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CA17: Ron Cohen lays out conservative platform

Ron Cohen, the Fremont Republican who recently joined the race to unseat Rep. Mike Honda next year, has fleshed out his policy positions on his campaign’s new website – and some of his staunch conservative views might be a hard sell in a district that’s only 19 percent Republican.

Ron CohenCohen, a 56-year-old accountant, said last week that if elected he would aim to join the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus – the Tea Party-dominated group of about three dozen Republicans that ousted former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and foiled Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, from succeeding him.

Judging from his website, Cohen’s political views are similar to those of libertarian-leaning Republicans such as former presidential candidate Texas Congressman Ron Paul. The “detailed analysis” part of his site says some parts are “a copy from Rand Paul’s website and others, with whom I agree.”

Cohen says the most important issue is unsustainable federal spending and debt. “This is an existential threat to the nation.”

On immigration, “we must secure our borders, use E-Verify, have a Temporary Workers Program, tighten visitor and student visas, and have every illegal alien case reviewed by a judge to determine their future status,” Cohen wrote. “We are a compassionate nation and illegal immigrants must follow our laws. Pass Kate’s Law and end Sanctuary Cities.”

Regarding foreign policy and defense, Cohen said the United States must “avoid foreign entanglements” – particularly in the Middle East, where “our ‘friends’ soon become our enemies.”

“In light of the Paris attacks, close our borders to anyone suspected of association with ISIS or their beliefs, and search for ‘sleeper cells,’” Cohen writes. “This type of ‘profiling’ is legal in times of war. I would have Congress formally ‘declare war’ on ISIS, as I believe the Constitution requires.”

Cohen calls for repealing the Affordable Care Act – “It’s bound to fail, anyway. Start again with a free-market solution.” He’s anti-abortion but says “the federal government has no business being in your doctor’s office… I would fund birth control and education to reduce the demand for abortions… I will not support any federal funding of abortions.”

He calls for eliminating the Department of Education, auditing the Federal Reserve, slashing business regulations, closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, imposing term limits on Congress, and freeing captive whales.

On gun control and gun rights, Cohen says “Americans have the right to be well-armed. More gun control laws are not the solution to school shootings. I sadly encourage more armed police and staff at schools. Pure evil must be met with force.”

And regarding low-income housing in the district, “no more of these four or five story apartment blocks that we see being built,” Cohen wrote. “Not everyone can afford to live in the district and we should not take steps to make it possible. Our highways are already clogged full.”

Even if Cohen doesn’t get many votes beyond the GOP base, that could be bad news for Ro Khanna, the Fremont Democrat now making his second bid to unseat Honda, D-San Jose. Khanna’s campaign relies on building a coalition among moderate Democrats, independents and Republicans, and any votes Cohen gets would likely come out of Khanna’s pocket.

Posted on Wednesday, November 25th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

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: Sec’y of State Alex Padilla backs Ro Khanna

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has endorsed Democratic candidate Ro Khanna to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in the 17th Congressional District.

Alex Padilla“Ro Khanna will help get Congress working again with his innovative ideas and freedom from special interests,” Padilla said in Khanna’s news release. “Ro’s commitment to building a grassroots campaign has shown me that he’s serious about increasing participation, and being accountable to the people he represents. I look forward to working with him as a United States Congressman.”

Khanna said he’s honored to have Padilla’s support. “As he did in leading the charge to bring automatic voter registration to California, Alex has proven he can offer new solutions and get things done. I look forward to working as his partner in Washington to bring about results for the people of California.”

This is Khanna’s second bid to unseat Honda, who is now serving his eighth House term. Honda defeated Khanna last year by 3.6 percentage points.

Padilla is the state’s second prominent Latino politician to endorse Khanna; state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, did so in September. The 17th District’s population is about 16 percent Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau‘s 2014 American Community Survey.

Other Democrats picking the challenger over the incumbent this year include San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone. Khanna also has peeled away two local officials who had endorsed Honda last year.

Honda recently announced his endorsement by Northern California House members Nancy Pelosi, Zoe Lofgren, Barbara Lee, Jerry McNerney, Jared Huffman and Ami Bera, as well as by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton.

UPDATE AT 6:40 A.M. MONDAY: I’ve noticed now that Padilla had endorsed Honda in last year’s race.

