During his speech before delegates voted Saturday night, Ro Khanna, who was beaten by Honda two years ago, predicted he would lose the endorsement battle, saying the voting process was rigged in Honda’s favor. He promised he would reform the process if elected.
“This is not democracy,” Khanna said.
Obama opts not to endorse
Honda, who got well over the 50 percent plus one needed for the party’s backing, was unhappy with the complaints.
“There are a lot of allegations (Khanna) has put out there over time,” Honda said. “It gets pretty tiring.”
There were also dirty tricks at work before the endorsement hearing. Unsigned flyers were placed on each delegate’s chair, describing Khanna as a Republican “puppet” and comparing him to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Vice President Dick Cheney and others. Honda’s campaign denied any involvement with the ads.
Honda’s endorsement was a welcome ray of light in what otherwise has been a grim, dark cloud over his re-election effort. Early fundraising problems, an ongoing congressional ethics investigation and decaying support have all made the campaign a whole lot tougher than it was supposed to be for someone in an ultra-safe Democrat district who has held political office for the past 35 years.
Honda, 74, received more bad news last week when President Obama, who gave him an early endorsement two years ago, declined to do the same this time around.
The president typically doesn’t endorse in contested Democratic primaries and so far this year has only given his support to Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. But that didn’t stop him from backing Honda early in 2014, and the Khanna campaign is already touting the switch as a sign of Honda’s weakness.
“The president withdrawing his past endorsement is the most glaring example in an ever-growing exodus of Democrats leaving Congressman Honda in the wake of his ethics scandal,” Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for Khanna, said in a statement.
With the state party’s endorsement now in hand, Honda said Saturday he would reach out to Obama to again ask for his endorsement.
Khanna builds support
A congressional report released last year suggested that Honda’s congressional aides had been improperly involved with his re-election campaign, a charge Honda denies. The House Committee on Ethics has not issued a ruling on the complaint.
For Khanna, a 39-year-old attorney and businessman, the current campaign is a continuation of his tight 2014 battle with Honda, which he lost 52 percent to 48 percent.
Within months of his defeat, he was raising money for a rematch, hoping to learn from the mistakes he made in his first run.
Unlike his last campaign, where Khanna counted on his ties with the Silicon Valley tech world to carry him to victory, he has spent more time talking with city officials in the district, learning about local problems and building support from people without electrical engineering degrees or stock options from startups.
But after that close race in 2014, there was no chance Honda would take Khanna lightly. Honda, who spent his early years in a U.S. Japanese internment camp, has raised his political profile dramatically in the past two years, talking about what he’s done for the district and the community during his years in office.