The results from last week’s June primary showed signs that 17th Congressional District Rep. Ro Khanna is winning over the progressive loyalists of his predecessor, Mike Honda, whom he defeated in a highly contentious race less than two years ago.
But Khanna’s congressional district director, making a quick appearance before the Fremont City Council Tuesday night, poked at the scab thought to be healing in the Fremont-South Bay district by alluding to Honda’s past House ethics investigation from 2015.
The investigation into whether Honda’s congressional staff commingled their official duties with the 2014 re-election campaign was the core issue behind Khanna’s upset victory in November 2016.
District Director Chris Moylan, a former Sunnyvale councilmember, addressed the Fremont City Council to explain why some constituents at Khanna’s June 2 town hall in their city were not allowed to discuss the ongoing controversy between teachers and parents upset with Fremont school board president Yang Shao an his behavior toward the teachers’ union and his vote against sex education for fourth to sixth graders.
One speaker asked Khanna to withdraw his endorsement of Shao’s upcoming campaign for the Fremont City Council. Khanna sidestepped the issue, and Shao, who attended the town hall, made a short statement.
But congressional town halls, like the event earlier this month, are relegated to questions only pertaining to House business, said Moylan. Discussing campaign-related topics could be a violation of House ethics, he added, before delivering a jab at Honda.
“We’re not interested in stifling conversation, but we are interested in staying on the right side of congressional ethics rules because as we’ve already seen in this district, you can get in trouble if you don’t follow them,” said Moylan.
Because Honda was unseated, his ethics investigation was never completed. However, without the cloud of an ethics investigation hanging over Honda during his entire 2016 re-election campaign–and Khanna’s almost daily references to it–the presence of potential wrongdoing went a long way toward Khanna ultimately winning the race.
Perhaps more vexing for Honda loyalists to hear a Khanna aide reference the investigation is that the origins of the alleged ethics violation may have resulted from the hacking of Honda’s campaign data by a man who later became Khanna’s campaign manager, despite not possessing qualifications to run such a high-profile congressional campaign,
When Moylan concluded his remarks during public comment Tuesday night, a portion of any council meeting that is reserved for items not appearing on the agenda and typically without a response from councilmembers, he asked elected officials if they had any questions.
“That would violate our ethics,” said Fremont Mayor Lily Mei, with a grin.