Dems ready for rematch in Silicon Valley

Dems ready for rematch in Silicon Valley
© Courtesy photo/Greg Nash

Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Tech: Net neutrality repeal sparks backlash | Dems push FCC to delay repeal vote | Apple, Ireland reach deal over B tax bill | Facebook launches Messenger for kids GOP bets that tax bill will unlock corporate cash overseas Congress must end American support for Saudi war in Yemen MORE will formally launch his rematch on Saturday against Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who defeated him last year in a bitter battle that split Democrats.

Khanna has barely stopped campaigning since conceding to Honda days after the election.

Just 90 days after he conceded, Khanna, a former Obama administration official with deep ties to Silicon Valley, accepted his first check for the 2016 cycle.

ADVERTISEMENT
Since then, he’s continued to raise money from the tech sector while spending thousands on polling, software services and campaign research. 

Honda, who represents California’s 17 District in Silicon Valley and has served since 2001, beat Khanna by 3.6 percent in the 2014 battle. The two Democrats were the top vote getters in the primary and advanced to the general under California’s open primary rules.

In 2016, many expect the two to again advance to November, where some believe Khanna could have a better shot at unseating the longtime incumbent given the higher turnout expected in a presidential election year.

Honda’s campaign is already using Khanna’s campaigning as a cudgel, arguing the 38-year-old has been running on and off  “for more than a decade.”

“He began this latest campaign around the same time he lost the last one and with the continued generous support of the same special interest billionaires who financed him,” Honda spokesman Adam Alberti said. “As we know from history, Ro Khanna’s ability to raise money is only surpassed by his ability to squander it.”

Khanna filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Feb. 4. His Twitter account, in which he is described as a congressional candidate, went dark after the 2014 election only to start back up again in late February to celebrate a “huge win” when strong net neutrality rules were approved by the FCC. 

But Khanna’s campaign rejects the criticism from Honda, and notes Khanna took time off after the 2014 cycle to spend time with his family. He also got engaged and took a new job.

While the safely Democratic seat does not weigh into the battle for the House majority, it caught national attention last cycle.

The Democratic establishment backed Honda — including President Obama, who sided with the incumbent over his former Commerce Department official. Large donors in the tech industry supported Khanna.  

Khanna argues the district is not being properly served, and that he will provide “change and fresh thinking in Washington.”

Khanna has faced accusations of carpetbagging after previously considering a run in an alternate district before settling on the Honda race. But San Jose State University political science professor Melinda Jackson says it hasn’t turned voters away from him.

“I don't think that has hurt him too much with voters,” said Jackson, who helped pose questions to the candidates at a debate last year. “And I don't think that criticism that he is just perpetually campaigning will be very effective, because after all, members of Congress are campaigning all the time anyway.”

Khanna in this cycle is looking to appeal to more centrist independents, as well as younger Democrats. He is also proving his fundraising power within the technology industry. 

Last cycle, he was the second largest recipient of campaign cash from the Internet industry, ranking only behind Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

His campaign raised about $800,000 in the first three months this year compared to Honda's $258,000. More than 80 percent of Khanna's donations came in the maximum amount of $2,700, with a number of those checks coming from high-profile venture capitalists and executives at companies like Google, Microsoft, DropBox and Yahoo.

The campaign says much of the haul came after a February video appeared to show Honda dozing off on the House floor.

Honda's campaign has said it would “aggressively” remind voters of those large financial backers. If Khanna wins, Honda's campaign asserts, it will be at the “cost to the great many members of our community who have been excluded from the tech boom and are struggling to provide for their families.”