Ro Khanna is in a pitched battle against an eight-term Democrat, who has been in public office for 35 years, is confident of winning the California’s 17th Congressional District Primaries on June 7.
Now, according to a San Francisco Bay Area CBS affiliate, KPIX polls, the already hotly-contested race for the highly contested seat may be tighter than expected. Honda is said to have had 31 percent support and 25 percent polled for the challenger Ro Khanna, shrinking the lead to 6 percent.
In 2014, Honda had led Khanna by 20 percentage points in the polls leading up to the Primaries. However, Khanna fell short to Honda for the 17th Congressional District seat by only 3.6 percent in the General Elections.
Honda, who is now entrenched in an ongoing ethics investigation by the House Ethics Committee, had narrowly beat the Indian American attorney from Fremont, Calif., in the 2014 race for the same seat. “Congressman Honda and his office gave special favors to donors,” Khanna said in the KPIX report. “So it started as this investigation about the mingling of staff but it became something much worse.”
Throughout the campaign, Khanna has steadfastly turned away donations from lobbyists, corporations and Political Action Committees, signing a pledge in refusal of their money. That comes at a cost, with funding increasingly hard to come by, Khanna said in the report. He added that only nine people running for federal offices throughout the country are doing what he is doing.
Despite that, Khanna has outraised Honda and holds nearly $2 million in the bank while Honda, needing to spend much of his raised money on legal fees, has roughly $800,000 cash in hand. Khanna has been endorsed by many who previously sided with Honda in 2014, such as California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. President Barack Obama abstained from making an endorsement, previously having endorsed Honda.
“The difference between this cycle and last is Ro Khanna now has a new line of attack, and he was only within striking distance last election,” said one Bay Area Democrat who has not endorsed in the race. “It’s going to be close.”
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, a Khanna supporter, believes that Silicon Valley voters are paying close attention to the Honda ethics probe. “For the people that come to this Valley to start businesses, they know the big competitive advantage is the rule of law, transparency, honesty, a level playing field and merit — not who you know,” Rosen said. “It’s merit that rises to the top, and Ro is a person of merit.”
Khanna, who spent a couple of years in Washington as a deputy assistant secretary in Obama’s Commerce Department, lost to Honda last cycle by just 3.6 percentage points. But for Khanna, the son of Indian immigrants, there is a risk of going too negative this time around.
Meanwhile, it was ironic that some members of the Indian American community gathered at the Zutshi home on May 15 for a “meet and greet” event supporting Mike Honda. The event was co-hosted by state Senator Bob Wieckowski, Toni Shellen and Jeevan Zutshi. “Unlike his competitor, a perennial candidate, Mike Honda has a fabulous record of service,” Jeevan Zutshi told the gathering.
His views were echoed by other Indian Americans present who felt that Indian American candidates must not run against those who have served the Indian American community for decades, according to a press release. Other activists who spoke were Tara Sreekrishnan, Jean Holmes, Henry Hutchins, Tejinder Dhami, Bridgette Hendrikson and Kameshwar Eranki.
California’s 17th Congressional District includes much of California’s Silicon Valley cities such as Sunnyvale, Cupertino and Santa Clara, as well as north San Jose, Milpitas, Fremont and Newark. Khanna and Honda are expected to have a rare intraparty battle in November, with both progressive candidates expected to advance past California’s June 7 primary, in which the top two candidates move on to the general election regardless of party.