Honda-Khanna Rematch Spurs Dueling Spin on Fundraising

Ro Khanna, left, and Congressman Mike Honda at debate in October 2014.  (San Jose Mercury News )

The good news for South Bay Congressman Mike Honda: In the first three months of the year, he outraised his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, by about $6,000.

And the news that's not so great for the longtime incumbent? Overall, Khanna is still way ahead in total money raised, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Political analyst Larry Gerston said the money the two Democrats have left to spend -- the cash each has in the bank -- is the most important number to watch in the months ahead.

"At least for this quarter, they're keeping pace with each other," said Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University. "But what's left out of that equation is how much money they have left to spend. We look at the data, and it looks like Khanna has about two and a half times as much as Honda."


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Michael Beckendorf, Honda's campaign manager, said they will have the resources and support to win on Election Day.

"We're going to make sure we're doing what we need to do to get Mike elected," Beckendorf said.

The Khanna campaign quickly sent out a press release pointing out that Honda's fundraising is less than the $688,000 he raised in the first quarter of the 2014 race against Khanna. But Federal Election Commission's filings also highlight that Honda narrowed the campaign contribution gap since the last quarterly report of 2015, when Khanna had outraised Honda by a large margin.

When asked if the Honda campaign expects labor unions to contribute heavily in the months ahead, as they did in 2014, Beckendorf said the Alameda Labor Council and South Bay Labor Council know where Honda stands on issues affecting working-class families.

"Just as Mike has been there for middle-class families, labor knows Mike will be there for them," Beckendorf said.

He said the campaign makes it a policy not to disclose how much money will be spent on ads leading up to the June 7 primary. Under California's primary rules, the top two finishers in the June election will advance to the November election.

Earlier this year, Honda had to set up a legal defense fund because he is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee on allegations of mixing campaign and government business and improper favors like fast-tracking visas to top donors.

Gerston says Honda's incumbency gives him some advantages and that Khanna will need the extra cash he has to offset Honda's edge in the 17th Congressional District ,which includes all or part of Fremont, Newark, Milpitas, San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.

But Gerston adds that Khanna's in a much stronger position than he was in 2014, when he spent a lot of money before the primary and was left with too little for the November runoff.

"He doesn't need to spend money now like he did last time, because last time he was relatively new and unknown," Gerston said.

Khanna campaign manager Brian Parvizhahi said in 2014 that Khanna had 2 percent name recognition, but now is virtually certain to make it into the November election.t

"We spent too much, too early" in 2014, Parvizhahi said. "But now it looks like we will definitely make the top two."

The Khanna campaign is already sending out mailers, but Parvizhahi said most of the campaign money will be saved for going into the November general election.

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"We have also really ramped up our grassroots efforts and are getting more contributions from grassroots donors this election cycle," Parvizshahi said.

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