Posted on Sunday, November 15th, 2015
Under: Alex Padilla, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

CA17: Honda endorsed by prominent Democrats

A big chunk of Northern California’s Democratic establishment endorsed Rep. Mike Honda on Wednesday for re-election to a ninth term, shoring up his 17th Congressional District campaign against the second consecutive challenge from fellow Democrat Ro Khanna.

honda.jpgThe list released by Honda’s campaign includes House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove; former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; and California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton.

“Mike Honda is a tireless champion for his constituents and for hard-working families across the country,” Pelosi said in the release. “His background in education has made him a strong voice for underserved students and for reforming our broken immigration system to reunite families. Mike’s unwavering dedication to public service has made him a strong and respected leader.”

Lofgren praised Honda’s work in “securing funds for Silicon Valley” and “fighting for fairness in immigration.” McNerney called Honda one of the party’s strongest voices ““when it comes to building a strong middle class, reversing income inequality, and expanding opportunities for women and underrepresented communities,” as well as for boosting STEM education. And Panetta called him “an honest and hardworking public servant who gives his all to his constituents.

The endorsements come despite the cloud of a pending House Ethics Committee investigation into whether Honda’s office and campaign blurred or crossed their lines in violation of House rules or federal law.

Khanna’s campaign respects these leaders who have been Honda’s longstanding friends and colleagues, spokesman Hari Sevugan said in an email Wednesday. “At the same time, we are humbled by the support of many Democratic leaders who like Ro’s background as an educator and his vision of making college more affordable, of universal preschool education, and fighting for equal pay for women for equal work.”

Ro KhannaRecent endorsements of Khanna – a former Obama administration official who lives in Fremont and lost to Honda by 3.6 percentage points last year – have included state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles; San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and and Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone; and two local officials who had endorsed Honda in 2014.

“Congressman Honda may be in denial that his campaign is in a downward spiral, but when you’re under federal investigation for using your taxpayer-funded office for personal political gain and you’re spending donor money on an expensive legal defense, it shouldn’t be surprising that you’re losing support,” Sevugan said.

Posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

CA17: Two former Honda backers turn to Khanna

Two South Bay politicians who endorsed Rep. Mike Honda for re-election last year are now supporting Democratic challenger Ro Khanna instead.

Debi DavisSanta Clara Vice Mayor Debi Davis and former two-time Milpitas Mayor Bob Livengood now prefer Khanna, a former Obama administration official who lives in Fremont, to the eight-term Honda, D-San Jose.

“I’m convinced that Ro Khanna is the type of principled, energetic fighter Santa Clarans need in Washington to get things done for our families,” Davis, who is registered as an independent voter, said in Khanna’s news release. “I am impressed with his focus on education and preparing our young folks for citizenship and jobs in the 21st century. His ideas for revitalizing our manufacturing base and strengthening the middle class also make me proud to endorse his candidacy.”

Bob LivengoodLivengood, a Democrat, said Khanna’s priorities “are in line with the people of Milpitas, from public safety, to job creation, to bringing the highest ethical standards to Washington, he’s proven he’s not only the right choice for CD-17, but to bring leadership free from the grip of the special interests to Washington.”

Those comments about “highest ethical standards” and “the grip of the special interests” seem to be thinly veiled referrals to the ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation of whether Honda’s campaign and office blurred or crossed their lines.

After several prominent Democrats endorsed Khanna last month, Honda campaign spokesman Adam Alberti had noted nobody who backed Honda in 2014 had endorsed Khanna for 2016. Davis and Livengood are the first two public “defections” from the ranks of Honda’s former backers.

“While the Congressman is sorry to have lost the support of Debi Davis and Bob Livengood, we are confident that with the continued support of the California Democratic congressional delegation and the vast majority of the party he will continue his efforts in Congress, fighting for working class families and a better life for all residents of Silicon Valley,” Alberti said Wednesday.

Khanna said he’s grateful for the faith they’ve put in him.

