Part of the Bay Area News Group

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…
Read the rest of this entry »

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: 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…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 12 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…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 3rd, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 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…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Pot measures seek signatures at Miley Cyrus show

Proponents of a San Jose medical marijuana initiative will gather signatures outside San Jose’s SAP Center on Tuesday night as Miley Cyrus brings her “Bangerz” tour to town.

Miley CyrusKnow thy demographic: The first rule of ballot measures.

The Medical Marijuana Regulation for San Jose Act (MMRSJ) was created in response to what proponents say was the city’s failure to provide workable regulations for its cannabis clubs. It’s supported by the Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition, Americans for Policy Reform, Control & Regulate San Jose, and most cannabis clubs in the city, they say.

“MMRSJ puts in place reasonable regulations and creates a commission to address any impact to the community. For the past 5 years, without regulations, we have had the wild-west in San Jose. That needs to stop,” proponent Dave Hodges founder of the All American Cannabis Club, said in a news release. “It is crucial that we collect enough signatures to make the San Jose ballot. We have been here before with the city, and the regulations they proposed forced us to do a referendum. We must put reasonable regulations in place to stop the city council from creating something we cannot live with.”

Proponent John Lee, founder of Americans for Policy Reform, said closure of cannabis clubs shouldn’t be indiscriminate. “It should be based on the community needs. If a cannabis club is disturbing the neighborhood and creating a nuisance, then of course it should be shut down. On the other hand, a well run cannabis club can have a positive impact and enhance their community.”

They’re hoping to finish their signature drive by April 20. 4/20. Of course.

Lee and Hodges also are proponents for a statewide marijuana legalization measure – the Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act – that’s struggling to gather signatures by mid-April in order to qualify for this November’s ballot.

“Don’t worry, we will be collecting signatures for the 2014 statewide legalization at the show as well,” Hodges said.

We weren’t worried.

Posted on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
Under: marijuana | No Comments »

Lawmakers seek update on power station attack

Silicon Valley’s House members want an update on the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation of the sniper attack on PG&E’s Metcalf power substation last April.

METCALF plant 020614Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose; wrote a letter Thursday to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

“Although the damage from the Metcalf incident was largely contained, the potential for a catastrophic attack impacting both our electric grid and communications infrastructure is evident,” the lawmakers wrote. “As we understand it, rolling blackouts throughout our region were narrowly averted. The Metcalf attack, while sophisticated, was relatively small. A larger attack is not difficult to imagine and the effects could be crippling.”

Somebody fired rifle rounds last April to take out 17 transformers and 6 circuit breakers, causing $15.4 million in damage at the facility near Coyote Ranch Road in South San Jose. Nobody was hurt and nobody lost power, but circumstances suggest it was a planned attack.

Given the Bay Area’s high concentration of Fortune 500 companies, patent generation and economic productivity, a successful attack on the area’s power grid “would impact not only our region but our country as a whole,” they wrote.

The lawmakers asked Johnson to respond by March 14 with a summary of his department’s work on the incident, including the initial emergency response; work since the incident on improving protection of critical infrastructure, emergency mitigation and coordination with other agencies; recommendations for more improvements; and guidance on whether any congressional action is needed.

Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Homeland security, Mike Honda, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

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 »