Ro Khanna: If Rep. Barbara Lee had campaign cash, she’d be in top two for U.S. Senate

The lawmaker from Fremont also tells CalMatters that Democrats can flip seats in California and retake control of Congress.

Rep. Ro Khanna, who is becoming a bigger player on the national political stage, has some  thoughts on the 2024 election.

After considering a run himself, he endorsed Rep. Barbara Lee in the hard-fought U.S. Senate primary over fellow Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff. He’s a co-chairperson of her campaign and calls her a “hero and an incredible voice” on progressive priorities.

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The Fremont Democrat said the reason Lee isn’t doing better, at least in the polls, is because she’s being vastly outspent. If the campaign money were even, he said he has “no doubt” she would make the top two in the March 5 primary and advance to November.

“She’s an underdog. She knows that,” Khanna said in a Zoom conversation today with CalMatters reporters and editors.

But he said Lee still has a shot as she gathers more support, including from celebrities like John Legend. If Lee doesn’t advance, but Porter and Schiff do, Khanna said he’ll make an endorsement decision after that.

On the election more broadly, Khanna sees it playing out on two different paths: The presidential race will be decided, as usual, by Pennsylvania and other swing states. But control of Congress will go through California and New York, where Republicans flipped seats to win back the House in 2022.

A Democrat prevailed in Tuesday’s special election to replace the disgraced George Santos in New York, meaning that the Republican majority will shrink to six. And Khanna said he believes Democrats can flip two or three U.S. House seats in California this year, and will be campaigning in those key races.