someone we thought was a friend, because of dirty politics,” she said. “The revelation that his closest associates, have actively recruited and signed for a fake Republican candidate to enter the race is shocking.”

That’s not proved, of course, though the evidence presented in my story isn’t easily explained away. It’s also possible as well that if Japra and temple officials were involved in Vanlandingham’s candidacy, they acted without Khanna’s knowledge; American politics is littered with tales of candidates and elected officials being tarred with their supporters’ independent actions. Singh, however, doesn’t buy that.

“What I’ve seen with my own eyes is Khanna following Japra and them working in concert together,” she said. “I would have a hard time to believe this was a rogue element that happened once by chance.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 18 Comments »

CA17: Honda outraises Khanna for the first time

Rep. Mike Honda outraised Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in 2014’s first three months – the first quarter in which he has done so since Khanna entered the race a year ago.

Honda, D-San Jose, raised more than $650,000 from Jan. 1 through March 31, and had more than $1,050,000 cash on hand at the end of that period, his campaign said Wednesday. Khanna’s campaign said it raised more than $460,000 in the same time, and has almost $2 million cash on hand.

Republican candidate Vanila Singh’s campaign consultant, Travis Smith, said her numbers won’t be available for a few days. Republican Joel Vanlandingham has said he doesn’t plan to accept contributions.

Honda’s campaign noted the seven-term congressman received contributions from more than 1,750 individuals, with more than half of the contributions at $100 or less. “I’m humbled by the incredible support from our grassroots supporters nation-wide, which makes this campaign possible, and I anticipate will continue to grow,” Honda said in a news release.

Khanna’s campaign also said a majority of his donors gave less than $100 each, and noted Khanna has refused to take money from any political action committees and is relying on a 150-person volunteer fundraising committee instead of paid finance consultants.

“I knew that taking a bold pledge to refuse special interest donations and only receiving support from individuals wouldn’t be the easiest road, but leading by example is what’s expected of Silicon Valley’s congressman,” Khanna said in a news release. “I’m proud of the grassroots campaign that we’re building and I’m humbled by the enthusiastic response to my positive message of changing business as usual in Washington.”

Khanna outstripped Honda in fundraising in each of the previous quarters in this 2013-14 cycle; at 2013’s end, Khanna had $1.97 million cash on hand while Honda had $622,000 in the bank. If they spend all they’ve raised, the 17th Congressional District race could rank among the nation’s most expensive House contests.

Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said in Wednesday’s release that his team “always said that we would have the resources we need to win in November, and our strong numbers this quarter show that we are on track. We know that Mike will make it past the June 3 primary, and we will continue to marshal our resources for the November general election.”

Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan said her team is “especially proud to have increased our fundraising from last quarter and to tell the people of the 17th District we have done so without taking a single dollar from PACs or lobbyists.” She challenged Honda to disclose how much money he has taken from such sources.

Neither campaign provided its detailed Federal Election Commission reports, which must be filed by April 15.

Posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Under: campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

CA17: Ro Khanna launches first TV ad

Ro Khanna, taking on fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda, has launched the first television ad of the 17th Congressional District race.

“Ro shares the frustrations of Bay Area families who believe special interests have too much influence in Washington and are drowning out the voices of the American people,” Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan said in a news release. “Ro knows that we can’t change Congress overnight, but he’s committed to leading by example and fighting for the change that the people in the 17th district deserve.”

Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law refused to say how much was spent to air the ad, or where or when specifically it will air. “It’s a significant buy and the ad will be airing on TV across the 17th District,” Law said Tuesday morning.

Honda, D-San Jose, is also being challenged by Republicans Vanila Singh, Joel Vanlandingham and Vinesh Singh Rathore.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

CA17: Honda won’t go to media-sponsored debate

Rep. Mike Honda will not take part in a televised debate with his 17th Congressional District rivals that would double as the San Francisco Chronicle’s pre-endorsement interview, a campaign spokesman said Monday.

honda.jpg“Congressman Mike Honda will be at the May 3 debate organized by the non-partisan, community-based League of Women Voters,” spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Monday. “This televised debate, which has been in the works for months, and which all of the CA-17 candidates have been invited to, is the only debate Congressman Honda will be participating in prior to the June 3 primary election.”

The three League of Women Voters chapters sponsoring the May 3 event in Fremont are calling it a forum, not a debate; candidates there will not have any opportunity to question or respond to each other directly.

That sits poorly with Honda’s Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, who for months has been urging Honda to take part in debates.

Khanna said he has accepted an invitation to take part in a debate hosted by the San Francisco Chronicle, KPIX-TV and KCBS radio. Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said the debate will be conducted at KPIX’s studios in San Francisco either on April 16, April 17 or April 23; the format will include opening and closing statements from the candidates as well as questions from local media panelists, voters and the candidates themselves.

