Nothing hurts in politics like being stabbed in the back—especially by a person who should be helping the cause instead of hurting it. As Brutus ultimately realized, killing Caesar did not work out in the long run.
Fast forward to the curious case of Ro Khanna, the modern day Brutus who is considering a challenge to Congressman Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District.
Nobody has done more for the empowerment of undeserved populations or mentored more potential leaders than Mike Honda. Not simply for the large Asian community, but every undeserved population. Honda is chair of the Ethiopian Caucus in Congress, for example, a small caucus that champions the issues of a small but growing Ethiopian immigrant population.
Locally, Honda has been responsible for the rise of many individuals including Assemblyman Paul Fong, Indo-American San Jose Councilman Ash Kalra and Campbell Mayor Evan Low, the first openly gay mayor of a South Bay city. Honda has also help Vietnamese-American candidate Jimmy Nguyen by giving his time, advice and money.
As a member of the Democratic National Committee, Honda has raised money from every part of the nation and sought to empower individuals from communities that are poorly represented in the U.S. Congress. Nationally, Honda supported Senator Mazie Hirono and Congresswoman Colleen Hanbusa of Hawaii, both of whom are Buddhist. When Tulsi Gabbard, a Hindu, sought election to Congress, Honda sponsored her fundraiser in Cupertino.
Congressman Honda has promoted the rise of the under-represented, so it is the height of irony that he would be challenged by an Indo-American from his own party.
Khanna, a former President Obama appointee (note the President has endorsed Honda), was stung badly by the defeat of Pete Stark. As a resident of Fremont, he chose not to run against the incumbent congressman with an inferred promise that he would one day replace the aging, but powerful, Stark. The surprise victory of Eric Swalwell over Stark nullified that implied agreement and left the ambitious Khanna wanting.
So Khanna, apparently emboldened by Stalwell’s success, now chooses to carpetbag and run against Honda in a district he does not know, live or work. Undoubtedly, he is kicking himself for not challenging Stark last year, but taking on Honda piles on yet another mistake. By challenging Honda, Khanna’s career will be over before it begins.
The real tragedy of this potential race is its effect on candidates who could have benefited from both Honda and Khanna’s fundraising prowess. Instead of expanding opportunity in congressional districts around the country, these two will be utilizing precious resources to fight each other. Those dollars cannot be replaced and the ultimate winners are John Boehner and Eric Cantor, who could never win California’s 17th District but won’t have to contend with the extra money raised by Honda to support candidates elsewhere.
In the final analysis, Khanna will lose this race badly if he decides to run. Honda worked hard in the last election; not because he had a real opponent, but because the district was new for him and he takes nothing for granted.
Oh, and one more thing. While Pete Stark was an effective Congressman, he was not considered a genuinely nice human being, nor did he pay enough attention to his local district. That is the antithesis of Honda. Anybody who knows Mike has probably sung karaoke with him. He has represented his district well and helped nearly everyone in Silicon Valley. In short, Honda is no Pete Stark.