Rep. Mike Honda failed to gain two-thirds of
Berryessa-North San Jose Democratic Club 
members needed for its endorsement.

Ro Khanna’s seemingly perpetual upstart campaign to unseat Rep. Mike Honda may be gaining traction among some local grassroots Democratic clubs.

More precisely, there are signs in recent weeks that some of these groups which ultimately will register their support at the all-important Democratic Party pre-endorsement meeting next week, are rethinking their support for the incumbent Honda.

Recently, Khanna was able to gain a split endorsement from the Democratic Club of Sunnyvale. Then just this week, Honda failed to gain requisite amounts of support from two local groups typically aligned with the incumbent congressmember—the Fremont-based Tri-Cities Democratic Forum and the Berryessa-North San Jose Democratic Club. In each case, the clubs offered no-endorsements in the 17th Congressional District primary.

Ro Khanna addressing the Berryessa-North San
Jose Democratic Club Thursday night.

The decisions mean the club’s delegates won’t be allowed to vote at the Alameda County Democratic Party pre-endorsement meeting to be held in Oakland on Jan. 30. In addition, the smaller number of delegates next week could potentially aid Khanna in blocking the early pre-endorsement. Seventy percent of party delegates are needed for any candidate to win the pre-endorsement. For any Democratic candidate, the statewide party’s imprimatur is one of the most valuable endorsements available.

But, even if Khanna is able to force a no-endorsement next week, Honda’s campaign could still snag the endorsement at the convention, held this year in San Jose. This storyline occurred in 2014, when Ellen Corbett denied a pre-endorsement victory for Rep. Eric Swalwell in the 15th District. Using endorsement rules that no longer exist in the party’s bylaws, Swalwell was able to cobble together enough support to win the endorsement at the convention.

However, the optics of Honda fighting for the support of the party’s cognoscenti who have long supported him, would strongly bolster the narrative pushed by the Khanna campaign that grassroots support for Honda is quickly dwindling.

Following Thursday night’s Berryessa-North San Jose Democratic Club candidates forum, which also featured Honda and Republican candidate Ron Cohen, addressing the group separately, Khanna told the East Bay Citizen the recent votes are “shocking.”

“Combined with Sunnyvale’s endorsement and the Tri Cities Democratic Forum no-endorsement, it suggests party leaders are beginning to see change is coming. They’re warming up to me,” said Khanna.

Vedant Patel, political director for the Honda campaign, said there is no changing of the tide in the race toward Khanna. “The only thing changing here is the level of what our perpetual candidate opponent will do and say to get elected,” said Patel.

“In 2014 he decried the influence of PACs and lobbyists, but then sat back in approval when a Super PAC bankrolled by right wing corporate millionaires and billionaires failed to salvage his near bankrupt campaign. Now he claims to be ‘progressive’ while parroting right-wing talking points of calling Congressman Honda an ‘old school liberal.’ Party leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Zoe Lofgren, Chairman John Burton, Vice-Chair Eric Bauman aren’t buying Ro’s version of ‘change’ which is why they are standing shoulder to shoulder with Congressman Honda once again.”

Whether the small number of actually voting club members represents activist Democrats are indeed rethinking the race is debatable. In addition to the 23 who voted Thursday night, the Tri Cities Democratic Forum no-endorsement was decided by just 45 voting members.

“What does the voting tonight say about the race?” said Tim Orozco, president of the Berryessa-North San Jose Democratic Club and former San Jose City Council candidate. “What it says is both candidates are running robust campaigns that are resonating with all Democratic voters.”