“Residents of the 17th District will benefit from an open debate, moderated by members of the local media, about who is the best candidate to address the unique challenges and opportunities facing our community,” Khanna said in a statement issued Monday. “Voters are tired of old-style politics and campaigns that consist of little more than sloganeering and demagoguery. With the challenges our nation faces today, the people deserve better.”

Republican candidate Dr. Vanila Singh of Fremont, who entered the race at the start of this year, still has not yet decided whether to take part in the May 3 League of Women Voters event or the Chronicle/KPIX/KCBS event, campaign manager Scott Luginbill said Monday.

Republican candidate Joel Vanlandingham of San Jose, who entered the race earlier this month, said he intends to take part in the League of Women Voters event but has not yet been invited to the Chronicle/KPIX/KCBS event.

And Republican candidate Vinesh Singh Rathore of San Jose, who also entered the race this month, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

UPDATE @ 2:23 P.M.: Kembaiyan notes Honda is scheduled to meet with the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board in April, and campaign manager Doug Greven is talking with the Chronicle about seeking its endorsement, too.

Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 17 Comments »

CA17: Mike Honda’s political director resigns

The political director of Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign has quit, telling supporters the 17th Congressional District’s competitive nature “will require and deserve an increasingly greater commitment of time and energy.”

Lamar HeystekLamar Heystek wrote that he’s choosing instead “to begin devoting more time and energy to my wife, our son and the family we look forward to growing together,” as well as starting a new job as program development officer at ASIAN Inc., a San Francisco nonprofit working on behalf of Asian Americans and other minorities in areas such as business development, housing and financial education.

It sounds like there’s no bad blood between Heystek, 35, of San Francisco, and Honda, D-San Jose. “My faith and confidence in him and his campaign have been unshakable. He is an outstanding public servant and a great friend who will continue to receive my support and assistance.”

Campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show Honda’s campaign has been paying Heystek $6,000 per month.

Heystek, a former Davis councilman, departs as the 17th District race shifts into even higher gear for the sprint toward June 3’s top-two primary. Fellow Democrat Ro Khanna’s challenge has been making headlines for almost a year; Republican Vanila Singh got into the race at the start of 2014; and two other Republicans – Joel Vanlandingham and Vinesh Singh Rathore – entered the race just before this month’s candidacy filing deadline.

Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Wednesday that Heystek has been an important part of the campaign since joining it in 2011, helping to run its multi-lingual voter outreach and laying the groundwork for Honda’s overwhelming Democratic Party endorsement.

“Lamar’s departure from the campaign, so he can spend more time with his growing family, has been in the works for months and the transition has been smooth,” Kembaiyan said. “We miss seeing Lamar everyday, but thanks in part to his dedication and hard work, Congressman Honda’s campaign is in its strongest position ever and we are continuing full speed ahead into the primary.”

Read Heystek’s entire email, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

CAGOP14: Sessions touts CA17′s Vanila Singh

Dr. Vanila Singh, a Republican challenger to Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, had a big booster at this weekend’s California Republican Convention this weekend: House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions.

Pete SessionsSessions, R-Texas, helped host a small meet-and-greet between Singh and a group of Republican physicians, and then spoke highly of her after his news conference.

“She is a very interesting person who is deeply committed to helping families and communities to overcome the ravages of big government and high taxation,” said Sessions, who as former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee is no stranger to recruiting and shepherding new GOP candidates to seek House seats.

Singh’s parents came from India to America on Ronald Reagan’s promise of economic opportunity, Sessions said, and she has become not only a physician serving the community but also “a well-educated, thoughtful mom and wife who sees first-hand that big government is taking too many thing away.”

Singh said Sessions has been “unbelievable,” an invaluable mentor and adviser. “It gives me hope to know our leaders care about the folks around them and are willing to encourage and give their time.”

Honda, D-San Jose, is seeking an eighth term, and a challenge brought by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna – a former Obama administration official from Fremont – has been making national headlines for almost a year. Singh entered the race at the start of this year, and two more Republicans jumped in just before the March 7 filing deadline: Joel Vanlandingham and Vinesh Singh Rathore, both of San Jose.

Vanila SinghAsked about those last-minute entries, who threaten to dilute the district’s already small GOP electorate, Singh replied, “I’m running my horserace.” She said she “most likely” will attend a League of Women Voters candidates’ forum on Saturday, May 3; Honda and Khanna already have committed to attend.

California GOP Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon of San Francisco said having three Indo-Americans in this race – Khanna, Singh and Rathore – is “a sign that the Indian American community has reached political maturity.”

