Part of the Bay Area News Group

CA17: Republican enters race to unseat Honda

A Republican candidate has entered the race to unseat Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District – and that’s potentially bad news for Democratic challenger Ro Khanna.

Ron CohenRon Cohen, 56, of Fremont, filed papers with the Federal Election Commission earlier this month to form a campaign committee. In a brief interview Thursday, Cohen said he’s not yet ready to share his entire platform, but described himself as a fiscal and social conservative who wants to provide a counterpoint to Honda, D-San Jose, and Khanna.

Cohen said he has never sought public office before, as he was too busy building his CPA practice; he’s an international tax partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co. in Fremont. But having become a grandfather recently, he’s grown more concerned with the nation’s debt.

“I’m getting to the age now that if I’m going to do something, it’s time to do it,” he said. “I checked into it with the Republican party and nobody else seems to be running – it’s a tough district for Republicans, I realize.”

The 17th District – a central swath of Silicon Valley, and the first Asian-American majority district outside Hawaii – is 43 percent Democrat, 19 percent Republican and 33 percent nonpartisan. Republican Vanila Singh got only 17 percent of the vote in last June’s primary, failing to make the “top two” cut and leaving Khanna to challenge Honda in November. Honda defeated Khanna by 3.6 percentage points.

Still, Singh’s presence affected last year’s race. Khanna spent big before the primary, even airing several television ads, in trying to finish a strong second behind Honda and to ensure Singh didn’t peel away too many “anyone but Honda” votes. That left Khanna’s campaign practically broke in the general election campaign’s final weeks.

Once again this year, any Republican votes going to Cohen are more likely to come out of Khanna’s pocket than Honda’s. However, this being Khanna’s second run, he already has far better name recognition and funding than Cohen is likely to be able to muster.

UPDATE @ 3:49 P.M.: Click here for a more complete story, with comments from the Honda and Khanna campaigns.


Posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

CA17: This is not the Ro Khanna you’re looking for.

As I and my colleagues sifted through a database of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District’s biggest water wasters Thursday, we found the name “Rohit Khanna” in there.

It took only a few moments, however, to determine that the Ro Khanna who owns property in San Ramon isn’t the Ro Khanna who’s challenging Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, for a second time in the 17th Congressional District. The candidate, 39, lives in Fremont and was born in Pennsylvania; voter-registration records show the Ro Khanna of San Ramon is 44 and was born in India.

“Only in the Bay Area can there be two Rohit Khannas!” candidate Khanna quipped Friday. “I guess we’ve come a long way from when I was growing up outside Philadelphia in the 1980s, one of a few Asian-American kids in a public high school class of over 800. In those days, when I went up to bat folks would say, ‘Ro can’t hit.’ So, my name has always been a source of amusement.”

“I am glad in this case I am working for a company focused on water conservation and efficiency,” he added, referring to the job he took earlier this year with Smart Utility Systems. “The tale of two Rohits!”

Posted on Friday, October 16th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

Excessive water use tax of up to 300%?

Water agencies could impose a tax of up to 300 percent on excessive use, under an East Bay lawmaker’s bill.

Bob WieckowskiSB 789 by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, will be heard Wednesday by the Assembly Local Government Committee. He held a news conference Tuesday at the Matsui Water Park, along the Sacramento River.

“California is in an historical drought emergency that threatens basic water supplies in some areas, yet there are still some residents and businesses who seem oblivious to the need to conserve, or they just don’t care,” Wieckowski, who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, said in a release issued afterward.

“SB 789 allows local water districts to go to the voters for permission to levy an excise tax on the worst water abusers,” he said. “It is one more tool local agencies can utilize to change bad behavior. This is a drought that affects all of us and we should all conserve and do our part to get us through this crisis.”

The State Water Resources Control Board has moved to curtail water use during the state’s historic drought, calling for a 25 percent cut, yet many water agencies are far from reaching their reduction goals despite managers’ best efforts. Wieckowski’s bill would let agencies impose up to a 300 percent tax on excessive use – a level to be determined by the local agencies – with revenue going to water conservation projects for those communities.

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Under: Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, water | 4 Comments »

Obama cites Fremont firm at trade roundtable

President Obama singled out the CEO of a Fremont company during a trade roundtable Wednesday at the White House.

The meeting – with seven small-business executives from around the nation plus the mayors of Philadelphia and Tampa – was to discuss “the opportunities and benefits of trade as well as the challenges that small business exporters face,” the White House said.

U.S. businesses are selling more made-in-America goods and services around the world than ever before, which builds job growth. But the President wants Congress to give him trade promotion authority to finalize new trade deals that will build on the momentum, while progressives argue U.S. workers will get a raw deal under these expanded trade agreements.

Barack Obama“The perception sometimes is … that the trade agenda is only important for big companies, big corporations, big Fortune 500 or 100 companies,” Obama said at the meeting. “Well, the group that’s sitting around here is made up of small business people or medium-sized business people who are seeing their businesses directly benefit from exports — as well as a couple mayors … who can account for hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars of sales coming out of their region as a consequence of exports.”

Among the executives at the table was Steve Basta, CEO of Fremont-based AlterG, which makes “anti-gravity” treadmills and a bionic leg – products aimed at shortening recovery times, reducing injury, and improving mobility for patients.

“Steve Basta with AlterG has created — or has a company that’s created, new technologies for medical rehabilitation,” Obama said. “He’s able to sell his products overseas, but what he’s finding is in some countries you’ve got tariffs that make his products more expensive and that means fewer sales.”

