Vote margin decreases further for gay South Bay House contender Low

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 13, 2024
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Assemblymember Evan Low is locked in a tight race for second place in his congressional race. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Assemblymember Evan Low is locked in a tight race for second place in his congressional race. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

It is coming down to the wire to see if gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) will survive his March 5 primary race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. After days of vote count updates, he is now 162 votes away from moving into second place.

Only the top two finishers will advance to the November 5 ballot and compete for the 16th Congressional District, which spans San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) decided not to seek reelection to her seat, which she has held since 1993.

Eleven people jumped into the race to succeed her. Low was seen as having a strong chance at becoming the first LGBTQ congressmember from the Bay Area.

But he continues to find himself just shy of second place, despite his vote count inching upward over the past week. As of Tuesday, Low had a vote total of 27,222 for 16.7% of the total ballots counted so far.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian is holding on to second place with 27,384 votes. The margin of difference between the two Democrats is 0.1%.

Remaining in first place is former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo, whose vote total now stands at 34,974. He has 21.5% percent of the unofficial returns.

Holding steady in fourth place is Republican Peter Ohtaki. He now has 20,886 votes.

The contest is one of the closest in California. As for how it feels, Low stated to the Bay Area Reporter that, "To me, no matter the ultimate outcome, the closeness of this race shows that your vote truly matters. Your vote can have a real impact on who represents your community."

Another vote tally from Santa Clara, which has 52,000 ballots still to count, is expected Wednesday by 5 p.m. In San Mateo, where 43,550 ballots are left to count, the next update will come by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

In the East Bay race to succeed outgoing Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who failed to survive Tuesday's primary race for the seat long held by the late U.S. senator Dianne Feinstein, queer candidate Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, Ph.D., remains in second place. But she has seen her share of the vote decrease slightly, from nearly 17% last week to 15.2% as of Monday, with a total now of 14,095 votes.

Meanwhile, frontrunner Democratic BART board member Lateefah Simon has seen her vote count edge up to 53.1% from nearly 43% last week. As of Monday, Simon now has 49,249 votes, while Alameda City Councilmember Tony Daysog remains in third place with 11,777 votes.

Simon has long been favored to win the District 12 House seat in Alameda County. Lee endorsed her in late January, followed by the state's two Democratic U.S. Senators, Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler, in early February.

Butler, a lesbian, chose not to seek a full term after being appointed last fall to fill the vacancy created by the death of Feinstein. She is expected to step down after the November election, in which Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is now favored to win against Republican Steve Garvey, a retired baseball player.

Southern California House races

In the race to succeed Schiff (D-Burbank) in his District 30 House seat, first-place finisher Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) saw her share of the vote edge up to 29.9% over the weekend. Due to the liberal makeup of the district, which includes the LGBTQ enclave of West Hollywood, she is favored to win come November.

Her opponent will be gay Republican Dr. Alex Balekian, an ICU physician who is Armenian American. As of Tuesday he was in second place with 17.6% of the vote, a slight drop from his 21% share of the unofficial count from last week.

Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D-Burbank) continues to trail in third place with 13.3% of the vote.

Congressmember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) will again be fending off a challenge from gay Democrat David Kim for his District 34 House seat, having defeated the progressive lawyer in 2022. Gomez is in first place with 51.2%, while Kim is at 27.7%.

"While the final results are still being tallied, it is becoming increasingly clear that we are poised for a rematch in the general election against the incumbent, Jimmy Gomez. This is an opportunity for us to continue the fight for real change in our community, to amplify our voices, and to champion the values we hold dear," Kim told his supporters in a March 12 email.

Two other Southern California House races with gay Democratic candidates are headed to fall rematches this year. After defending his seat two years ago, Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona) is again facing a challenge for his District 41 House seat from lawyer Will Rollins.

With the gay retirement and resort town of Palm Springs now a part of it, Democrats are targeting the seat as a pickup opportunity this year. But Rollins, who now lives in the Coachella Valley city, is in an increasingly nasty campaign against Calvert.

The conservative GOPer currently holds first place in the primary with 52.9% of the vote, as of Tuesday. Rollins now has 38.6% of the vote, according to the unofficial returns.

Facing even longer odds to win the District 23 House seat in the high country east of Los Angeles is progressive activist Derek Marshall, who lost to Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) in 2022. Marshall's share of this year's primary vote is currently at 36.5%.

The state's current two gay Democratic Congressmembers, Mark Takano of Riverside and Robert Garcia of Long Beach, both easily won their primary races. The pair is expected to easily defeat their Republican opponents in the fall.

Challenging Takano for his District 39 House seat is David Serpa. Opposing Garcia for his District 42 seat is John Briscoe.

California is currently the only West Coast state with LGBTQ representation in Congress, though candidates in Oregon and Washington are aiming to change that this year. Democrats Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Eddy Morales aim to survive their May 21 party-based primary races.

McLeod-Skinner, a lesbian former councilmember in the Bay Area city of Santa Clara, is running again for Oregon's District 5 House seat after falling short in 2022. She aims to take on a second time Republican Congressmember Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Happy Valley.

Morales is seeking the Beaver State's open District 3 House seat, as Congressmember Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) opted not to seek reelection this year. The queer Grisham City Councilmember is expected to attend a March 23 fundraiser in San Francisco being hosted by a number of local LGBTQ leaders.

Washington state holds its primary August 6, and like California, it selects congressional candidates based on a top-two system. Queer Democratic state Senator Emily Randall, a former Bay Area resident, aims to succeed Congressmember Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) in the Puget Sound region.

She would be the first out congressmember from the Evergreen State. But Randall is facing a tough campaign, as Kilmer endorsed Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz to succeed him.

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