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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: 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 | 9 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 »

Fremont teen’s film featured at White House

A Fremont teen’s short film was featured today at the first-ever White House Student Film Festival.

Irvington High School sophomore Tiffany Lin’s film, “Discovery,” uses stop-action animation to show how technology can inspire and advance students.

Lin’s is among 16 films selected from more than 2,000 entries. Her film was placed in the “Young Visionaries” category; other categories are “Future Innovators,” “World of Tomorrow,” and “Building Bridges.”

The festival for K-12 students showcases the power of technology to boost learning and the Administration’s commitment to bringing America’s classrooms into the 21st century with high-speed internet and cutting-edge educational technology. The winners’ films were screened at the White House today, presented by Kal Penn, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and American Film Institute President and CEO Bob Gazzale. Conan O’Brien addressed the students by video.

President Obama is using the occasion to highlight progress on his ConnectED goal of transforming American education by connecting 99 percednt of students to next-generation broadband and wireless technology within five years.

Obama also announced $400 million in new private sector commitments from Adobe and Prezi to make free software available to teachers and students to help introduce creative learning materials to classrooms all across the country and help realize the promise of e-learning.

Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2014
Under: education, Obama presidency | No Comments »

CA17: George Takei to raise money for Honda

Rep. Mike Honda is trying to take his campaign fundraising to warp speed with a reception next month featuring actor and internet sensation George Takei of “Star Trek” fame.

George TakeiThe March 20 reception in San Francisco – location known only to those who RSVP – seeks anywhere from $50 for basic entry to $1,000 for a host committee level or $2,600 for an “Oh Myyy! Giver,” a nod to Takei’s renowned catchphrase.

Honda, D-San Jose, could definitely use a boost – he was out-raised in every quarter of last year by his Democratic challenger, former Obama administration official Ro Khanna of Fremont. Dr. Vanila Singh, a Republican from Fremont, is also in the 17th Congressional District race.

The hosts include venture capitalist Andrew Rappaport and his wife, Deborah; Ted Fang, president and executive director of the AsianWeek Foundation and a former editor and publisher of the San Francisco Examiner and AsianWeek; Yahoo! employee and Democratic activist Regina Wallace-Jones; i-Human Patients CEO Norm Wu; Palo Alto City Councilman Marc Berman; personal injury attorney Dale Minami; business attorney Quyen Ta; Four Freedoms Fund senior program officer Henry Der; Realtor Pam Rodgers; and UC-Hastings law professor Carol Izumi.

Takei, 76, might be as famous now for his social media presence and activism as for his iconic role as Mr. Sulu in the original “Star Trek” television series and related movies.

Posted on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

CA17: Khanna & Honda argue Honda’s record

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s campaign claims Rep. Mike Honda is inflating his record on jobs and education, while Honda claims Khanna doesn’t understand how Congress actually works.

My earlier post on Khanna’s jobs agenda drew a response from Honda’s campaign, which in turn led Khanna’s campaign to reiterate claims it first made Feb. 14 that Honda has accomplished little during his seven terms in the House.

“Congressman Mike Honda has authored only one bill in his entire Congressional tenure that became law: ‘to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1750 Lundy Avenue in San Jose, California,’” Khanna’s campaign said in an e-mail Tuesday afternoon. “Not a single bill that Congressman Honda has authored (other than the aforementioned post office naming) has been voted on in the House.”

Khanna’s belief that this means something underscores his lack of political experience, Honda’s campaign retorts.

“Because of how Congress works, with only a certain number of bills getting passed every year, legislators who want to get things done have to be savvy about how they go about it: there’s a big difference between just having your name on a bill and actually delivering results. And Mike Honda delivers results,” spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said.

So, let’s hash this out, one issue at a time, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

CA17: Don’t call Ro Khanna a millionaire

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna took umbrage at being called a millionaire by one of Rep. Mike Honda’s supporters and fellow House members.

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, on Tuesday invited contributors to a March 17 fundraiser in Monterey Park on Honda’s behalf. The email didn’t specifically name Khanna, but it seems clear Chu wasn’t talking about Dr. Vanilla Singh, a Fremont Republican who entered the race last month, when writing that “Rep. Honda is facing a tough race against a well-funded millionaire.”

Well-funded, yes: Khanna, an attorney and former Obama administration official from Fremont, had about $1.97 million banked for his 17th Congressional District campaign as of the end of 2013, while the incumbent Honda, D-San Jose, had about $623,000.

But millionaire, no. Khanna’s campaign issued a “Truth Squad” communiqué Tuesday noting Khanna “is the son of immigrants, and the product of a middle-class upbringing. Today, Ro is still paying off his own student loans. Ro is not a millionaire.”

“This fundraising email from Congressman Honda’s supporter is just the latest example of a baseless attack waged against Ro,” Khanna’s campaign added. “Candidates and their allies should stick to the facts instead of engaging in ad hominem personal attacks. Congressman Honda should call on Congresswoman Chu to correct her misstatement and set the record straight.”

