CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | A Santa Clara County activist’s praise for Ro Khanna’s help in avoiding a newly built public library from becoming an embarrassing white elephant, may represent the campaign utilizing a bit of sleight of hand to attract Republican voters in November.
For some, the story of the Northside Library in Santa Clara is essentially rooted in anti-government rhetoric. Almost one year ago, the completed library sat idle as bureaucrats in Sacramento figured out how to fund its future operation. The library had previously used redevelopment funds for its construction, but that method of financing public projects had since gone by the wayside as part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to reorganize the state budget.
Kathy Watanabe, a local activist who pushed for the library’s construction and its opening, wrote on Khanna’s campaign site on Friday, “We were using redevelopment funds to help pay for the library’s construction, but the state was cinching down on their use as part of overreaching budget cuts. We stopped construction as requested, but the Foundation went into advocacy mode on behalf of the library,” she wrote. “Our goal was to cut through the red tape that was holding our library hostage. After all, construction was already nearly completed. If we didn’t fight for it, the building would go to waste instead of being a resource for our community.” According to Watanabe, Honda did not lend much support to aid the library-backers cause, but Khanna’s campaign did.
It’s important to note, the Northside Library issue nearly emboldened Republican Peter Kuo, a Santa Clara resident who lives near the library, to challenge Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District. He, instead, chose to run for the 10th State Senate District and will face Democrat Bob Wieckowski in the fall.
Although many Democrats would lament any library sitting unused, there is a political dog whistle being blown here. The Northside Library issue not only implies an affront to children and their education, but screams government–locally or nationally–is broken. That typically isn’t a progressive mantra. It may be a moderate’s cry, but it is certainly emblazoned on every t-shirt being sold at your local conservative powwow.
Following Khanna’s 21-point drubbing on June 3, the campaign desperately needs to figure out a new calculus for winning in November. Conservatives made up almost one-quarter of the voters earlier this month. However, accusations by Republican Vanila Singh and the Alameda County GOP that Khanna tried to manipulate the composition of the primary race with conservative ringers, bred deep dislike for his campaign. He has to be betting GOP voters will not view him as the interloper in conservative affairs that Singh continually asserted. Whether Khanna is the more palatable Democrat over the progressive Honda for Republicans might ignite by reminding them about the brand new library that local elected officials representing the status quo couldn’t quite open for business.