ELECTION16 | The Rep. Mike Honda-Ro Khanna rematch gets top-billing for many reasons. It’s a national story again highlighting the state’s open primary system pitting Democrat against Democrat. The rise of Khanna locally is also a potential game-changing shift in the power structure of South Alameda County and the South Bay in general.

Early on, Honda’s pending House ethics investigation is hanging darkly over his re-election chances. With over 200 days until the June primary, Honda’s supporters may be waiting for the other shoe to drop on allegations the duties of his congressional and campaign offices blurred into each other. Even if nothing of substance is ultimately derived from the investigation, it will still shade the entire race. It’s a main reason Roll Call named Honda to its 10 most vulnerable list last week.

Meanwhile, the Khanna storyline will likely mirror 2014 when he came less than four points from upsetting Honda. Khanna will outraise Honda (already has) while burnishing an image as the future of Silicon Valley in the Beltway. Khanna, though, has shifted this time around by paying far more attention to local issues, whereas a year ago it almost seemed like he was running a high-minded campaign for U.S. senator.

As far as the June primary is concerned, there’s almost no doubt the rematch will again advance to the November General Election. The key is how close Khanna can come to finishing first or even whether he can overtake Honda in June.

The latter scenario would have huge implications for Honda’s future. Donors might jump Honda’s ship and his strongest support, labor unions, could even downgrade its attention to the race.

Conversely, all attention will shift to Khanna and how he navigates a road he has never traversed—being the front runner.

1. Seventeenth Congressional District
2. Ninth State Senate District
3. Alameda County Board of Supervisors District Four
4. Hayward City Council
5. Sixteenth Assembly District