Chu’s response said nothing of Khanna’s own wealth.

“Ro Khanna’s campaign is well-funded and fueled by maxed-out contributions from far-right conservative millionaires like Peter Thiel and Marc Leder who are actively working against our efforts to move the country forward,” she said via e-mail Tuesday night. “Mike Honda has been a tireless champion for the Asian-American community and his district, as Khanna has said so himself. I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure Mike is re-elected.”

Chu succeeded Honda as chair of the Congressional Asian-Pacific American Caucus in 2011.

Posted on Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

CA17: Khanna taps diplomat to arrange debates

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna has named a former U.S. ambassador to Australia to lead “debate negotiations” for his campaign with that of Rep. Mike Honda.

But diplomacy takes at least two willing participants, and so far, Honda hasn’t signaled that he’s willing to debate his fellow Democrat before June’s primary election.

BleichKhanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont, issued a release Monday noting media outlets including the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, NBC Bay Area, KPIX 5, The Huffington Post, and TechCrunch have expressed interest in hosting a 17th Congressional District debate. Jeffrey Bleich, the release said, “will be playing a key role in overseeing a fair and open debate process.”

“Debates are fundamental to the Democratic process,” Bleich said in the release. “We should all have a chance to hear the candidates share their visions for this important district, and voters expect that from their candidates. Ro has offered the kind of ideas that we need to grow Silicon Valley’s prosperity and prepare young J open dialogue between both candidates.”

Khanna said Bleich’s “leadership in the debate process will help ensure that voters benefit from an open and transparent conversation on the key issues facing hardworking families in the Bay Area. The people have grown tired of old-style politics and campaigns that consist of little more than sloganeering and demagoguery. With the unique challenges facing our community and our nation, the voters deserve better.”

Vivek Kembaiyan, spokesman for the Honda campaign, said Monday the incumbent remains in wait-and-see mode. “Given how early it is (the full field of candidates isn’t set yet), the campaign has not made any decisions yet regarding debates.”

Dr. Vanila Singh, a Republican from Fremont, also has announced she’s seeking the 17th Congressional District seat. A spokesman for her campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Bleich, of Piedmont, served as the U.S. ambassador to Australia from 2009 to 2013; earlier, he had served as special counsel to President Obama. After his diplomatic posting, he returned to his partnership in the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

Posted on Monday, February 17th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Mary Hayashi rolls out her state Senate campaign

Former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi has rolled out her campaign for the 10th State Senate District, presenting a top-shelf team of advisors and poll numbers that claim she’s a serious contender.

Mary HayashiBut that team will have to find a way to convince voters it’s no big deal that Hayashi, 47, of Hayward, was convicted two years ago of shoplifting $2,450 worth of clothes from San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus. That certainly seemed to be an uphill battle when the three-term Democratic assemblywoman ran for an Alameda County supervisorial seat later in 2012, and finished third out of four.

Now Hayashi will be competing the senate seat – from which Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, is term-limited out – against Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont; Democrat Roman Reed, a spinal-injury research advocate and planning commissioner from Fremont; and Republican Peter Kuo, an insurance agent from Santa Clara.

“I am excited about working on improving the lives of people in the 10th Senate District,” Hayashi said in a news release. “Whether it is improving access to healthcare, raising the quality of education or creating better economic opportunities, I want to work hard for the families and individuals in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties.”

Josh Pulliam of JPM&M will serve as Hayashi’s general consultant; Daniel Weitzman will handle fundraising; Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners will handle polling and research; David Gould is the campaign treasurer; and Roger Salazar of Alza Strategies will serve as media advisor.

One thing she has in spades is campaign cash. Campaign finance reports filed at the end of last month show Hayashi finished 2013 with $734,000 in her campaign account and no outstanding debts. Wieckowski had about $125,000 in the bank and owed $32,000; Reed had about $49,000 after lending his campaign $40,000; and Kuo had $24,000 including a $5,000 loan from his own pocket.

What she seems to lack is party support. At a regional caucus meeting last weekend, local Democrats gave Wieckowski 105 votes for pre-endorsement while Reed got eight and Hayashi got none. That means Wieckowski’s name will be placed on the consent calendar at state Democrats’ convention next month in Los Angeles, an almost sure-fire route to the party’s endorsement.

Hayashi’s release touted a poll by Lake which found she got a plurality of votes over her potential rivals, and that after all candidates’ bios were read, her lead expanded to 11 points over her nearest opponent. This poll was conducted Feb. 4-6 among 405 likely primary voters in the district, with a 4.9-percentage-point margin of error, the campaign said, but no copy of the poll script or detailed results were provided.

Posted on Friday, February 14th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Mary Hayashi | 12 Comments »