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Despite Obama backing, Democratic congressman has primary challenge

April 02, 2013|By Anthony York

SACRAMENTO -- Against the wishes of President Obama, a Democratic upstart has announced his challenge to incumbent Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) in next year’s elections.

The announcement from Ro Khanna, who worked in Obama’s Commerce Department, illustrates the continued impact of new California election rules approved by state voters in 2010. With voters free to vote for a candidate regardless of their party registration, and new political districts drawn by an independent commission, the power of party leaders to control elections has been diminished.

In this case, not even the president of the United States, Khanna's former boss, could dissuade the challenger.

Khanna has raised more than $1 million for his run for Honda's seat representing California's 17th Congressional District. Originally, he was eying the 15th District seat held by Democrat Pete Stark, but Stark was upset by Democratic newcomer Eric Swalwell last year.

Obama offered an unusually early endorsement of Honda in an effort to discourage Khanna’s challenge next year.

While touting his experience in the Obama administration in a statement announcing his candidacy, Khanna seems ready to run an anti-Washington campaign. “Silicon Valley is succeeding in spite of Washington – not because of it,” he said in the statement. “I’m going to wage a campaign of ideas on how we can thrive in a world economy where success depends on education.”

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anthony.york@latimes.com

@anthonyyorklat

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