Honda comms director Lauren Smith has died

Lauren Suzanne Smith, communications director to Rep. Mike Honda and a veteran of two other Northern California House offices, died Saturday, Dec. 26, in Washington, D.C. She was 37.

Lauren Smith“Lauren served on my staff with passion, dedication, talent and integrity,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a statement issued Monday. “In addition to working in my office, Lauren was employed by many fine Democrats and institutions over the years, dedicating her communication talents to make the world a better place. She was a gracious person, loved by our team and will be deeply missed. May you rest in peace Lauren.”

Honda also penned an homage to Smith that was published Dec. 22 in The Hill, hinting at but not describing the dire nature of her illness.

“Lauren’s generous nature and dedication to her work means she is always ready to respond to the latest development in any issue area immediately, even late into the night or when she isn’t feeling her best. I can always count on Lauren to not only get the job done but to do it with class, perfection, and most of all, heart,” Honda wrote in that piece.

“A time-honored Team Honda tradition at celebratory times is for staff to share favorite moments involving me. I have heard from staff that Lauren’s favorite ‘Honda Moment’ is when I accidentally left her a voicemail of my full rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,’” Honda added. “She tells me that when she’s down, this voicemail always makes her smile. Lauren, perhaps that voicemail was no accident – over the last year, Team Honda and I have without a doubt fallen in love with you, your work, and your laughter.”

Smith worked with the All America PAC in Indiana during the 2006 midterm elections and then worked her way up to serve as the Democratic National Committee’s Indiana communications director during the 2008 presidential election. She served stints as a press secretary for Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; communications director for Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; and communications director and deputy chief of staff for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. And after serving as a communications consultant for John Walsh’s Montana Senate campaign, she was Sen. Walsh’s deputy communications director before going to work for Honda early this year.

“She brought a real spark to my office… She was always enthusiastic,” McNerney said Monday, praising her as a confident, quick study. “There was something about Lauren that made you accept her right away.”

I spoke often with Lauren during her time in McNerney’s office, from 2011 through 2013, and again this year in Honda’s office; she was never anything less than a consummate professional as well as a good and pleasant person – a rare combination. I’ll miss her very much.

According to the tribute page her family has created, Lauren’s wish was that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in her name to the Joyful Heart Foundation.


Sam Liccardo endorses Kamala Harris for Senate

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo endorsed California Attorney General Kamala Harris for 2016’s U.S. Senate race on Monday, the third of the Bay Area’s big-city mayors to do so.

Sam LiccardoLiccardo, a Democrat one year into his first mayoral term, said Harris “wins results for our families, even when powerful interests try to stand in her way.”

“As a former prosecutor, I watched with admiration as she took on the nation’s biggest banks during the mortgage crisis, winning $20 billion dollars to help families and homeowners in our state,” he said. “And I’ve seen her work hard to keep protect our kids – whether she’s taking down transnational criminal gangs or tackling elementary school truancy and working to ensure every child has a shot at success in school and in life. I’m proud to endorse Kamala in this race and am looking forward to her continuing her fight for us in the U.S. Senate.”

Harris said she’s “humbled” by Liccardo’s endorsement. “We are building a campaign that lifts up the voices of all Californians and gets results for our families. Our fight for California has just begun, and I’m glad to have the mayor on our team.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee endorsed Harris earlier, as did Bay Area House members Mark DeSaulnier, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Mike Honda and Jared Huffman.

Though Harris has a large lead in fundraising and endorsements, her Democratic rival in this Senate race – Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana – has been making inroads recently around the state. The Orange County Register’s Martin Wisckol noted Sunday that Sanchez has picked up some key endorsements and even here in the Bay Area, Harris’ home turf – including nods from Rep. Anna Eshoo and Rep. Sam Farr.


Mike Honda blasts calls to lock up Syrian refugees

Rep. Mike Honda, who spent part of his childhood in a World War II-era internment camp for Japanese-Americans, opened a six-pack of verbal whup-ass Wednesday all over state and local politicians who have suggested not only barring Syrian refugees from entering the country, but perhaps locking up those already here.

Roanoke Mayor David Bowers, a Democrat, issued a statement Wednesday hailing his city as “welcoming” and America as “the melting pot of the world,” but saying that “it is presently imprudent to assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees to our part of Virginia.”

“Thus, today, I’m requesting that all Roanoke Valley governments and non-governmental agencies suspend and delay any further Syrian refugee assistance until these serious hostilities and atrocities end, or at the very least until regarded as under control by U.S. authorities, and normalcy is restored,” Bowers wrote. “I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis [sic] now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”

Meanwhile, Tennessee House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada told the Tennessean that said his state should “activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can.”

