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 …
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.
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.