“Debi has been a strong advocate for working Californians, and I look forward to joining her side as we take on that fight in Washington,” he said. “After three decades of service, Bob has shown the proven ability to get things done to make our community safer and more prosperous. I look forward to being their partner and advocate in Washington and delivering results for the families of the South Bay.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

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 »

CA17: Khanna outraises Honda again, though closer

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna raised only slightly more money than incumbent Rep. Mike Honda in this year’s third quarter, but has more than twice as much cash banked for the race, according to both campaigns.

Both Democrats want to represent the 17th Congressional District, which lies in the heart of Silicon Valley and is the first district outside Hawaii in which Asian-Americans make up a majority of voters. Khanna, a Fremont resident who served for two years in President Barack Obama’s Commerce Department, lost last year’s bruising, nationally watched election by 3.6 percentage points as Honda held on for an eighth term.

Khanna collected about $380,000 – mostly in the quarter’s last 10 days – and spent about $103,000 from July 1 through Sept. 30, leaving him with about $1.3 million cash on hand and about $41,000 in debt, according to his campaign’s news release.

“These past few months my priority has been, of course, my wedding and honeymoon,” Khanna said in the release. “So, I am humbled to still see the outpouring of support. It’s a signal that this district wants a new beginning.”

Despite being embroiled in an ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation into whether his office and campaign blurred or crossed their lines, Honda, D-San Jose, raised about $350,000 and spent about $160,000 – including $26,000 on legal fees – during the third quarter, campaign spokesman Adam Alberti said Tuesday.

That left him with about $545,000 cash on hand as of Sept. 30, though his campaign declined to provide the amount of outstanding debt he has. At midyear, Honda had reported almost $35,000 in debt.

“Overall the pace of fundraising is steady, and we are on plan to have the resources necessary to fend off what know will be a big-money challenger who outspent the congressman 3-to-1 in his last attempt,” Alberti said.

Neither candidate’s full report to the Federal Elections Commission is available yet; the filing deadline is Oct. 15.

Khanna outraised Honda in the year’s first and second quarters, too.

Posted on Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

CA17: Notes from Ro Khanna’s endorsement event

As I reported this morning, Democratic candidate Ro Khanna collected endorsements Friday from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, and Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone in his second bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Khanna news conference 9-25-2015 (photo by Josh Richman)In a news conference at the San Jose Public Library’s Berryessa branch, the three prominent local Democrats said they can no longer support the eight-term incumbent with an intelligent and independent candidate like Khanna waiting in the wings to represent the 17th Congressional District.

Stone said Friday he supported Honda’s first run for the county’s board of supervisors in 1990, and all through Honda’s elections to the Assembly and House, but remained neutral as Khanna mounted his first challenge last year “in hopes that this would be his (Honda’s) last campaign.”

“If he were here today, I would tell him what I told him on the phone five minutes ago, which is: ‘Mike, it’s time for you to retire,’” Stone said.

Rosen said Khanna embodies the excellence and diversity for which Silicon Valley is known, and Liccardo praised Khanna’s work on developing the manufacturing revitalization initiative that San Jose just rolled out.

Asked why they hadn’t supported Khanna last year, Liccardo said he was running for mayor at the time and didn’t want to meddle in other races while doing so; Rosen said he regretted not endorsing Khanna last year, a decision made for reasons “I’m not particularly proud of” but which he wouldn’t describe further.

None of them mentioned the pending House Ethics Committee investigation of Honda’s office and campaign. Asked about this after the news conference, Rosen said he had informed Honda of his decision to endorse Khanna before the Office of Congressional Ethics report became public early this month.

Khanna praised the three for backing him.

“Change is not something that happens without people in leadership at huge political risk standing up and saying ‘I get it, I want to bring about that change,’” Khanna said. “I wish there were more elected officials who had the courage of their convictions, who endorsed people based on who they thought would do the best job” rather than automatically supporting an incumbent.

From my story posted this morning and published in today’s print editions:

Last week, Khanna announced his endorsement by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. Adam Alberti, spokesman for Honda’s campaign, told the Sacramento Bee at that time that “the congressman enjoys near universal support of the Democratic establishment” in Silicon Valley.

On Thursday, Alberti said this “is typical Ro Khanna, trying to make mountains out of molehills.”

