Ro Khanna, a Silicon Valley Democrat, announced Tuesday that he will run for Congress in 2014 against longtime incumbent Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The YouTube announcement by Khanna, a rising Democratic star, came as little surprise. He opened a campaign account in 2011, but declined to run in 2012. That campaign account has more than $1 million. Perhaps more important than money, Khanna has hired top operatives from President Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaign teams to run his own campaign.
Jeremy Bird, Obama's 2012 field director, will serve as Khanna's general campaign consultant, and Steve Spinner, an advisor to almost 50 tech startup companies and an Energy Department stimulus advisor who helped Obama as a fundraising bundler during the 2012 campaign, will be Khanna's campaign chairman, according to the Contra Costa Times.
IObama has already endorsed Honda, who has served in Congress since 2001, putting the president at odds with Bird and Spinner.
Khanna has hired a medley of other Obama campaign staffers, including Mark Beatty, deputy director of Obama's battleground states grassroots operation; Larry Grisolano, Obama's director of paid media; and five others who served in various capacities on Obama's presidential campaigns.
Khanna will run "a 21st-century campaign that takes the lessons learned from both the Obama campaigns," said Bird, according to the Contra Costa Times.
While Khanna has far more cash than Honda and a proven campaign team, he still may find it difficult to distinguish himself from popular congressman. Both Khanna and Honda are pro-abortion rights, pro-marriage equality candidates, but Khanna may be able to find separation on business issues.
Khanna, who served in the Obama administration himself as deputy assistant secretary of commerce from 2009 to 2011 and as an appointee to the White House Business Council, has roots in the tech industry that dominates Silicon Valley. A professor of economics at Stanford and law at Santa Clara University, Khanna said his time with the tech industry helps him know what will help the area to grow.
In addition to his own experience and the connections of some of his campaign staffers, Khanna released a book in July 2012 titled “Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key To America’s Future," which may help with his pro-business bonafides.
Khanna's appeal to business may help him win moderate Democrats and some Republicans. Honda has situated himself, the Contra Costa Times noted, as a champion for workers and has never been known for cuddling up to big business.
Polls show that Khanna has a lot of work ahead of him. A poll released in March commissioned by Honda from Lake Research Partners showed Honda with a commanding lead. Fifty-seven percent of those polled said they support Honda, while only 5 percent favored Khanna. Still, 86 percent said they had not heard of Khanna, which may give him a chance to make a good initial impression on voters.