But Dhillon said Rathore’s candidacy is “fishy” – someone formerly registered as a nonpartisan with a similar name (V. Singh Rathore and V. Singh) entering the race at the 11th hour. Though party bylaws prevent Dhillon from endorsing anyone when multiple Republicans are in the race, Singh is “a refreshing voice in our party … who shares the same concerns as the people in her community, and she has a lot to say.”

Dhillon also noted Singh placed ahead of Khanna in a recent poll commissioned by Honda’s liberal allied at Democracy for America, despite Khanna’s aggressive campaign over the past year. “He has certainly had his people reach out to Republican donors, Republican players.”

More from Singh, after the jump…
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Posted on Saturday, March 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

CA17: Candidate forum scheduled for May 3

Rep. Mike Honda will face off against his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, and perhaps three Republican candidates at a forum in early May.

Gloria Chun Hoo, president of the League of Women Voters of San Jose/Santa Clara, confirmed Tuesday night that the 17th Congressional District forum will be held from 7* to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 3 at Fremont City Hall. Chun’s league is partnering with two others – Fremont, Newark and Union City, and Cupertino-Sunnyvale – to sponsor the event.

Honda’s and Khanna’s campaign staff confirmed Tuesday night that those candidates will attend. Three Republicans in the race – Dr. Vanila Singh of Fremont, Vinesh Singh Rathore of San Jose and Joel Vanlandingham of San Jose – are invited as well, but could not immediately be reached Tuesday.

Sources said the event will follow a typical league format in which the candidates make brief opening and closing statements and take questions from the audience via a moderator, but do not directly address or attack each other.

Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont, challenged Honda in early January to commit to a series of debates; Honda’s campaign responded it was too early to commit. All three Republicans have entered the race since then.

Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said Tuesday that he and his staff had begun talks with Hoo and with the Mercury News as early as December, but felt it was premature to set a date and book a venue until the field of candidates was finalized at the close of the filing period on March 7.

UPDATE @ 9:18 P.M.: I just spoke with Marilyn Singer from the Fremont league, who said it’s possible the forum will start slightly earlier – perhaps 6:45 p.m. – depending on the number of candidates who commit to participate; they’ll firm that up as the date grows closer. Also, there will be no opening statements from the candidates – they’ll go right to the questions, and then have a chance to deliver brief closing statements.

Posted on Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

CA17: Officials defend Honda on BART project

Call it the “Battle of the Truth Squads.”

People who’ve been involved in BART’s extension to San Jose have asked Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration official challenging fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda, to stop what they say are misleading attacks on Honda’s role in the project.

Khanna’s campaign on Feb. 14 and again on Feb. 25 posted to its “Truth Squad” website items claiming Honda had inflated his record on the BART extension and other work he has done in Congress; I wrote about the Honda campaign’s response last week.

honda.jpgBut Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta; state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Valley Transportation Authority chairman and San Jose Councilman Ash Kalra; former VTA general manager Michael Burns; and former Santa Clara County Supervisor Rod Diridon Sr. wrote to Khanna on Sunday urging him to “to correct the information on your website and what is given to the media by your campaign, and avoid further distortions of Congressman Honda’s record.”

“Mike Honda’s leadership on this issue in Washington and in the district has been vital to bringing BART and the thousands of accompanying jobs to our area,” they wrote. “Your questioning of such leadership undermines your credibility as a candidate and is not appreciated by those of us who have been working on this issue for decades.”

Khanna’s campaign is sticking to its claim that Honda has inflated his record on what he actually did.

Ro Khanna“Our concern has been and remains that Congressman Honda is taking sole credit for securing $900 million for the BART extension,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Monday. “We have always appreciated that the Congressman played a constructive role in the project but voters are tired of politicians who take credit for a project that resulted from the work of countless individuals over a long period of time. Voters deserve a discussion of these issues, and that is why Ro has proposed monthly debates hosted by local media outlets – a proposal that has still gone unanswered by Congressman Honda’s campaign.”

It seems Law was talking about moments like this, when Honda tweeted this during President Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28:

Honda tweet

Though too late for the letter, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood weighed in Monday with his own support of Honda’s role in the project.

“Congressman Mike Honda is a dogged and effective advocate in Washington for the BART extension. The merits of such a solid project and Mike’s consistent support were key contributors to my decision to recommend the extension for a ($900 million) Full Funding Grant Agreement,” LaHood said in a statement shared by Honda’s campaign. “From my days on the House Appropriations Committee, I remember Mike’s commitment to securing funding to get the project going – he is a vociferous advocate for improved transit in the Bay Area.”

Read the full letter (with footnotes!), after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, March 3rd, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »