CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | A South Bay conservative leader’s endorsement of Rep. Mike Honda may have been the impetus for a lengthy war of words between the communication directors of Honda’s campaign team and his counterpart on challenger Ro Khanna’s team—albeit in 140 characters or less.
Earlier in the day, Republican Jim Cunneen, who previously supported Honda’s primary opponent Vanila Singh, announced he is endorsing Honda, a Democrat, and urged other Republicans to do the same. Cunneen has some history with Honda. He challenged Honda for Congress in 2000 and served as President and CEO of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The endorsement may not carry much sway in terms of prominence, but it could serve a message that Republicans in the 17th Congressional District might be shifting toward Honda rather than Khanna, also a Democrat. Following a 21-point primary loss, Khanna’s road to closing the deficit in November rests with building upon a base of Democrats along with moderate and conservatives.
Hours after the announcement Wednesday, the trash talking began on Twitter. The official Khanna campaign Twitter account responded to news of the endorsement tweeted by a San Jose alt weekly. But, Honda’s campaign communication director Vivek Kembaiyan chimed in touting Cunneen’s kind words for the congressman which set off Khanna’s press secretary, Ty Law.
“By delivering, do you mean the post office @RepMikeHonda named? The only bill he has passed in 7 terms?” tweeted Law.
“ Shouldn’t be hard for you to understand, you’ve basically said the same thing yourself,” said Kembaiyan, who attached video of Khanna in 2013 praising Honda for his work in Congress. Kembaiyan then referenced Honda’s accomplishments including $900 million in federal grants for the BART extension to San Jose. “I could go on…” he said.
“Be honest, @RepMikeHonda has one of the lightest records of any 14 yr member, ever. What now that earmarks are are gone?” Law shot back.
“Earmarks not the same as appropriations. Be honest yourself-stop distorting @mikehonda17’s record,” said Kembaiyan.
“If your team was confident in @RepMikeHonda’s record, you’d let him debate frequently. Period. No record to defend,” tweeted Law. Then came the political equivalent of yelling, “scoreboard!”
“Look at primary results: voters confident in @mikehonda17’s record. Keep up the drumbeat on debates tho, it’s a proven winner,” said Kembaiyan. The exchange continued until others from Khanna’s campaign piled on. “Re: spin, here’s you trying to explain @RepMikeHonda’s penchant for sleeping on the job,” tweeted another Khanna staffer along with a link to an older San Francisco Chronicle posting asserting Honda fell asleep for 20 seconds during a meeting.
In the old days, professional wrestlers had “Mean” Gene Okerlund to use as a medium for trash talking, now we have Twitter. “Whatcha gonna do…!”