Race expected to be close for South Bay congressional seat

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- The fight for a South Bay congressional seat could turn into a nail-biter.

There are conflicting polls on who's ahead, incumbent Mike Honda or challenger Ro Khanna, for the 17th Congressional District.

Both candidates, Honda and Khanna, have been spending time at phone banks seeking support in these final hours before the polls open. Polls conducted by both campaigns differ on who is ahead, but both agree that there is a sizable number of voters who remain undecided. The number ranges from 24 to 31 percent, which means roughly one in four could go either way, or they might not vote at all.

Political science professor Melinda Jackson at San Jose State University explains why turnout could be crucial.

"If it's a low voter turnout as we're all expecting, that's probably going to benefit Honda because the loyal, older Democratic voters will probably vote for him," Jackson said. "If we see a higher turnout with more of the progressive, younger Democratic voters, that would help Khanna."

Incumbents usually have an advantage in terms of name recognition. However, because of redistricting, some voters in the Fremont and Milpitas areas have never seen the name of seven-term congressman Honda on a ballot before. Khanna is running in the district for the first time.

ABC7 News asked Honda how low voter turnout might impact his results.

"We have made about 500,000 contacts through phones, knocking on doors and walking precincts, as we did yesterday," Honda said. "So, my expectation is that we're going to get our voters out."

Khanna was asked the same question.

"There's a real excitement among our voters, young folks that are excited, folks that want to bring change, so I think our folks are going to go to the polls," Khanna said. "We're seeing people excited to vote and I'm confident we're going to have the folks out there to win."

The stakes are high since the district takes in much of Silicon Valley and the candidates themselves reflect the large Asian American community.

For full election coverage visit our Bay Area Election Results and Voting Guide.
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