Rep. Mike Honda (D)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: June 27, 1941, Walnut Creek .
Home: San Jose.
Education: San Jose St. U., B.S. 1969, B.A. 1970, M.A. 1973.
Family: Widowed; 2 children.
Elected office: San Jose Unified Sch. Bd., 1981-90; Santa Clara Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, 1990-96; CA Assembly, 1996-2000.
Professional Career: Peace Corps, 1965-67; Elem. schl. principal, 1978-90.
The congressman from the 15th District is Mike Honda, a Democrat first elected in 2000. Honda’s grandparents came to the United States from Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture, which served as the primary battleground for the Seinan Civil War in the 1870s (memorialized in the film The Last Samurai). Honda was born in Walnut Creek and spent 14 months during his childhood in a World War II internment camp in Colorado. His wife, Jeanne, who died of cancer in 2004, was born in Hiroshima and survived the atomic attack before immigrating to the United States several years later. Honda received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from San Jose State University and served two years in the Peace Corps in El Salvador, where he became fluent in Spanish and gained a passion for teaching.
|Mike Honda (D)||170,977||(72%)||($833,894)|
|Joyce Stoer Cordi (R)||55,489||(23%)|
|Peter Myers (Green)||12,123||(5%)|
|Mike Honda (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (72%), 2004 (72%), 2002 (66%), 2000 (54%)
In 1971, San Jose Mayor Norman Mineta appointed him to the city Planning Commission. Honda worked as a science teacher, and then was a principal at two area elementary schools from 1978 to 1986; during that period, he served on the San Jose Unified School Board. He was then elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. In 1996, he was elected to the California Assembly, where he worked to reduce classroom sizes and increase teacher benefits. He also tried to secure an apology from Japan for its wartime atrocities against other Asian nations.
In 2000, Republican Rep. Tom Campbell decided to run against Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. At first Honda was reluctant to run for the House, but persuasive telephone calls from several leading House Democrats and, finally, from President Clinton, changed his mind. Honda won the primary over Bill Peacock, a venture capitalist, 67% to 24%. His Republican opponent was Assemblyman Jim Cunneen, a Campbell protégé who was strongly supported by national GOP leaders and many Silicon Valley capitalists. Cunneen favored liberal positions on cultural issues, and he tried to depict the contest as a referendum on the old economy versus the new. Honda, despite his close ties to unions, supported normal trade relations with China, a position strongly backed by the high-tech industry. He won 54%-42%.
Honda has been among the most liberal members of the House. He chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, which advocates for underrepresented groups on issues such as immigration and expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. He helped to enact a cyber-security law that funds training and programs to protect computer data and networks. He was a major architect of the Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003 to encourage the development of networked facilities, which involve the manipulation of matter at the atomic level. This has become a booming technology in the Bay Area.
In 2007, with help from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he got a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, which controls the government purse strings. He has focused on trying to win full funding for education programs, many of which are financed at levels well below what is called for in the enabling legislation.
Honda has also continued his quest to prompt apologies from Japan, publicizing the cause of American POWs in World War II who were transported on “hell ships” to work as slave laborers in Japan. More recently, Honda in 2007 won House passage of a resolution calling on Tokyo to apologize for forcing as many as 200,000 women into sexual slavery during the war. His efforts have generated controversy in Japan, and The New York Times referred to Honda as “one of the most famous American congressmen in his ancestral land.” In September 2008, Honda called the comments of Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah “offensive and embarrassing to all Americans” when Chaffetz called for the detention of illegal immigrants in tent cities as part of his campaign for the House.
Honda cast one of the three votes against a resolution condemning a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that found the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. He sponsored a bill stating that military recruiters must have parents’ consent to contact their children. Another of his passions is addressing low voter turnout in national elections, a situation he calls a “serious illness.” He has a bill to reschedule federal elections for the first full weekend in November. As vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2008 campaign, Honda criss-crossed the nation to try to spark more participation by Asian-Americans in the election. Larry Gerston, a political scientist at San Jose State University, told the San Jose Mercury News that rather than take high-profile leadership roles, Honda prefers to put together coalitions for causes that might not otherwise get attention. “He really puts the K in ‘Kumbaya,’ ” Gerston said.