Online Extra: Political Notes:
Gay Assembly candidate
Low stumps in SF
by Matthew S. Bajko
As he seeks to become the first out LGBT state legislator of Asian descent in California, gay Campbell Mayor Evan Low is turning to his friends and colleagues in San Francisco for help.
Low has revived his bid for a state Assembly seat after putting his previous attempt two years ago on hold when his boss, Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), opted in 2012 to seek a third and final term in the Legislature's lower chamber rather than seek higher office. The 30-year-old single politician is running in the 28th Assembly District covering portions of west San Jose and several Peninsula cities such as Saratoga, Los Gatos, and Campbell.
His campaign held a fundraiser at a private home in the Castro last week with Mayor Ed Lee and District 3 Supervisor David Chiu, who is also running for a state legislative seat next year. The event netted more than $10,000 for Low's campaign coffers, said host David Tsai , a gay man and attorney with Perkins Coie.
"I am really excited for him. I think it is the right time for him," said Tsai. "I think he will win."
In a brief interview with the Bay Area Reporter at the event, Low said he is excited to again be running for the Assembly seat, particularly as the state's finances improve.
"There is tremendous potential to work collaboratively with the new legislative members," said Low, who is also active in both the state and national Democratic Party apparatus.
Asked if he planned to serve all 12 years in the Assembly should he win the race next year – due to a term limits switch new Assembly members no longer are automatically termed out after serving three two-year terms – Low said he had not made up his mind. But he allowed there are advantages that come with having seniority and built up knowledge as a state legislator.
"Seniority is important. I work for a legislator so I know what it is like," said Low, who was first elected to the Campbell City Council in 2006 when he was 23. "In six years you are just getting your groove and then you're out."
Two other people have pulled papers to enter the June 2014 primary, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party will advance to the November general election. Cupertino Councilman Barry Chang , a fellow Democrat who also had planned to run in 2012, and Republican Silicon Valley engineer Michael Hunsweck are both seeking the seat.
As of now, with the backing of numerous Democratic officials and electeds throughout the Bay Area and state, Low is seen as the frontrunner in the race. He has far surpassed his opponents in terms of fundraising.
In late July Low reported having more than $240,000 in cash in his campaign account. Hunsweck has yet to report any fundraising activity, while Chang reported having more than $32,000 in cash on hand.
Asked if he feels added pressure knowing his winning the seat would mark another milestone in the state's LGBT political history, Low responded that, "I just hope to demonstrate that members of the LGBT community can do just as well as anyone else and that we have much to contribute to society."
Those in attendance at the fundraiser last week included San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano; San Francisco Democratic Party Chair Mary Jung ; B.A.R. publisher emeritus Thomas E. Horn; and Art Torres , a former state senator who came out of the closet upon his retirement in 2009 as state Democratic Party chair.
Rebecca Prozan, an out lesbian and Democratic Party activist who works in the San Francisco District Attorney's office, has watched Low climb up the party's ranks.
"Evan has been a rising star for years," she said. "He is young, energetic, and no one can question his service as mayor of Campbell. He is going to be a phenomenal assemblyman."
In his introductory remarks Lee joked that he refers to Low as MEL, short for Mayor Evan Low, and that he has the same initials as Mayor Ed Lee.
"I have known Evan for quite some time now. And of course just excellence in everything he does, the professionalism he brings, he is also a great human being," said Lee. "I am very proud to be supporting him, endorsing him. I know our state will benefit that much greater."
Chiu, the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, is competing against his gay colleague, District 9 Supervisor David Campos, next year for the city's 17th Assembly District seat. He told the B.A.R. he is hopeful he will be able to serve in Sacramento alongside Low, whom he considers a friend and has known for several years.
"He well represents the amazing diversities our Bay Area communities reflect," said Chiu.
In remarks to attendees, Chiu joked that as a "compliment to me," people in Sacramento have already confused the two politicians for each other.
"He is far cuter and far better dressed," said Chiu. "He is someone who has an incredible track record of delivering to his city and to our Bay Area. We are all looking for regional partners who understand what it means in the Bay Area for us to continue to innovate, to create jobs, and to make sure the diversity of the Bay Area is respected."
Low responded to Chiu's remarks by saying that he also has been mistaken for Chiu while in the state Capitol.
"We will have an opportunity to try to distinguish ourselves," said Low, should they serve together in the Legislature.
Asked later by the B.A.R. if his comment served as an endorsement of Chiu's Assembly bid, Low clarified that it did not. He would not commit when asked if he would endorse either Chiu or Campos for the seat currently held by gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who will be termed out of office next December.
"I have not endorsed in the San Francisco Assembly District race. I am focused on my own race," said Low.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail email@example.com.