SAN JOSE --The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce's political action committee endorsed Ro Khanna on Wednesday in his bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, a fellow Democrat.
Although Honda didn't seek the chamber's blessing, it's still a significant endorsement for Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont who has taken a "startup" approach to wooing voters in the heart of Silicon Valley, the only Asian-American majority House district outside Hawaii. The endorsement crystallizes the business community's support, already hinted at by the wide array of tech executives who have donated to Khanna's campaign.
Jim Reed, the chamber's vice president of public policy, said members of the chamber's PAC "looked at Ro and they saw the face of Silicon Valley: international, results-oriented, entrepreneurial, whip-smart."
"This is the perfect guy to represent our region," Reed said. "He's left-of-center on social issues, right-of-center on tech and business issues, and he's not afraid to make waves."
As for the seven-term incumbent, Reed said this "truly was a case of Ro winning the endorsement as opposed to Mike losing it. Ro's got so much going for him, and it was his vision, high-tech orientation and depth of knowledge that carried the day."
Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan, however, said Khanna "will do or say anything to get elected."
"It comes as no surprise that now that his campaign is in trouble, he's turning his back on his previous rejection of PACs in order to accept the endorsement of one that is known for its conservative positions like opposing San Jose's minimum-wage increase," Kembaiyan said. "Congressman Honda championed the successful minimum-wage increase in San Jose and is working to expand it nationwide. He did not seek the Chamber PAC's endorsement as its agenda does not reflect his values."
The chamber's PAC has not yet discussed giving Khanna money or other support beyond the endorsement, Reed said. Khanna raised far more than Honda for this election but spent most of it before June's primary, leaving Honda with more cash on hand at midyear.
Honda topped Khanna by 20 percentage points in the primary, but the challenger is hoping to close the gap with support from Republicans and independents after two Republicans were eliminated in June's "two top" primary.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a Democrat, endorsed Khanna last week.
As with Reed's endorsement, the chamber's is "a window into the philosophical differences" in this race, Khanna said Wednesday. "I am a pragmatic, pro-economic-growth, independent-minded Democrat who wants to build a broad coalition and isn't afraid to challenge the old machine. Honda represents an old, orthodox wing of the Democratic Party."
Khanna said he's "committed to working with the chamber and all local stakeholders to create good-paying, middle-class jobs, and help our businesses compete in a global economy."