Rep. Mike Honda out-raised his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, in the year's second quarter and has considerably more money to start their general-election showdown, according to Federal Election Commission reports filed Tuesday.
So Honda, a San Jose Democrat, begins the general-election race with a big primary win, an edge in money over a challenger who once posted record-breaking fundraising figures, the name recognition of seven terms in office and the bully pulpit of incumbency.
Khanna aired several television ads before the primary. Honda, who beat him by 20 percentage points, has yet to go on the air.
Honda raised more than $522,000 and spent almost $543,000 from April 1 through June 30, leaving him with about $1.06 million at mid-year.
Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont, raised about $338,000 during that time but spent a whopping $1.5 million -- about half his total since his campaign began. That left him, after accounting for debts still owed, with $629,000 as of June 30.
Honda got 48.2 percent of the vote in last month's primary election ,while Khanna got 28 percent; two Republican candidates were eliminated.
"Ro Khanna had such trouble gaining traction with the voters that he felt the need to squander more than $3.3 million just to lose the primary," Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said Tuesday. "If he couldn't lose by less than 20 points while he was outspending us three-to-one, what hope does Khanna have now that his debt-ridden campaign is on life support?"
Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan, however, said only two numbers matter right now: 50 and 202.
"That's because a majority of Ro's donations were under $50, while Rep. Honda doubled down on his 202 area code fundraising amongst Washington special interests," Cowan said. "Understandably, the Honda campaign is eager to change the story after burning well over a million dollars and relying on desperate false attacks just to lose a majority of the vote. It's become clearer than ever that voters will be supporting change in November, just as they did in the primary."
But Larry Gerston, a San Jose State University professor and political expert, said Khanna's "window of opportunity is getting narrower and narrower."
With youthful vigor, a good resume, a lot of money and a district redrawn only three years ago, Khanna "had some arrows in his quiver early on, but none of those arrows at this point have been able to hit the target," he said. "The challenger has to prove that there's something palpably wrong with the incumbent, something that is a glaring deficiency. People will say lots of things about Mike Honda, but very few people point to glaring deficiencies."
Khanna broke records by raising $1.2 million in the last quarter of 2011, back when people thought he would run to succeed Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in the 15th Congressional District. But Stark decided not to retire and Khanna refused to challenge him in 2012; Stark was then unseated by Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton.
After Khanna turned his attention to the 17th Congressional District and announced his candidacy in April 2013, he outstripped Honda in fundraising in each of 2013's quarters; by last year's end, he had $1.97 million in the bank to Honda's $622,000. But Honda out-raised Khanna in this year's first quarter and now again in the second.
Still, Gerston said, don't count Khanna out.
"He is persistent, he will do well in the debate or debates that they have, and he has a following of true believers," Gerston said. "But the challenge grows greater as the time grows shorter."