“And so this is not just the Boeings and the General Electrics that benefit” from trade promotion authority, Obama said “It’s also small businesses and medium-sized businesses directly benefit.”

AlterG is in Rep. Mike Honda’s 17th Congressional District. Honda, D-San Jose, in 2013 joined most House Democrats in signing a letter opposing fast-track trade promotion authority – which they said usurps Congress’ authority over trade matters – both for the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact Obama is trying to seal and for any future trade agreements.

“Twentieth Century ‘Fast Track’ is simply not appropriate for 21st Century agreements and must be replaced. The United States cannot afford another trade agreement that replicates the mistakes of the past. We can and must do better,” that letter said. “We are deeply committed to transforming U.S. trade policy into a tool for creating and retaining family-wage jobs in America, safeguarding the environment, maintaining consumer protection and improving the quality of life throughout the country.”

Posted on Wednesday, March 25th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Ro Khanna’s new project: Opposing landfill growth

Ro Khanna, the renegade Democrat who came within a few points of unseating Rep. Mike Honda last year, has found a new, local cause to champion: a fight against stinky garbage.

Ro KhannaThe former Obama administration official is helping to drum up opposition to a proposed expansion of the Newby Island Landfill. Expanding the dump at the end of Dixon Landing Road by 15.1 million cubic yards, and delaying its estimated closure from 2025 to 2041, would create the Bay Area’s highest landfill. Residents of Milpitas and other nearby communities say the dump’s odors already are affecting their health and quality of life.

Khanna, 38, of Fremont, said Wednesday that Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves – who had endorsed Khanna in the 17th Congressional District showdown that Honda won by 3.6 percentage points – has appointed him “to be a liaison to community groups on this and to work with the city’s lawyers.

“I am involved in a public strategy to make sure Newby takes actions to mitigate the odors that are affecting residents in Milpitas, Fremont and even Santa Clara,” Khanna said. “Also I am opposed to the expansion permit.”

Khanna said he’s no longer of counsel to the Silicon Valley powerhouse law firm Wilson Sonsini, but he remains a visiting lecturer at Stanford’s Economics Department and may have an iron in the fire with a tech firm – stay tuned for that.

Khanna forwarded information about a demonstration the landfill’s opponents intend to stage at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday outside San Jose City Hall, before the city planning commission’s 6:30 p.m. meeting. Activists say they’ve gathered 10,000 petition signatures opposing the expansion permit since November; they want the planning commission to deny the permit and order an odor-mitigation study.

Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Under: 2014 general, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

CA17: Honda spends big while Khanna runs dry

That dull thud you heard echoing across the 17th Congressional District recently was the sound of Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign dropping a massive $651,000 in October’s first half, according to a report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

Ro Khanna, Honda’s Democratic challenger, spent only about $168,000 during the same time, his report shows – and his campaign is now on the financial ropes.

Recent polls have shown a close race between the seven-term incumbent Honda, D-San Jose, and Khanna, and each have tried to maximize their impact since vote-by-mail ballots went out Oct. 6.

Honda’s report shows his campaign – which started the month with about $1 million in the bank – raised another $106,000 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, leaving him about $420,000 cash on hand but just short of $10,000 in debt at the close of that period.

The lion’s share of the spending went to the Washington, D.C. media and strategic communications firm of Adelstein Liston: $370,960 for a digital media buy and another $66,926 for “media services.” Next came the San Francisco-based Terris, Barnes & Walters campaign firm: $107,348 for direct mail, and $25,000 for campaign consulting.

Khanna – who started this race with far more money but spent most of it before June’s primary, in which he finished 20 points behind Honda – had about $218,000 cash on hand at the start of this month but about $141,000 in debt.

His new report shows he raised about $97,000 but spent about $168,000 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, leaving him with $148,000 cash on hand but $141,000 in debt – so, about $7,000 in unencumbered money.

Most of Khanna’s October spending – almost $111,000 – went to Chicago-based AKPD Message & Media (run by Obama campaign paid-media mogul Larry Grisolano) for direct mail.

I don’t yet see a pre-general report for Californians for Innovation, the independent super PAC formed this summer to support Khanna’s campaign and bankrolled in large part ($250,000 that we know so far) by Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold. When I do, I’ll update this post accordingly.

UPDATE @ 10:20 A.M. FRIDAY: (Sorry this is late, but I made an executive decision to take last night off.) Californians for Innovation’s report shows it raised $90,000 and spent $233,000 in the first half of October, leaving it with about $175,000 cash on hand and $30,000 in debt as of Oct. 15. Other FEC filings show it has spent about $58,000 more since mid-month.

Its contributors in the month’s first half were:

  • Arthur Patterson of Accel Partners (Palo Alto) – $10,000
  • Venkatesh Harinarayan of Cambrian Ventures (Mountain View) – $25,000
  • Anand Rajaraman of Cambiran Ventures (Mountain View) – $25,000
  • Rajeev Madhavan of Magma Design Automation (San Jose) – $5,000
  • OO Investment LLC (San Francisco) – $25,000
  • I initially can’t find much about OO Investment, but I’ll pursue it.

    Most of the spending – about $214,000 – went to Mailrite Print & Mail Inc. of Sacramento for direct mail. The $30,000 debt is owed to veteran Democratic political consultant Roger Salazar of Sacramento, for campaign consulting services.

    Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 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: 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)

    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 »

    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: 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 »