Former Obama administration official Ro Khanna says he raised more than $1 million in this year's second quarter for his bid to unseat fellow Democrat Mike Honda, a blockbuster sum by House campaign standards.
That means Khanna, 36, of Fremont, now has caught lightning in a bottle twice. He had burst on the political scene after collecting a record-breaking $1.2 million in 2011's final quarter, when contributors thought he would run to succeed Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in the 15th Congressional District after Stark's retirement.
But Stark didn't retire and Khanna didn't challenge him, choosing instead to challenge Honda, D-San Jose, in the 17th District.
After a few months as one of the Bay Area's worst-kept political secrets, Khanna formally announced his candidacy April 2. Khanna says his $1,034,022 haul in the ensuing three months makes him the first-ever House challenger to raise seven figures in an "out-of-the-gate" quarter without self-funding. Khanna's cash on hand as of June 30 was $1,744,761, according to figures released by the campaign but not yet filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Khanna said he's proud that all of his second-quarter money came from almost 700 people but no political action committees, with 91 percent of it coming from the Bay Area. He said Tuesday that his "vision of bringing Silicon Valley thinking to Washington" is resonating with voters.
"It's the message that's driving the support," he said.
"I'm doing a lot of meet-and-greets, and we're focused on building a very strong digital presence and on talking to a lot of voters in the district and hearing their concerns," he said. "People are frustrated with Congress not having any clear strategy for creating good-paying jobs or expanding access to education for the 21st century."
Khanna said his campaign has "touched a nerve with people in this district."
The campaign provided the fundraising figures Tuesday on the condition that they not be published online or in print before midnight, and that they not be shared with anybody -- including Honda's campaign, for the purpose of seeking a comment -- before that time.
Asked why, Khanna replied, "You'd have to ask Tyler about that; he can speak to that."
Spokesman Tyler Law declined to comment.
Honda's campaign said it was still compiling its second-quarter figures Tuesday -- the filing deadline is next Monday -- but it did announce Honda's endorsement by more than 100 current and former county, city, school district and special district elected officials.
"Whenever we need him, he's there," Sunnyvale Mayor Tony Spitaleri said in Honda's news release. "He's our biggest supporter in Congress fighting for jobs, education and building the economic infrastructure of our city and region."
Khanna has said that working as a deputy assistant secretary of commerce from 2009 to 2011 and since then at Silicon Valley's biggest law firm, while also teaching economics at Stanford and law at Santa Clara University, gives him an edge in knowing how to nurture the high-tech sector.
Among notable names on his contributor list are Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg; Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer; Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff; Flipboard CEO Mike McCue; JLabs CEO Judy Estrin; Seagate Chairman, President and CEO Stephen Luczo; former Vodaphone Group CEO Arun Sarin; Cavium President and CEO Syed Ali; and venture capitalists and investors Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway, Theresia Gouw, Arvind Sodhani and Josh Green.
The contest has the added interest of two Asian-American Democrats facing off in the continental United States' first majority Asian-American district.
Young Democratic insurgent Eric Swalwell unseated the 20-term incumbent Stark in 2012 after spending about $800,000 to Stark's $1.4 million. But the often-prickly Stark boosted Swalwell's campaign considerably by making a series of public gaffes that alienated even some longtime supporters -- the sort of mistakes the more affable Honda is unlikely to make.
Honda reacted to rumors of Khanna's candidacy early this year with a cavalcade of early, high-ranking endorsers including President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Khanna hired a team replete with Obama campaign veterans, including Jeremy Bird, Obama's 2012 national field director.
But Khanna noted that although he has a top-shelf staff, he spent no money on fundraising consultants. Every dollar he raised in the second quarter, he said, came via volunteer efforts.