After 16 years in the House of Representatives, civil rights advocate Mike Honda’s last official day in Congress is today.
The Democrat has represented the Silicon Valley in California since 2000, but lost by 52,000 votes 61 to 39 percent to Ro Khanna. Honda was hurt by the yet to be completed ethics probe into the alleged use of tax payer staff to campaign for him in 2014. Khanna also successfully painted Honda as out of touch with his district.
The outgoing incumbent is known for his laid back persona, often seen sporting an Hawaiian shirt rather than the customary sports coat and tie.
He has no regrets, admitting to the SF Chronicle he knew he was in trouble after narrowly defeating Khanna in 2014.
“If you had told me then that I’d spend 16 years in Congress, I’d have asked you what you were smoking,” he said.
Honda rose through the ranks of politics and spent 10 years on the planning commission before being elected to the School Board and then the County Board of Supervisors before a successful run in Congress.
Besides the obligatory fishing, Honda, 75, says he plans to spend his years away from Congress working on educational issues and to increase awareness of hepatitis B, a liver disease afflicting many Asian Americans.
Honda’s devotion to public service was influenced by his years as a child imprisoned in an incarceration camp for Japanese Americans, Amache in Colorado. This while his father battled the Japanese in the U.S. Military Intelligence Service.
He’s been at the forefront of the LGBT rights movement, outspoken on behalf of Comfort Women forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese military and strongly against the Muslim registry advocated by President-elect Donald Trump.
He is the former chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and an advocate of the Affordable Care Act.
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