Rep. Mike Honda's response to suggestions he
should retire: "Not on your life."
Surrogates for Ro Khanna and one newspaper columnist have suggested Rep. Mike Honda should retire following his June 7 primary defeat. His answer in an op-ed Wednesday was clear: “Not on your life.”
“Doing so would be a disservice to the 60 percent of voters who did not vote for my opponent in the primary,” wrote Honda in a piece that could be considered his opening move for what will be an hard-fought rematch with Khanna in November.
Khanna won the June primary in the 17th Congressional District by 1.7 percent over Honda, an incumbent who has served the area since 2001.
Last month, three members of his campaign team—two related to finances—left following the primary upset. However, campaign manager Michael Beckendorf remains.
The Honda op-ed may also hint at a fall campaign strategy that focuses on labeling Khanna a carpetbagger, or, conversely, Honda as a son of the South Bay giving back to his community.
After describing a list of his accomplishments as a representative for the district, Honda wrote, “As a lifelong resident of this region, I know the challenges we face firsthand and I know I am the right leader to help build a Silicon Valley economy that works for everyone.”
Later, Honda contrasts his biography with that of Khanna, who previously ran for Congress in San Mateo and later considered running against Pete Stark in the East Bay four years ago.
“When my opponent was moving around, trying out different Congressional Districts to run in, I was in Congress standing up for the civil rights of all Americans, championing a living wage, and fighting for the expansion of health care coverage for all,” wrote Honda.
However, Honda’s campaign appears steadfast in continuing a line of attack used since late in the 2014 election equating Khanna with Donald Trump and other Republicans.
Khanna has received campaign contributions from individuals “who there is no limit to who he will associate with to bankroll his campaign,” wrote Honda. “My opponent has never held public office and it’s worrisome that he could head to Washington so indebted to right-wing Republican extremists who will undermine our values.”
To illustrate how much the “Republicans love Khanna” strategy will take center stage over the next four months, Honda circles back in the piece to again link his opponent to Trump.
“There are plenty of people who want to see my opponent get elected: Right-wing extremists, Donald Trump supporters, and even some people at this newspaper, but I’ve never backed down from doing what’s right. That’s why I’ll keep fighting for you and why I’ll keep fighting to earn your vote in November.”
The right-wing extremist strategy, however, is fraught with danger. First off, it has been used by Honda since the last months of the November 2014 and an overview of time since then to now shows Khanna has gone from 20 points down in June 2014 to almost 2 points up on Honda.
There may also be some doubts over the assertion's authenticity, too. Khanna has been effective during this current election cycle of showing a more progressive bent. Khanna showing up at council meetings in Sunnyvale and San Jose to back union workers poses a difficult optic for Honda’s campaign to portray Khanna as someone holding water for rightwingers.
Previously, this strategy has proven difficult to employ in parts of this region where voters are more conservative than the demographic data suggests. In the nearby 15th Congressional District, 40-year incumbent Pete Stark attempted to label his challenger Democrat Eric Swalwell as having Tea Party tendencies. One infamous mailer showed Swalwell wading in a cup of tea. It fell flat with voters and maybe energized the Tri Valley’s moderate and conservative voters to back Swalwell. Stark also belittled Swalwell’s youth by calling him a “Bush leaguer.” That didn’t work either.
The reason? It wasn’t Swalwell’s inexperience or even his political persuasion that bothered voters, it was Stark’s boorish behavior.
With Honda, voters may have showed last June that they don’t care about where Khanna’s campaign contributions come from, but whether Honda committed an ethical lapse of judgment. As it stands, Honda's pending ethics investigation is included in every single story written about this race. It's the only conversation voters are having and it already cost Honda the primary.