Update, 6 p.m. Friday:  Ro Khanna concedes and wishes Mike Honda well as he returns to Washington.

“In a time when it is easy to be cynical about politics,” Khanna told reporters and supporters in Newark, “I am inspired by the passion that both campaigns have shown.”

He thanked his own volunteers, and those of Congressman Honda’s, even those who published barbed tweets. “The type of open debate and marketplace of ideas that this Congressional race fostered is precisely what makes our democracy strong and our nation competitive.”

Update,  11:05 a.m. Friday: Rep. Mike Honda held a news conference at his campaign office in Newark, declaring victory in his bid for re-election over rival Democrat Ro Khanna.

“Together we sent a message,” the seven-term congressman declared, “that the voters of this district value a lifetime of service to the community more than a lifetime of serving oneself.”

Khanna, a former trade official with the Obama administration and the Silicon Valley industry favorite, has not yet conceded. He was able to establish himself with voters thanks in large part to heavily publicized donations from tech titans, including Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Honda referred to that support in dark terms. “This election could not be bought! By super PACs and right-wing millionaires and billionaires. My opponent’s donors wasted more than $5,000,000 to try to replace my progressive voice with someone who would do their own bidding.”

Honda is now ahead by about more than 4 percentage points. The update in the vote count is expected today at 5 p.m. Ro Khanna is expected to speak about his prospects at 5:45 p.m. in Fremont.

Listen to Honda taking aim at Khanna and Big Tech here

Original post

With each passing day, more last-minute vote-by-mail and provisional ballots are counted. With each passing day, Rep. Mike Honda’s lead over Ro Khanna in the 17th Congressional District barely budges.

In Santa Clara County, Honda is leading 52.50 percent to Khanna’s 47.50 percent. The story’s not much different in Alameda County.

On the day after the election, the Khanna campaign issued an early-morning press release claiming it felt “confident Khanna will gain as late absentee ballots are counted.” The Honda campaign retorted: “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.”

“Given the tilt toward Honda,” says San Jose State Professor Larry Gerston, “Khanna’s climb becomes harder.”

It was a bitter, expensive race — a pitched battle by one Democrat to unseat another. Honda was hopeful but noncommittal at his campaign party, saying his team is better and stronger for facing a fierce challenge from Khanna.

“We touched base,” he said, “with our party and our friends. We made new friends. We created a larger family, and this larger family will be intact for in the future.”

That’s one way of putting it. The two candidates spent more than $7.3 million, landing the 17th Congressional District on the map for political pundits across the country, and on Open Secret’s list of Most Expensive Congressional Races in the United States.

The race pit a seven-term Democratic incumbent against another Democrat in the newly drawn 17th Congressional District. It includes cities like Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Cupertino. It’s home to major Silicon Valley firms like Apple, Intel, Yahoo and eBay. Khanna argued Silicon Valley needed a stronger advocate for its interests in Washington, D.C.

Internal polls showed the 38-year-old Khanna gaining in the final weeks of the campaign. He was certainly closer than his finish in the June primary, 20 points behind 73-year-old Honda. In an email to supporters, Khanna wrote, “When we started this campaign nearly two years ago, I was polling at just three percent. Now, they’re still counting the ballots. It’s that close.

“We’re sending a clear message that the honor of representing Silicon Valley is not an entitlement — it’s something that needs to be earned.”

Analysts say he’s proved that point, but add that Khanna picked a tough target. Honda has spent 14 years cultivating his ties with the community, one that includes more than tech companies and the people who work for them.

Honda’s election-night party was held at Zahir’s Bistro in Milpitas. Why this restaurant? Owner Zahir Quddus says he’s been a supporter since Honda first ran for Congress. “The way he present himself. The way he talk about people. He meant it real exactly what he say.”

Over in Santa Clara, the party for Khanna was boisterous, fueled by high spirits and an open bar. Groups of teenagers broke out into spontaneous dancing.  One told me she could imagine Khanna running for president one day.

Both campaigns were packed with young idealists. As fierce as this fight was, political science Professor Karthick Ramakrishnan of UC Riverside sees an upside: more political involvement by young people – and by Silicon Valley’s Indian community. Ramakrishnan can’t put numbers to it now, but he’ll know for sure in a few months, after parsing the voting rolls.

  • Honda irritated Japanese voters. It’s really time for him to go.

  • Last FM

    Sigh — “The way he present himself. The way he talk about people. He meant it real exactly what he say.” That is exactly what politicians do! Present themselves in a false positive light. Did the restaurant owner actually go look at Honda’s record and what he has [not] down in his 14 years in Congress? Actions count, not number of babies kissed.

  • Why is everyone ignoring the elephant in the room? That Mike Honda took Ro Khanna under his wing and helped him raise funds, and then when Khanna couldn’t find a district to run in he turned around and stabbed Mike in the back and ran against him? Honda is too much of a gentleman to bring that up. I was at a fundraiser for Khanna in Los Altos Hills on December 11, 2011 where Mike stood up and gave a passionate speech supporting Khanna.

    Why do you think some of Khanna’s donors wanted their money back?


    • Honda-Supporter

      Khanna is advancing Punjabi interests at the expense of Asian Americans & other Americans. Honda stands for all Asians and All Americans, not just Punjabis.

  • Nobodyspecial

    Khanna only advanced through the primary election by conspiring with a small group of corrupt Hindu temple supporters to field a fake republican candidate to dilute another candidate’s vote share. This is political slime at its worst and in the end, it got what it deserved.


Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow is KQED's South Bay arts reporter, covering arts and culture in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. She also guest hosts for  The California Report and Forum, files stories for NPR and hosts a podcast called Love in the Digital Age.

Her passion for public radio was born as an undergrad at the University of California at Berkeley, writing movie reviews for KALX-FM. After finishing one degree in English, she got another in journalism, landed a job at Marketplace in Los Angeles, and another at KPCC, before returning to the Bay Area to work at KQED.

She spent more than seven years hosting The California Report, and over the past 20 years has won a Peabody and three Edward R. Murrow Awards (one for covering the MTA Strike, her first assignment as a full-time reporter in 2000 as well as numerous other honors including from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television News Directors Association and the LA Press Club.
Follow @rachaelmyrow

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor