Rep. Mike Honda speaks at his campaign office.
Rep. Mike Honda speaks at his campaign office.

Rafu Staff Report

SAN JOSE — Following a contentious campaign, Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) has apparently survived a challenge by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna in Tuesday’s election.

As of Thursday evening, Honda had 47,889 votes (52.2 percent) to Khanna’s 43,843 (47.8 percent).

“With the information available it appears that the voters have made their decision to keep Congressman Honda as their representative in recognition of his work delivering for the district,” Honda spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan told The San Jose Mercury News. “However, we respect the work of the county elections departments in Alameda and Santa Clara and will wait to find out how many votes remain to be counted before making an announcement about the results.”

Honda said that his election-night party at Zahir’s Bistro in Milpitas was “a celebration of all our hard work and the achievement of our thousands of volunteers and supporters.”

Khanna, who held his election-night party at his Santa Clara headquarters, has refused to concede, saying in a Facebook post on Wednesday, “There are still over 40,000 votes outstanding that need to be counted, and we probably won’t know the exact outcome of this race for several more days.”

He added, “This race is one of the most competitive in the state. It’s thanks to our grassroots volunteers. They made more than 700,000 calls and door knocks. Their passion for change reached across #CA17 [the 17th Congressional District].”

San Jose Mercury News columnist Scott Herhold predicted that Honda will win but that Khanna has gained enough credibility to try again in 2016.

Following the June primary, in which there were also two Republican candidates, Honda received 48.6 percent of the vote and Khanna 27.1 percent. The “top-two” system put them in the runoff even though they are from the same party.

Honda, 73, previously a state assemblyman, has been in office since 2001 and currently represents the 17th Congressional District, which covers Santa Clara County and southern Alameda County, including part of San Jose and the cities of Cupertino, Fremont, Milpitas, Newark, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.

Khanna, 38, works at the Silicon Valley law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, is a visiting lecturer in the Department of Economics at Stanford University and an adjunct professor at Santa Clara Law School, and served as deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Khanna argued that the district needs a younger, more tech-minded representative rather than someone who is out of touch with Silicon Valley, while Honda, who was interned as an infant during World War II and has been an elected or appointed official since 1971, emphasized his experience and Washington connections.

In a recorded message that the Honda campaign sent to district voters by phone, Michelle Obama said, “I’m calling because Barack and I are counting on you to support Mike Honda and the Democratic ticket this Nov. 4. In an election this close, your vote is more important than ever before. We can’t risk having more out-of-touch folks coming to Congress, just because a handful of Democratic voters stayed home.

“Your vote for Mike Honda will make a real difference in supporting our president. And it will help us create good jobs, guarantee equal pay for women, and build better schools for all our children.”

Honda’s endorsers included Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, Gov. Jerry Brown, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, State Controller John Chiang, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, as well as the California Democratic Party, California Federation of Teachers, League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club and United Farm Workers.

Khanna’s backers included Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Controller Steve Westly, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, The San Jose Mercury News, The San Francisco Chronicle, author Deepak Chopra, and technology leaders from Tesla Motors, Dropbox,, Hewlett Packard, Genentech, Ebay, Intuit, Twitter, Yahoo, Google, Shutterfly, YouNoodle, Flipboard, Adobe, Zynga, Facebook, Vodafone, Microsoft and Oracle, among many others.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in June that local Indian American leaders were outraged by an attack mailer that said, “Don’t let Ro Khanna outsource our jobs,” which was seen as a reference to Khanna’s Indian American background. Honda’s campaign responded that it had nothing to do with the mailer, which came from an independent expenditure group called Working for Us.

During the primary campaign, the PAC was also accused of funding mailers supporting Republican candidate Vanila Singh in order to dilute the Indian American vote.

Last month, Honda’s campaign criticized Khanna’s campaign for sending out a mailer with the headline “Mike Honda: Old-School Liberal.” “As the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, it’s obvious to me that Ro Khanna is campaigning like a Republican,” said former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. “Real Democrats don’t use ‘liberal’ as an epithet or attack fellow Democrats for standing up for progressive values like making sure the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.”

Ro Khanna
Ro Khanna

California Congressional Results

With one possible exception, Asian American incumbents retained their seats in other congressional elections around the state.

• 6th Congressional District: Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) received 66,679 votes (72.0 percent) to Republican Joseph McCray Sr.’s 25,958 (28.0 percent). Matsui has been in office since 2005, when she was elected to replace her late husband, Rep. Robert Matsui.

Rep. Mark Takano
Rep. Mark Takano

• 7th Congressional District: Rep. Ami Bera (D-Rancho Cordova) was trailing his Republican challenger, former Rep. Doug Ose, 62,432 (49.1 percent) to 64,615 (50.9 percent), but has not conceded. Elected in 2012, Bera is the only Indian American in Congress.

• 11th Congressional District (Contra Costa County): State Sen. Mark Desaulnier (D-Concord) easily beat Republican Tue Phan, a retired judge of the San Francisco Immigration Court, 70,947 (66.2 percent) to 36,276 (33.8 percent).

• 27th Congressional District: Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) was returned to office, receiving 57,819 votes (58.3 percent) to Republican Jack Orswell’s 41,309 (41.7 percent). First elected in 2009, Chu is chairperson of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

• 33rd Congressional District: In the race to replace outgoing Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) received 79,708 votes (58.4 percent) to Republican prosecutor Elan Carr’s 56,854 (41.6 percent).

• 41st Congressional District: Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) kept his seat by garnering 32,960 votes (55.1 percent) to 26,841 (44.9 percent) for Republican Steve Adams, a Riverside city councilman. First elected in 2012, Takano served on the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees.

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