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February 5, 2016

Republican Could Help Honda in Ultimate California House Primary

A little-known Republican could bust attorney Ro Khanna’s well-funded quest to defeat another Democrat, longtime Rep. Michael M. Honda, in a Silicon Valley-based House district.

The two California Democrats are facing off in one of the cycle’s most competitive and expensive intraparty House contests of the cycle. Khanna has raised more than $3.2 million for the race to date, with $2 million in the bank. That number dwarfs the $622,000 that seven-term lawmaker Honda had on hand at the end of last year.

Despite Khanna’s financial assets, Republican Vanila Singh, an anesthesiologist, could serve as a spoiler for the Democratic newcomer in the June 3 primary. In the Golden State, the top two vote recipients in the primary proceed to the general election, regardless of party. Until recently, most California Democrats believed Honda and Khanna would fight a protracted battle until November.

“The path for Ro Khanna becomes harder running against a popular Democrat and an establishment Republican who’s going to get 20-some percent in the primary,” a California Democratic operative told CQ Roll Call. “What’s left of pie for him to try and get second place?”

The 17th District is strong Democratic territory. Last cycle, President Barack Obama won the district with 72 percent, and Honda performed about one point better than he did. Still, even in this district, Khanna must now battle for second place — probably around 30 percent of the vote.

To be sure, Khanna will have the resources to make his case to voters. But instead of having 11 months to make that argument, Khanna now has less than five months to convince Democratic primary voters to pick him over Honda.

It’s worth noting as well that Khanna’s path would clear if another Republican entered the race and split the GOP vote in the top two primary. Candidates have until March 7 to file paperwork to appear on the ballot.

California’s 17th District is rated a Safe Democratic contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

  • Jim Reilley

    Piranha Khanna trying to steal a seat from a sitting Rep gets his karma due.
    He is not even a Dem. The Silicon Valley GOP Techies try to masqerade as Dems in CA because they know the GOP cant win the vote, but dont be mislead or fooled = anyone/anything coming out of Silicon Valley nowadays is bright red GOP.
    The techies may make cool gadets but they are not your friends and their politics SUCK.

  • Crazy_Like_A_Fox

    This is exactly the same scenario as the Pete Stark/Eric Swalwell race. It’s a
    mistake to think that Honda will get more than 50% of the primary vote or all
    Democrats’ votes. There are two strong Democrats in this race — Khanna and
    Honda. They’ll split Democrats, and Ro will also get more support from declined
    to state voters. It’s unlikely a Republican would make it past the primary in
    this district at all where only about 20% are Republicans. Also, Singh registered as a Republican one day before she filed her candidacy papers with the FEC, so she is hardly a GOP establishment candidate.

  • DanvilleDemocrat

    Not quite a redux of Pete Stark versus Eric Swalwell . . . although #CA17 gave Barack Obama more support than #CA15, #CA17 actually trends a little more conservative than #CA15 thanks to a high concentration of decline-to-state voters as well as Asian Americans.

    If Vanila Singh receives even just 25% of the vote, Mike Honda need only nab 51% to keep Ro Khanna out of the November general election. With Honda employing the same team that reelected Jerry McNerney in 2010 and 2012, I wager Honda “wins” outright in June when Ro fails to make the runoff.

  • Jeff Smith

    This is the definition of an inside the beltway creation. There isn’t any sound investigation other than one BLIND quote from an “operative” who almost certainly has had dealings with Honda in the past. There’s a reason no one is saying this in the Bay Area.

  • Roberta Crichton

    Common illusions conjured up by those attempting to impose centralized control include “social justice” and stopping “global warming”.

  • Mary Shine

    California makes it really easy for people to file. There could be more people planning to jump in already, who we just haven’t heard about. That means that more Republicans could split Singh’s vote, putting Honda and Khanna as the clear frontrunners.


    The great thing about the new primary system is is that someone who works hard to get to know the district and talks to voters directly can appeal to people in the middle and get broad support. Very different than the old system where the base decided primaries in both parties. Often, .I read about some event where Ro’s campaign has been or him actually walking neighborhoods meeting voters face to face. Huge amount of activity at this stage of campaign.

  • One Thirsty Bear

    Since our intellect adapted upon a framework of customs, traditions, and morality, it is less important than the lattice upon which it grew.

  • LZ126

    Not quite a redux of the Stark/Swalwell race. Swalwell was a locally-elected official with a nice-guy image while Stark started the race with a huge personality deficit. And recall how well the GOP candidate fared, vis-a-vis the district’s registered Republicans – I suspect many of them cast their votes for the only viable alternative to Stark. Honda, on the other hand, is similarly seen as a nice guy and doesn’t engender the same level of voter outrage that drives people to vote for “the other guy” regardless of party affiliation.

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