Looks like nap time is over for Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose).
On Saturday, Ro Khanna announced his intention to rematch the longstanding Democratic rep for California's District 17 congressional seat. In 2014, despite a $4.4 million investment, Khanna lost a close race to Honda, who underspent him by $1 million. Khanna now returns for round two—and his third career run for Congress—and Honda has decided to go on the offensive from the start.
Honda, who didn’t exactly deliver the most graceful victory speech in November, released a Khanna-bashing statement Thursday, accompanied by a website titled "Ro’s Usual Suspects." Honda touted his record as “a proven and effective leader, championing public education, fighting to preserve Social Security and Medicare, and protecting American jobs.” Meanwhile, the website echoed 2014 depictions of his adversary as a “perennial candidate” with deep pockets and deeper ties to conservatives. It also featured a photoshop graphic of the film "The Usual Suspects" reminiscent of a local attack blog associated with labor.
“Same bad actors. Same bad intentions,” the site trumpets, linking Khanna to a list of past financiers but failing to mention exactly what exactly are his “bad intentions.” A Photoshop lineup displays “Khanna’s crew of usual suspects,” including tech giant Peter Thiel, Tea Party supporter Ernie Konnyu, and hedge fund manager Marc Leder (who held the dinner at which Mitt Romney made his infamous “47 percent” comment).
“As we know from history, Ro Khanna’s ability to raise money is only surpassed by his ability to squander it,” said the release from Honda’s campaign.
Honda is on his seventh term in Congress and has no intention of stepping aside. In his 2014 victory speech, he noted his plan “to live until 103.”
A rematch against Khanna will likely require more money and energy than the previous go-around, which may be why Honda’s campaign has decided to go for the jugular so early in this race.
“[Honda’s] long history of serving the District honorably and with principle will outweigh the determination of the wealthy interests backing his overly ambitious challenger,” the campaign said.
Just how honorably Honda and his staff have conducted themselves, however, is a subject for debate. In September 2014, San Jose Inside reported emails that appeared to show Honda’s staff broke House rules by mixing campaign activity with official business. The report also found that Honda courted potential donors by granting them access to policymakers and a State Department event, another violation. Honda publicly apologized for these actions but has never discussed what occurred in detail.
Khanna supporters made a complaint to the House Office of Congressional Ethics, but it's not yet known where that process stands.
While the indiscretions tightened the race between Khanna and Honda, it didn’t stop the latter from winning with 52 percent of the vote. If yesterday’s statement is any indication of where this race is headed, the fight from now until 2016 will be personal, and ugly.