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Epic Dem-on-Dem Battle in Silicon Valley: Ro Khanna to Challenge Mike Honda

Ro Khanna & Jeremy Bird EventFormer Obama official looks to challenge longtime Congressman

by Brian Leubitz

One of the positive aspects of term limits is that some of the more personal, intraparty battles are avoided. But you don't have that with Congress, and Congress has been Ro Khanna's target for a while now. Khanna, an intellectual property attorney, was a deputy assistant secretary of Commerce in the first Obama administration. Apparently he didn't want to wait to take a crack at the 17th District.

Khanna will announce his candidacy Tuesday. The race offers the Bay Area -- long known for glacial turnover among entrenched House Democrats -- its second consecutive high-profile dogfight picked by a young upstart. This time, there's the added dimension of two Asian-American Democrats facing off in the continental United States' first Asian-American majority district.(Josh Richman/BANG)

Two big points here. First, this is a vastly different campaign because of Top-2. Top-2 opens the race up to Republicans, making their voice far more important in the heavily Democratic district. Khanna actually ran in a partisan primary in 2004 against Tom Lantos (and lost badly). The question is now how he hopes to play this new system. Now, both will be good on the major social issues, but Khanna must define himself

The other thing is that this race is really quite different than Eric Swalwell defeating Pete Stark last year. Sure, it was the same kind of challenge of a "young upstart" versus a long-time Congressman. But, while Stark had his share of supporters, he also had a few detractors. On the other hand, it is hard to find anybody who will say a bad thing about Mike Honda. He hasn't created any enemies, and is still a pretty effective Congressman.

But perhaps the lesson to be learned from Swalwell's win is that you can't be patient. If you wrote up a list two years ago of potential replacements for Stark upon retirement, Swalwell would not have been very high. But by being proactive and using Top-2, he now has the power of incumbency over anybody else looking to take him on. (And there surely will be somebody to take him on.) Maybe Khanna thought this was actually his best shot, and that patience wasn't really a virtue in this circumstance.

However you look at it, Khanna has built a pretty impressive campaign team, full of some big name strategists from the Obama campaign, including Obama 2008 field director Jeremy Bird and well-known California pollster David Binder. Bird already did an event for Khanna (the picture to the right came from that event's Flickr set.)Honda, for his part, has a big list of endorsements including Democratic Leader Pelosi and President Obama.  

Looks like voters in the South Bay can expect a full blitz for their votes over the next eighteen months.

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