By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent
(Note from Editor: AsAmNews continues its look at 2015 with updates and analysis on the top five most viewed stories of the year )
With the passing of Daniel Inouye in 2012, eight term congressional representative Mike Honda (D-Ca) is arguably the dean of Asian American politics.
News that he was under investigation by the Congressional Ethic Committee for suspicion of diverting tax payer resources to his campaign rocked the Asian American community and political establishment.
The story was the fourth most viewed on AsAmNews in 2015.
The investigation has forced Honda to devote time and resources away from his campaign to self preservation.
Shortly after the probe was announced, Honda hired two law firms and a public relations firm to defend himself.
The scandal may also be hurting him in his fundraising efforts as Ro Khanna has a campaign fund war chest twice as large as Mike Honda.
I say may be hurting him because the primary is still six months away, and frankly, Honda doesn’t really face a challenge in the primary. Under the open primary system in California, Honda and Khanna are all but guaranteed to advance to the general election in November. This was the same situation as in 2014 when Khanna shot out like a rabbit in fundraising early, but slowed before the November general election while Honda pretty much closed the gap.
Now that Khanna has greater name recognition, if he’s smart, he won’t spend all his money on the primary and save most of it for the general election.
How much will this probe hurt Honda? I came out early saying it wouldn’t hurt Honda with voters because it wasn’t the type of investigation that would capture voter attention.
But the number of views this story has attracted has forced me to give that question a second look.
“The ethics investigation of Mike Honda is simmering on the committee’s back burner,” said Larry Gerston, Political Science Professor at San Jose State University. “For the moment, it appears that little, if anything will emerge until the spring, if at all. Absent outright dismissal, that’s good news for Honda in that he won’t be weighed down by negative talk. If the committee moves forward with some kind of punishment later in the year, that could be good news for Khanna. The closer the negative outcome to the election, the greater the potential impact. The timing issue notwithstanding, the form of punishment–to the extent there is any–will also be important as a potential factor.”
Honda beat Khanna by just three percentage points the first time around. He would have been in for a dog fight even without the ethics probe.
To take momentum away from Khanna, Honda must hope the following happens. He needs to be cleared well before the general election and hopefully before the primary. If he isn’t cleared by then, he’ll need a real strong showing in the primary. Any indication of weakness will give big donors more reason to contribute to Khanna.
Now if the Ethic committee rules against Honda, all bets are off. The pressure could be so intense on Honda, he could be forced to resign. Long time political observers might remember when House Speaker Jim Wright resigned in 1989 after an ethics probe found that he skirted campaign finance laws.
If I were a betting man, I’d bet Honda pulls off a narrow victory in the primary. Unfortunately for him, that won’t be enough to fend off a strong November challenge from Khanna.
This race in the 17th Congressional District promises to be one of the most intriguing of the political season.
(Note from the Editor: This story has been updated from its original version with a comment from Larry Gerston)