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Most Fascinating Races of 2014: California’s 17th District

Honda, left, has a challenge from another Democrat this cycle. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Honda, left, has a challenge from another Democrat this cycle. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

This Democrat-versus-Democrat battle boasts several dynamics that make it one of the most fascinating races in the country: racial politics, a president split with his former aides, the future of Silicon Valley and money.

Lots and lots of money.
Attorney Ro Khanna is challenging longtime Rep. Michael M. Honda in this northern California district. Both Democrats will likely proceed to the general election, thanks to the Golden State’s top-two primary system.

This district is the first Asian-American majority district in the continental United States. Indian-American voters are faced with the dilemma of supporting Khanna, a fellow Indian-American, or Honda, a Japanese-American who has represented the district since 2000.

Honda remains a popular lawmaker in the district and has racked up the support of many prominent Democrats, including President Barack Obama. But several of Obama’s former campaign staffers, including 2012 Obama National Field Director Jeremy Bird, are working for Khanna.

And then there’s the cash. Khanna’s fundraising prowess is remarkable. He raised $1 million and $510,000, in the second and third quarters of this year, respectively. A large chunk of those funds came from Silicon Valley CEOs, including Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Honda, too, is bringing in hefty fundraising hauls. But they look a little lackluster when compared with his opponent.

The two Democrats have started to engage each other, too.

Honda’s campaign sent out a fundraising email in December seeking to tie Khanna to three big-ticket GOP donors whom his campaign says are “trying to buy a Congressman to replace Mike,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Khanna’s campaign shot back, touting his pledge not to take money from PACs or lobbyists.

This will be one long and interesting race.

Editor’s note: Not all congressional races are created equal, and Roll Call’s politics desk admits to playing favorites. So in the spirit of the holidays, these are a few of our favorite things (races) to cover this cycle. We’re shining a spotlight on our 12 most fascinating races through the new year — in no particular order. Happy holidays from @RollCallPols!

Check out more fascinating races of 2014
: California’s 31st District.

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