Rep. Mike Honda and Ro Khanna are two of six candidates in the June congressional primary in District 17. Other candidates include Republicans Ron Cohen, Peter Kuo; Libertarian Kennita Watson; and San Jose Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio, also a Democrat.

MEET THE CANDIDATES Everybody knows Rep. Mike Honda, the jovial, grandfatherly representative that sings karaoke in Spanish. By now, almost as many know Ro Khanna, the ambitious, young gun backed by Silicon Valley hotshots and who was once appointed to the U.S. Commerce Department by President Obama. Honda is one of the most progressive member of the entire Congress and for this June primary, he’s been highlighting this description. Being an election year, Honda has also been raising his profile in Washington and locally. Honda has also been at the forefront of transgender rights. He is the grandfather of a transgender child. Two years ago. Khanna often seemed like he was running a U.S. Senate campaign two years ago, speaking in soaring almost highfalutin terms. He’s been rectifying that perception this time around with a more locally-focused campaign. For instance, Khanna has weighed-in on local issues like the foul-smelling garbage dump near San Jose. Like their first meeting, Khanna holds the money advantage and he’s already showing that he will spend it much differently this time around. A short online campaign video succeeded in showing a cooler side of Khanna, but it also recycled some clips from two years. Alternative message: Khanna is saving his money for the fall.

Two years ago, this race had a single strong Republican named Vanila Singh. This time around, it has two that may only equal her portion of the conservative electorate. Fremont certified public accountant Ron Cohen could have possibly earned Singh’s 17 percent, using a mixture of rock-solid, fiscally-conservative ideas and a knack for attracting media coverage. Cohen strongly backed Donald Trump to great effect, for instance. Santa Clara businessman Peter Kuo, however, entered the race and will likely split the conservative vote. Kuo, who advanced to the 2014 General Election in the 10th Sate Senate District and lost, has a following in the district’s large Asian American communities. He also benefited from more than $20,000 in support from California conservative sugar daddy Charles Munger, Jr.’s independent expenditure committee. Also in the race is termed out San Jose Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio, also a Democrat. Known as an avowed contrarian, Oliverio showed strong contempt toward Khanna during the one-and-only candidate’s forum in  early May. Oliverio was highly critical of Khanna’s lack of experience. The sixth member of the race is Libertarian Party candidate Kennita Watson.


WHAT’S THE BEEF? If a legitimately contentious issue exists in this current campaign, it should be demanded to show itself now. In the meantime, the race in the 17th District is suffering from an identity crisis. Honda appears willing to ride out the ethics scandal and Khanna seems intent on lobbying unsuspecting reporters to describe a menacing cloud of uncertainty hovering over Honda’s campaign due to the on-going investigation. And, oh yeah, President Obama isn’t endorsing Honda this year. In fact, Obama is backing neither candidate, so far. Meanwhile, Honda has continued to label Khanna in broad conservative strokes, even though he’s a Democrat.. The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership favored by Obama seemed like a potential debate in this race, but, alas, both Honda and Khanna oppose the trade deal. Oh, well.

PAST RESULTS 2014 June Primary: 1. Mike Honda (D) 41,010 (48.5%) 2. Ro Khanna (D) 23,479 (25.9%) 3. Vanila Singh (R) 14,302 (16.9%) 4. Joel VanLandingham (R) 5,766 (6.8%).

2014 General Election: 1. Mike Honda (D) 68,502 (51.8%) 2. Ro Khanna (D) 63,720 (48.2%).

CAMPAIGN FINANCE (Through May 21): Khanna $1,580,241 cash on hand; Honda $766,300 cash on hand; Kuo $2,370 cash on hand.

OUTLOOK The dubious KPIX/SurveyUSA poll last week proved one thing: Honda-Khanna II is headed for a November rematch. But, we knew that already. Over the next few months, we’ll see at least one high-profile debate and a push for more by the Khanna campaign. One noticeable difference between this fall campaign and the last might be Honda’s campaign team. Michael Beckendorf, Honda’s campaign manager, seems to favor a very aggressive approach. Almost like a basketball team that prefers to run the fast-break at all times, whether the flow of game calls for it or not. Putting Khanna constantly on the defense might not be a bad idea. Conversely, Khanna no longer has the stable of corporate media outlets willing to trumpet his message on a daily basis. Carla Marinucci is at Politico and Josh Richman now works for Rep. Eric Swalwell. Meanwhile, despite the constant drone about Honda’s ethics investigation, absolutely nothing new has happened. But the key to the issue is when a determination is released. Most believe the ethics investigation will not be devastating, albeit not good for Honda. For Honda, the news hopefully comes early since the closer to the November election we get, the more difficulty his campaign will have to tamp down its negatives and the media frenzy.

PREDICTION 1. Honda 2. Khanna 3. Kuo 4. Cohen 5. Oliverio 6. Watson.