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Kathy Watanabe of Santa Clara speaks at a news conference organized by congressional candidate Ro Khanna outside Rep. Mike Honda's district office in San Jose, Calif., on Wed., Aug. 27, 2014. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)

SAN JOSE -- Rep. Mike Honda and challenger Ro Khanna will debate in early October.

News of the two Democrats' face-to-face showdown came as Khanna and dozens of supporters rallied outside Honda's San Jose office Wednesday with three constituents who said the seven-term congressman ignored their pleas for help or attention.

The debate, organized by the Huffington Post and San Jose State University, is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 6 -- the first day that vote-by-mail ballots will be sent out -- at the university. The Huffington Post will provide a moderator and live-stream the event online; a local TV station is being sought to air it.

Khanna had blasted a previous proposal for a later date, fearing some ballots already would be cast. The original proposal also was for one hour, but Khanna wanted 90 minutes; now it's scheduled for 75 minutes.

Honda said he's "looking forward to this next discussion about the issues most important to everyone in California's 17th Congressional District."

The congressman before the primary had said he'd take part in more than one debate, Khanna noted Wednesday. "We're still going to participate," he said of this proposal, but he'll keep pushing for at least one other debate and demand that at least one be televised.


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During his rally, Khanna noted that Honda is holding no town-hall meetings during the current five-week House recess. And he accused Honda of having forgotten that listening to and addressing constituents' needs is a congressman's most vital role.

Larry Sacks, 53, of Santa Clara, said Honda's office promised to help as his elderly father received poor care at local VA hospitals in 2012, but eventually stopped returning his calls and e-mails -- even after his father died.

"They made things worse by leading me to believe they could be counted upon to help," Sacks said. "They make a lot of bluster, they sound like they care, but they don't. And time and again they let people down."

Kathy Watanabe, 55, of Santa Clara, said Honda wouldn't lift a finger to help plans for her city's new library branch come to fruition, while Khanna and his campaign helped mobilize the community; the branch opened Aug. 9. "We need to know that the people we elect will stand with us no matter what," she said.

And Julie Kring, 17, of Sunnyvale, was the only participant in a "Running Start" program for young women interested in politics with whom her House member wouldn't meet; instead, she got 10 minutes with a Honda aide, who she said seemed uninterested. "I will always remember how poorly we were treated ... and I cried that night in the hotel room," she said, adding that young people "are tired of having our voices dampened by Congressman Honda's apathy."

Honda issued a statement later Wednesday saying he and his staff "take every request from my constituents very seriously."

"My office gets thousands of requests every year, and we treat every case individually," he said. "We have a strong record of serving and representing our constituents, and have a track record of success on their behalves. One of the things we pride ourselves on is the confidentiality of our constituent services. Because of this we will not be able to comment on any specific case."

But Honda said his website includes examples of constituents he has helped, who gave permission for their stories to be shared.

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.