UPDATED: Gay South Bay House contender Low 2nd place lead grows to 63 votes

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 13, 2024
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For the first time gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), in foreground, holds one of the top two spots in the race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. Photo: Courtesy of the candidate
For the first time gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), in foreground, holds one of the top two spots in the race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. Photo: Courtesy of the candidate

Gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) now finds himself with a 63-vote lead in his nail-biter of a race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. With a dwindling number of ballots to be counted, it is likely to become clear on Friday if he will be moving on to the November election.

Only the top two finishers will advance to the fall 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.

For the first time since election night Low moved out of third place after both counties posted updated vote counts Wednesday afternoon. And his lead for second place grew Thursday to 29,440 votes after Santa Clara County elections officials posted their latest update.

Falling into the third slot is Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who now has a total of 29,377 votes. Former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo is now carrying first place with 37,479 votes.

The contest remains one of the closest in California. Low is waiting for the next update to see if his lead over Simitian stands.

"Thank you again to all of the voters who have made their voices heard in this election," Low stated Wednesday. "While there are still votes left to be counted, I am encouraged by the latest results that have put our campaign in the lead. I am grateful to all of my supporters and look forward to all votes being counted in this race."

Another vote tally from San Mateo, which has 20,550 ballots still to count, is expected Friday by 4:30 p.m. A final count from Santa Clara is likely to come Friday by 5 p.m. as it has just 3,000 ballots to tally.

After Santa Clara updated its count Thursday, Low saw his lead for second increase from 59 to 63 votes.

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 continue to decrease, from nearly 17% last week to 14.93% as of Wednesday, with a total now of 16,735 votes.

Meanwhile, frontrunner Democratic BART board member Lateefah Simon has seen her vote count edge up to 55.11% from nearly 43% last week. As of Wednesday, Simon now has 61,753 votes, while Alameda City Councilmember Tony Daysog remains in third place with 13,266 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) continues to see her share of the vote edge up, as it now stands at 30% of the ballots counted. 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 Wednesday he was in second place with 17.44% 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 13.29% 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 Wednesday. 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 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.

West Coast House races

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.

UPDATED 3/14/2024 with new vote totals from Santa Clara County.

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