“I’m not worried about what a bureaucrat in D.C. or an unelected judge thinks,” he said. “We need to gather (Syrian refugees) up and politely take them back to the ICE center and say, ‘They’re not coming to Tennessee, they’re yours.’ ”

And Rhode Island state Sen. Elaine Morgan, a Republican, sent an email Tuesday saying her state should reject Syrian refugees in part because “the Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape, and decapitate anyone who is a non Muslim.”

“If we need to take these people in we should set up [a] refugee camp to keep them segregated from our populous,” she wrote. “I think the protection of our US citizens and the United States of America should be the most important issue here.”

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, issued a statement Wednesday noting he knows “firsthand how that dark moment in our nation’s history led to repercussions that have resonated over the years.

“I am outraged by reports of elected officials calling for Syrian Americans to be rounded up and interned,” he said. “We simply cannot let the extremist perpetrators of these hateful acts of violence drive us into such a misguided action. For it is when we allow these criminals to lead us down a dark path, away from our principles and ideals, that we as a country suffer.”

“The Japanese and Japanese Americans interned after the bombing of Pearl Harbor was an outrage, as was turning away Jews at our borders who were fleeing German persecution. We cannot allow this to happen again and reverse the progress we have made in the last several decades,” Honda said. “We look back, as a nation, and we know this was wrong. We look back and know, as defined by the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, that the internment was a result of ‘race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.’ We look back and know that an entire ethnicity was said to be, and ultimately considered, the enemy. We know that internment happened because few in Washington were brave enough to say ‘no.’”

Now it’s time to say no to the likes of Bowers, Casada and Morgan, he said, “who would make such ill-advised and backwards-thinking recommendations. They are perpetuating the messages of hate and fear that fly in the fact of what America stands for in the world.”

“As we learn more about the complexity and the extent of the attacks on Paris, this tragedy continues to send shockwaves through the world community,” Honda said. “I am hopeful we will not allow our anger and outrage towards these terrorists and their cowardly attacks on civilians to turn us away from compassion and generosity. We need to find ways to help the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who are entering through our thorough screening and resettlement process now to find safe haven in the United States. As a world leader, we need to help these people escape from the brutal ISIL regime – they are fleeing the very perpetrators of these senseless acts of violence.”


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.


Politicos mourn former Rep. Don Edwards

California politicos are paying tribute to former Rep. Don Edwards, a Democrat who represented part of the South Bay from 1963 to 1995; he died at age 100 on Thursday at his Carmel home.

From House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“Today, with the passing of former Congressman Don Edwards, America has lost a venerable civil rights champion who dedicated his life to promoting peace, defending liberty, and securing justice for all people. He was a principled leader, a kind and trusted friend to many, an august statesman, and a proud Californian who was committed to preserving our environment and pursuing equality for women, people of color and all American families.

“Whether in his service as an FBI agent or as a Navy officer during World War II, Congressman Edwards labored with dignity, led with integrity and lived with courage. As Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights for more than twenty years, he strived to ensure that all Americans enjoyed equality of opportunity. During his 32 years in the House, Congressman Edwards helped changed the course of history by championing the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and fighting to protect freedom of speech and the privacy rights of citizens. Congressman Edwards, the long-time dean of the California Democratic delegation and conscience of the Congress, strived to move our country forward.

“As Americans enjoy the pristine view and tranquility of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, may we remember the man who dedicated his life to preserving our environment and our ideals for future generations. May it be a comfort to his family and all who loved him that so many mourn the loss of a consummate public servant and proud American.”

From Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose:

“After working for Congressman Don Edwards for nearly a decade, and having the honor to succeed him in Congress, I feel a profound sense of loss upon his passing.

“Don spent his life in service to the state of California and to our country as a Member of Congress for 32 years. His contributions will live on for many generations through the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, through his stalwart defense of the Constitution, his profound dedication to civil rights, his tireless advocacy for the rights of women as the ‘Father of the Equal Rights Amendment,’ and his lifelong efforts for a peaceful world. He will be always be remembered for his exemplary service in Congress and love for the South bay.”

From state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont:

“I am saddened by the passing of Mr. Edwards, a man I respected greatly for his intellect, thoughtfulness and commitment to our country. Working for Congressman Edwards in Washington is one of the highlights of my years in public service. His integrity, his courage to fight for his beliefs, and his fierce defense of all Americans’ civil and constitutional rights are traits I will always remember and respect. Mr. Edwards would fight fiercely with Congressional opponents, but always with civility.

“People come from all over to visit the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in my district and it’s a great testament to his commitment to our environment.

“I visited him often in Carmel to solicit his input on legislation I was carrying in the California Legislature. We need more people like him in public service. I will miss him dearly.”


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.”