Over a year ago, news reports and various pundits attached words like “epic” and “grudge match” to the 17th Congressional District race between Rep. Mike Honda and Ro Khanna. On the heels of Eric Swalwell’s intra-party upset of Pete Stark and a vastly superior campaign war chest, the early romance with Khanna appeared warranted. Then the June primary happened and Honda’s 21-point win silenced nearly all the hype surrounding the race. Meanwhile, Khanna’s well-publicized political consultant Jeremy Bird continues to cash his pay check while employing nearly the exact playbook that fell flat in the primary. The question now becomes, after spending nearly $3 million during this campaign, is Khanna being fleeced by his rock star political consultant?
Through June 2014, Bird’s 270 Strategies has excised nearly $175,000 from Khanna’s campaign coffers. Of course, Bird comes with a high price tag. He was part of President Obama’s dazzling re-election engine. Time and other publications trumpeted Bird’s plan to scale down the same high-tech outreach campaign used to beat Mitt Romney and prove it could be used in local congressional races. The narrative sounded good in 2013, but voters apparently weren’t buying what is essentially a strategy heavily-borrowed from Swalwell’s 2012 campaign only with bundles of money.
Last spring, Khanna attempted to tap into the local Bay Area media’s thirst for knocking progressives off their perch. Like with Stark in 2012, the media pounded away at Honda’s disinterest in facing Khanna in debates. When that didn’t work, some editorial boards shaded their criticism of Honda with ageism. However, Khanna’s team neglected a major part of why Swalwell’s strategy was effective and why it doesn’t work on Honda. A series of flub by Stark and a propensity for worsening his bad boy image turned off many voters. Honda has no such reputation. This criticism towards Khanna’s primary campaign has been charged by others in recent months, so, why is Bird recycling it again in the general election?
Once again, voters are hearing about the “Great Debate Debate” in the local media, except nobody is really paying much attention. Another meme is Honda’s camp is running scared by not debating Khanna. But, what kind of winning strategy is predicated on getting the incumbent to have a debate with you? What exactly is going to occur at this debate that is going to make it a race? This sort of investment does not appear sound. Most likely, Honda will try to get-in and get-out of the debate without any damages and the odds say this is a good bet. So, what’s Khanna’s next better move?
In addition, Khanna again seems uncomfortable over how far to the right he needs to go without alienating liberals. An off shoot of this uncertainty may be the connections Khanna has made with two Republicans, in particular, both of whom might be described as the “crazy Republican grandpa.” First, there was Joel VanLandingham, who may or may not have conspired with Khanna to dilute the primary field, and now this ill-advised link to former Rep. Ernie Konnyu. Furthermore, the New Yorker profile last week on the November race is almost a facsimile to the Time piece last year, but fails to take into account how the June results completely reshaped the race. Pitching a profile in the New York media works in a national race, not one taking place on the other side of the continent.
Meanwhile, we hear nothing of this secret predictive model contraption Bird claims have at his fingertips. Is it no more than a simple notetaking phone app or just high-tech snake oil? It’s hard to say if you presume Bird calculated the effects of receiving the endorsement last week of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, the arch enemy of working people, and after a few boop boop beeps, it spit out an electoral scenario in the South Bay of 50 percent plus 1. Instead of Bird’s help in spending $3 million, Khanna could have been better served by renting a ramshackle office on El Camino Real, spending a 100,000 on the primary and still won as money votes as he did in June.
POLITICAL PORN Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski’s revenge porn bill breezed through the State Senate this week. The legislation allows those who have had pornographic images of themselves uploaded to the Internet without consent to file lawsuits against the perpetrators while using a pseudonym. The irony is rampant rumors in Sacramento earlier this year spoke of a sex tape involving Wieckowski. Some contend the rumor was started by surrogates for Mary Hayashi, who opposed Wieckowski in the primary race for the 10th State Senate District. However, the timing of the bill seemed odd to many–almost as if Wieckowski was attempting to send a warning to the rumored holders of the tape. Whether the rumor is true or not was taken to another level when it was Wieckowski who may have been inadvertently spreading the rumor around the Capitol. Recall, he oddly mentioned the rumors on his own during an endorsement meeting with the California Teachers Association.
WORST ANSWER EVER While on the subject of endorsement meetings, here’s likely one of the worst responses to the stock question of “Why are you running for mayor?” A few months back, the San Leandro Police Officers Association interviewed Councilmember Pauline Cutter for the union’s mayoral endorsement. The seat is unexpectedly open after Mayor Stephen Cassidy announced earlier he would not seek re-election after one term. Fellow Councilmember Diana Souza is also running for mayor this fall. But, when the POA asked why Cutter is running for mayor, she answered, because Stephen Cassidy told me to. You could say that response was a little too honest, but Cutter was already a long shot to win the important endorsement because of her allegiance to Cassidy. The POA has disliked Cassidy for his stance on public employee pension from even before he was elected mayor in 2010. In the end, Souza received the endorsement and to show how valuable she believes law enforcement is to her chances in November, the endorsement is prominently displayed on all her campaign materials and web site.
|Dan Siegel: 49ers expert?|
HERE AND THERE At a town hall in San Lorenzo, Rep. Eric Swalwell boldly declared, “I am a progressive,” after repeatedly telling the crowd he was more than willing to work with House Republicans…Rep. Mike Honda says he will indeed debate Ro Khanna (once) before Election Day on Nov. 3, but the real deadline is the first week of October when vote-by-mail ballots go out…Oakland mayoral candidate Courtney Ruby has not been successful in receiving much ink from the press, but the Oakland City Auditor and her plausible description as being a reformer may resonate with many voters. Ruby might not be a contender to win, but she may be a dark horse who performs better than expected…Dan Siegel said during a candidate forum last week he does not support using public finances for new stadiums in Oakland. However, he’s surely a sports fan and an expert on the San Francisco 49ers. Siegel wrote a season preview on the South Bay team for the Ultimate Sports Guide. Siegel says the 49ers defensive line will be it most improved unit. Former Mayor Shelia Young also penned a golf profile for the same publication.