Mike Honda takes lead over Ro Khanna for House seat, ballots being counted
THE SANTA CLARA
November 6, 2014
Two days after the end of the election, one local Democratic candidate refuses to concede in the race for California’s 17th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
As of Wednesday night, Rep. Mike Honda collected 52.2 percent of the vote, while his challenger Ro Khanna had 47.8 percent of the vote. Khanna will not admit defeat in the election unless all votes are counted, citing the uncounted provisional ballots in the district.
The Fighting Incumbent
Honda is running for his eighth consecutive term as the Silicon Valley’s representative in Congress.
Vivek Kembaiyan, the congressman’s spokesperson, said Honda is “very concerned” about income inequality in the district. If re-elected, addressing it will be a top priority in his upcoming term. In addition, Kembaiyan said Honda plans to increase Social Security benefits by raising taxes on those who earn more than $117,000 per year.
Honda has the makings of a more effective congressman than his opponent, according to political science professor Kenneth Faulve-Montojo. Much of Honda’s current political power comes from his status as a senior member of the House Committee on Appropriations, which is responsible for spending decisions.
“Honda has too many advantages on his side, like his incumbency and name recognition,” said Faulve-Montojo. “The (Democratic) Party seems to be unified behind him.”
Through past years in office, Honda has allocated $900 million in federal funding toward expanding the Bay Area Rapid Transit line, which created a reliable transportation system and permanent jobs for Bay Area residents. He also increased benefits for veterans and the homeless and raised the San Jose minimum wage to $10 an hour.
Honda graduated from San Jose State, joined the Peace Corps and worked as a teacher and principal at a public school before being elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, and then to the California State Assembly.
An Up-and-Coming Challenger
Honda’s 38-year-old opponent and former Santa Clara adjunct law professor Ro Khanna touts an impressive resume and strong support from students and Silicon Valley technology companies, which brought him neck-and-neck with Honda by Election Day.
If elected to office, Khanna aims to make education and housing more accessible and affordable through financial aid and rent reform, and to increase income equality in the district.
Sophomore Chloe Karafelis, one of 400 student volunteers for Khanna’s campaign, said Khanna’s focus on issues that affect young people was a major factor in her decision to support him.
“Being someone who’s really young, it kind of feels like our voices aren’t always heard in Congress,” she said. “The fact that he was going to be paying more attention to his constituents meant a lot to me.”
Lieutenant Governor and Santa Clara alumnus Gavin Newsom, one of Khanna’s most prominent supporters, officially endorsed Khanna in April. Newsom visited campus on Saturday, Nov. 1 and spoke in support of Khanna to an audience of more than 50 students and campaign volunteers.
Newsom said Khanna is representative of the future, “not only in this district, this region, this state, but in the nation itself,” and that the campaign represented “real progress.”
Khanna has a strong background in law and economics. He served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the United States Department of Commerce under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011.
On the Money
Campaign spending was a defining characteristic of the 17th district race with both candidates spending millions of dollars on their respective campaigns. While donations are legally limited to $2,600 per individual donor, donors can give unlimited amounts through super PACs.
Khanna’s campaign and super PAC, Californians for Innovation, spent $5 million on events, advertisements, flyers and other campaign expenditures, according to the Federal Election Commission. Meanwhile, Honda’s campaign and super PAC, Working For Us, spent around $3 million.
Kembaiyan said the disparity in spending between Khanna and Honda explains Khanna’s rise in popularity over the past few months as well as the close outcome of the race.
CrowdPac, a website that analyzes campaign funds, listed Khanna as the congressional candidate with the second highest proportion of contributions from the largest donors, giving $2,500 or more to his campaign.
Honda’s campaign, in contrast, received donations from more than 8,000 people, half of which were for $100 or less.
However, Faulve-Montojo said the amount of spending that occurred during the election did not have much of an impact on the outcome.
“It isn’t that unusual and I don’t think the amount of money you’re seeing there is too significant,” Faulve-Montojo said. “If it does make a difference, the difference would be marginal.”
Contact Collin Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org . Vishakha Joshi contributed to this report.