SAN JOSE -- Rep. Mike Honda's re-election campaign raised about $345,000 in this year's second quarter -- one third of what fellow Democrat and challenger Ro Khanna raised in the same three months.

The figures clearly sound a warning klaxon for Honda, D-San Jose, as he faces the first real fight of his congressional career. Honda's campaign says it had about $375,000 cash on hand as of June 30, while Khanna's campaign reported having $1.74 million -- more than four and a half times as much.

"I don't think Honda needed a wake-up call, but if he did, this certainly would be it," said Kyle Kondik, a congressional elections expert at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "But I'm not ready to say this is a tossup."

Honda, a 72-year-old seven-term congressman, is being challenged by Khanna, 36, in next June's "top-two" primary -- in which all candidates of all parties compete head-to-head, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the November general election regardless of party. The 17th District race is among the nation's most closely watched intraparty dogfights, pitting two Asian-Americans against each other in the continental United States' first majority Asian-American district, each trying to prove he's the better bet for Silicon Valley's tech economy and working families.


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Khanna, a former Obama administration official who lives in Fremont, announced Tuesday that from April 1 through June 30 he raised $1.03 million, a tremendous sum for a House race. He noted that all of his money came from almost 700 individuals and none from political action committees, and 91 percent of his contributions came from the Bay Area. Honda's campaign said no geographic breakdown of his contributions was available Wednesday.

Kondik called Khanna's sum "really, really impressive," but noted that many of the same people who contributed to him in the 2012 cycle -- when he raised $1.2 million in a single quarter but chose not to challenge Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont (who was later defeated by Democrat Eric Swalwell) -- might have given again in this quarter. "Being able to sustain a pace like that won't be easy to do, and my guess is that Honda will have plenty of money, too."

Honda's campaign Wednesday noted that more than 1,100 contributors gave to his campaign in the second quarter, with more than half giving sums under $100 -- earning they can give again before the election. The donation limit for House races is $5,200 per election cycle.

"He has strong grass-roots fundraising and local support from donors who can give repeatedly," Honda spokesman Dan Cohen said in a news release. "Looking ahead, Congressman Honda will continue to take his message to the community on how he is working to create jobs, improve schools, and partner with the tech community. This is a leader who listens and responds to local issues and is a strong voice for the people of Silicon Valley."

Cohen said Honda was unavailable for interviews Wednesday.

Even with more than 100 current and former local elected officials having joined Honda's already-overwhelming list of endorsers this week, the incumbent faces a battle in which his foe might have far more to spend on television, direct mail and online outreach.

Honda is likely to have at least one key campaign advantage over Khanna: boots on the ground to knock on doors and work the phones. With strong labor union and Democratic Party support, Honda starts with a bigger volunteer base to draw upon.

Ultimately, Kondik said, the race will come down to whether Khanna can make a compelling case for why he'd be a better congressman than Honda.

"If Khanna comes up with the right argument, it sounds like he's going to have all the money he's ever going to need to spread the message," Kondik said.

A battle between two progressive Democrats in which the differences are somewhat abstract is "far cry from some other primary challengers in other places who could say the incumbent has ethical problems or something like that," he said.

Josh Richman covers politics. Contact him at 510-208-6428. Follow him at Twitter.com/josh_richman. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.