Mike Honda: Sometimes you’re a leader,
sometimes you’re a shadow warrior.

CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | Rep. Mike Honda described his legislative style in Congress during an interview with KCBS last Friday. “Sometimes you have be a leader, sometimes you have to be a shadow warrior,” said Honda in response to criticism from his Democratic rival Ro Khanna.

Aside from the colorful quote, Honda’s comments to the radio station show for the first time in this campaign a sense he is willing to put up a fight to regain his seat next November. In fact, Honda used a variation of President Ronald Reagan’s famous 1984 comeback to Walter Mondale’s contention that Reagan was too old for the job. Honda said anybody can run for Congress if they are old enough. “I’m not going to use my age as a stick over his head.” During the 1984 presidential debate, Reagan quipped, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Conversely, Honda’s comments might sound eerily familiar to voters in the nearby 15th Congressional District, who two years ago heard nearly the same rhetoric from former Rep. Pete Stark. Eric Swalwell, like Khanna this campaign, parried their argument for youthful change with innuendo their incumbent opponent’s age had become a hindrance to effectively representing the district. Swalwell lost the June primary, but went on to win the general election.

Honda, like Stark before him, argues knowing the intricacies of Congress is more important than having a younger, inexperienced congressmember at the controls. The main difference, though, is Stark resorted to belittling Swalwell. At one public forum, Stark called Swalwell a bush leaguer, and later the campaign sent voters a mailer depicting Swalwell as a tee ball player. In Honda’s primary race, the incumbent has managed to stay above the fray in his public comments.