Dem vs. Dem for House seat in Silicon Valley

The newcomer challenging a longtime Democrat to represent Silicon Valley in the House is using his opponent’s time in Congress against him.

Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaMarkey fundraises ahead of Kennedy primary challenge The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes MORE, another Democrat and former Commerce Department official, repeatedly hammered Rep. Mike HondaMichael (Mike) Makoto HondaYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Ex-congressman launching PAC to defend Dem seats in 2020 Silicon Valley lawmaker backs Apple in terror case MORE (D-Calif.) on Monday evening for being stuck in the past and refusing to lead or compromise with lawmakers across the aisle.

ADVERTISEMENT

“My belief is in a Republican-controlled — unfortunately — Congress, we’re going to need somebody who is going to be able to influence that debate," Khanna said. 

“That’s what great democracies are about: somebody carries the ball and then they hand it off and somebody else goes and carries the ball,” he added.

Honda, 73, seeking is eighth term in the House, and has the support of virtually every major Democratic figure, including President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But Khanna, 38, has the backing of the district’s major tech executives, including Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. He’s also won the endorsement of the area’s leading newspapers, which have framed him as a young upstart ready to disrupt politics.

Honda easily won the June primary, but California’s system of voting has set the stage for a Democrat-on-Democrat matchup in November.

“I’m not burnt out,” Honda argued on Monday evening. “I think that the kinds of energy that I use to do the kind of work comes from a very deep-seated desire to make sure that this country does the right thing."

Honda ticked off the federal projects he’s brought back to his district during his time in Washington, including an extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) transit line, a local patent office and plans for new research centers.

Khanna, however, used that barrel of pork against him.

“I respect the congressman’s service in a world of earmarks,” he said. “Those no longer exist.”

He also criticized Honda’s response to revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA), which have become a key issue for tech companies. While Honda may have opposed the operations, he should have been out in front, Khanna argued.

“One of the... unfortunate things is that we didn’t have a congressperson from Silicon Valley speaking out, criticizing the president for the NSA’s mass surveillance,” argued Khanna, who has proposed an “Internet Bill of Rights” that would include freedom from “mass surveillance.”

The two agreed on the broad outlines of many major policy points. Both called for an increase in the minimum wage and demanded more visas for high-skilled immigrants.

Khanna, however, appeared more receptive to a adopting a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, a strategy that has been pushed by House Republicans. 

In recent weeks, Honda’s campaign has been embroiled in a controversy over leaked emails that seem to show his chief of staff coordinating on campaign activities during official hours and rewarding political donors with plum invitations to a State Department function.

The congressman on Monday said that he was “disappointed” in his chief of staff’s behavior, and said she did not meet his "high ethical standards."