Rep. Honda touts endorsement from Obama sister amid primary challenge

Seven-term Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) announced a slew of high-profile endorsements Tuesday aimed at beating back at a primary challenge in his Silicon Valley district by former Obama administration official Ro Khanna. 

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Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Obama's sister, joined actors Kal Penn and George Takei, of Star Trek fame, on a roster of "Asian American and Pacific Islander" leaders who are backing Honda.  

In a statement, Soetoro-Ng described Honda as “a principled and industrious leader who has done so much for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community."

This is not the first time that Soetoro-Ng has been involved in politics. She previously appeared at the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National conventions, supporting her half-brother. 

She also endorsed current Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) during his campaign for Hawaii’s lieutenant governorship in 2010.

The endorsements come early in a primary faceoff against Khanna, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Commerce. 

Khanna, who is styling himself as a young, tech-savvy Washington outsider, announced he was challenging Honda on April 2, and secured a high-profile endorsement from Calif. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) — his only major endorsement thus far — later that month. 

Many of his staffers are former Obama campaign members, and Khanna started out with a strong financial edge. 

When it comes to endorsements, however, Honda has a clear lead. Obama endorsed him in January as part of a broader effort to scare away potential challengers. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.), and California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have also endorsed Honda.

Among the other Honda backers announced Tuesday were "Harold and Kumar" actor Penn, who worked in the White House following Obama's first election victory; Takei, who played Sulu in the "Star Trek" franchise; and Yul Kwon, a former winner of "Survivor," who served as deputy chief of the FCC’s Consumer & Government Affairs Bureau.

The winner of the Democratic primary is heavily favored to win the district in 2014. Honda has held the seat with little trouble since he was first elected in 2000, and the Republican Party has failed to mount a credible threat for the seat in years.  

But it's also possible that there could be a rematch between Honda and Khanna in the general election regardless of the primary outcome.

California is one of only three states in the nation to use a “top-two” primary system, also known as a “jungle primary.” 

Under the top-two system, all candidates appear on a single primary ballot, with the top-two vote-getters facing off against each other in November, regardless of their party affiliation, or whether one candidate received more than 50 percent of the primary vote.

Honda's campaign released polling in March showing him with a commanding lead over Khanna, who at that point had not announced his candidacy.