Most of the Bay Area’s Congressional districts are solidly blue, and D-17 is no exception. Incumbent Congressman Rohit “Ro” Khanna (D-CA) has dominated each election since unseating former Congressman Mike Honda in 2016. In the primary last month he garnered 68.7% of the vote, having over triple the amount of votes that second place winner Ritesh Tandon had.
Despite being an election that Khanna can win on autopilot, he raised a lot of money in Q1 despite no candidate coming close in terms of support. It is a rich district though, with the 17th curing around the bottom of the Bay hitting tech rich cities such as San Jose, Cupertino, and Sunnyvale. A lot of companies with money and a lot of rich donors tend to donate here, and as you’ll see, it really effects campaign financing here.
Congressman Khanna scored an easy win in the primary but still managed to raise more than candidates in highly contested districts. Khanna had $2.26 million in receipts and spent $1.37 million in the first quarter according to the FEC. Among donor groups who are employees and family members of employees, Google by far led the pack in donations at $43,875. While tech dominated his donations there, other groups also gave heavily. For example, law firm Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, & Rosati was ranked second highest in donations at $24,900.
Individual donors was something as a surprise. California bread and butter retiree donors only gave the second highest amount with a total of $197,000. Securities and Investment donors doubled that by giving $407,000. With so much support coming from elsewhere Khanna did not take money from any PACs, keeping a promise he made for the election not to do so. In total, Khanna also raised 85% of his money in-state, signaling that Khanna and his party see this as an almost assuredly easy victory.
Tandon, an engineer and businessman, is Khanna’s Republican challenger. Compared to Khanna, Ritesh hasn’t raised all that much. In Q1 he only raised $36,000 and disbursed $24,000. It’s listed as a solid blue district, and Tandon’s showing proves it. Only one group gave a substantial donation to him – $2,800 from Americans for Hindus. Retirees also eschewed donating a high amount to Tandon, with the top sectors being tourism and human rights. Both gave $5,600.
PACs only gave Tandon around $3,000, with all but $300 coming from in-state donations. The GOP knows that this is a district that will almost assuredly stay Democrat and no big GOP donors are really giving here. Right now it’s all what Tandon can do himself. If he goes up in the polls something might change, but it will most likely not go up.
What this means for the 17th
Khanna is currently banking donations, and as the election gets closer, some of those donations could come in handy with a lot of expenses. It’s a big war chest. Tandon is running a lean campaign and it shows. That 21% he got in the primary came from Republicans alone. Khanna has proved himself to not only be popular in the district, but a favorite of rich donors and someone who can draw in independents.
In Q2, even with the coronavirus really cutting into donations, Khanna has the edge. He has enough left over from Q1 that he can successfully run the rest of his campaign. Right now Tandon is just running to give a good showing. Khanna will most likely win this district – all of that extra money can guarantee that no matter what kind of political crisis comes up.