“There are no surprises on this list of endorsers. The fact that Khanna is trying to show his Democratic support with this sparse list of endorsers demonstrates the weakness in his support among Democrats,” Alberti said. “To date, Mike Honda has not lost a single endorsement from last cycle. The reason is simple: Mike Honda is the only true Democrat in the race, and the conservative politics of his challenger do not match the progressive nature of the district.”

Liccardo and Stone have backed pension reforms and performance measures for public employees, putting them at odds with their party’s labor-union base.

Khanna spokesman Hari Sevugan replied: “If Mike Honda thinks the mayor of San Jose, the Santa Clara County assessor, the Santa Clara County district attorney and the president pro tempore of the Senate — each of whom remained neutral in 2014 — are insignificant Democrats, he’s not just dangerously out of touch with the desire for change these endorsements represent, but out of touch with the reality of his situation.”

Posted on Friday, September 25th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 18 Comments »

CA17: Kevin de León endorses Ro Khanna

17th Congressional District candidate Ro Khanna will be endorsed Thursday by state Senate President Kevin de León, one of the highest-profile California Democrats so far to turn his back on eight-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda.

Kevin de Leon“Ro Khanna values the ideals that the Democratic Party stands for: equal rights, standing up for working families, protecting social security and Medicare, fighting for clean air and water, expanding the middle class and making sure everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream,” de León, D-Los Angeles, said in Khanna’s news release. “As an educator, Ro is committed to making sure public schools have the funding and technology to ensure all our kids have the opportunity to succeed in the 21st Century.”

Khanna, a former Obama administration official, is making his second run against Honda, D-San Jose; Honda beat him by 3.6 percentage points last November.

In the last election cycle, most prominent elected Democrats lined up behind Honda, while a few – notably including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed – endorsed Khanna. It remains to be seen whether the House Ethics Committee’s pending investigation of Honda will affect his endorsements this time around.

“As a community organizer against Prop 187 and for the NEA, I am impressed with Ro’s commitment to grassroots organizing,” de León added. “Not only is he bringing more people into the political process, but I know his commitment to ground-up power will ensure his office stays in touch with the needs of the people he represents, and not just wealthy donors and the special interests.”

Khanna said de León “embodies everything that’s great about the Democratic Party.”

“He’s a leader in the effort to combat climate change, has spearheaded forward-thinking and compassionate immigrant rights laws, worked to make colleges more accessible and affordable, and he has helped spur an innovation economy around renewable energy technologies that has helped create more good paying middle class jobs while protecting our environment,” Khanna said. “I am deeply honored by the confidence and trust Kevin de Leon is placing in me. I look forward to being a strong and active partner with him as we take these California policies and work to adapt them in Washington.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Kevin de Leon, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

CA17: Ro Khanna got married

17th Congressional District candidate Ro Khanna got married Saturday in Cleveland.

Per the New York Times:

Ro Khanna and Ritu AhujaRitu Ahuja and Rohit Khanna were married Saturday in Cleveland. Pandit Ashok Bhargava officiated at Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Until April, Mrs. Khanna, 36, was a product marketing specialist in New York for Bulgari, the Italian jewelry and accessories company. She graduated from Georgetown and received a master’s in strategic communications from Columbia.

The bride is a daughter of Usha Ahuja and Monte Ahuja of Hunting Valley, Ohio. The bride’s father is the chairman of Mura Holdings, an investment firm, and is the chief executive of Transmaxx, an automotive transmission parts supplier, both in Solon, Ohio.

Mr. Khanna, 38, is the vice president for strategic initiatives in the Santa Clara, Calif., office of Smart Utility Systems, an energy-efficiency software company. He is also a lecturer in economics at Stanford University, and a Democratic candidate for Congress from Cupertino, Calif. From 2009-11, he worked for the Obama administration as a deputy assistant secretary of commerce. He graduated from the University of Chicago and received a law degree from Yale.

The groom is a son of Jyotsna Khanna and Vijay Khanna of Churchville, Pa. The groom’s mother retired as a substitute special-education teacher in the Council Rock School District in Newtown, Pa. His father retired as a chemical engineer in the Springfield, Pa., office of Rohm & Haas, a manufacturer of chemicals.

Khanna, a Democrat, is running again against Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Honda defeated Khanna by 3.6 percentage points last November after a costly, sometimes ugly race.

Posted on Sunday, August 30th, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »