Gay Assemblymember Low launches South Bay House bid

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday December 5, 2023
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South Bay Assemblymember Evan Low on Tuesday announced his candidacy for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Congressmember Anna Eshoo. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
South Bay Assemblymember Evan Low on Tuesday announced his candidacy for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Congressmember Anna Eshoo. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

Gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) is vying to become the Bay Area's first LGBTQ and first Chinese American elected to Congress. He is doing so with the support of a number of the state's congressional delegation, including that of Indian American Congressmember Ro Khanna (D-San Jose) and gay Japanese American Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside).

Tuesday morning Low, 41, officially launched his campaign to succeed Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto). She had announced last month that she wouldn't seek reelection in 2024 to the South Bay House seat she has held since 1993.

Low's historic candidacy is sure to attract national attention and support from LGBTQ groups and leaders, as well as those within the Asian American community. Twenty percent of the district's voters are Asian American, and so far only candidates of Japanese or Indian descent have won election to House seats in the Bay Area.

"I am not naïve about the divisions of Washington," Low told the Bay Area Reporter during a phone interview Monday evening. "Most would recognize the Republican Party absolutely has become the party of Trump. We have the most homophobic speaker of the House in generations. The best counter for that is to send openly LGBTQ people to Congress."

In a statement released to media outlets under embargo, he said he wants to "usher in a new era of courageous leadership for Silicon Valley" via his House candidacy.

"Throughout my time in public service, I have defended the most vulnerable and built coalitions to deliver solutions to the big challenges of our time," stated Low. "Now I'm running for Congress at an inflection point for Silicon Valley and the nation. Our region needs a representative that will lead on maintaining our global competitiveness, combat hate and stand up for the vulnerable, protect reproductive freedom, prioritize reducing crime in our communities and ensure that the middle class can once again afford to buy a house and raise a family where they work."

Low had widely been expected to enter the race for the 16th Congressional District that spans both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, as the B.A.R. previously reported. He had acknowledged to the B.A.R. he was interested in running for it and was having conversations with supporters before making "a formal decision."

Since then Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, 70, a Democrat, launched his own campaign for Eshoo's seat, while Democrat Rishi Kumar, 56, is running again after losing to Eshoo last year. Former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo, 53, has launched a campaign website for the House seat after pulling papers to run last week. Candidates have until December 13 to enter the race since it is an open seat.

Asked what the deciding factor for him was after talking to supporters and stakeholders, Low told the B.A.R. part of his deliberative process on deciding to seek the House seat was understanding where he could provide the best value, in Congress or remaining in the state Legislature.

"Could I make a difference in Washington, D.C.? Could I be more than just one of the 435 members of Congress? Am I able to be a leading voice for Silicon Valley on day one?" are some of the questions he mulled over, said Low. "Most importantly am I able to fulfill the continued legacy of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, where she has served over 30 years in the House and had more than 60 pieces of legislation enacted into law."

Ultimately, Low determined he could after being encouraged to run by those he spoke with and heard from in recent weeks.

"It is not about me; it is about the community and also bringing the community along," said Low, who added that it is also time for the Bay Area to send an LGBTQ person to Congress. "This is the most concentrated area of openly LGBTQ individuals. This is our moment; this is our time."

Endorsements

Endorsing Low in the race is gay former Santa Clara supervisor and San Jose city councilmember Ken Yeager, the first LGBTQ person to win elected office in the county and city. He told the B.A.R. Low has a strong chance of winning the seat due to his being younger than the two other major candidates so far in the race and potential to break through the two political glass ceilings.

"I am very excited about Evan's run. I think he is well positioned to do very well," said Yeager, who resides in the congressional district. "I know he will get a lot of support from the LGBTQ community locally and statewide and nationally. The Chinese American community is a natural constituency as well. It should support him very strongly, financially and electorally."

Also endorsing Low is Congressmember Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), who lived in the Bay Area during her teens and then graduated from UCLA in 1974. She began her elected political career in 1985 and became the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress with her victory in a 2009 special election for her Southern California House seat.

Khanna, in the news release from Low's campaign, noted that "Evan was born and raised here in the Silicon Valley, and he's dedicated his career to serving the diverse families that call it home. In the Assembly, he's been at the forefront of bridging the gap between technology, innovation, and public policy, building a greener economy, and fighting for fundamental human rights. I know Evan will make a great partner in Congress."

Simitian, Liccardo, and Low all have a shot at surviving the March primary and advancing to the November ballot, Yeager told the B.A.R. The two top vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will do so.

"All three of the major candidates have their own constituencies," he noted. "It is really going to be a matter of who raises the most money and who works the hardest. Certainly, Evan has a long history of doing both of those things."

Born in San Jose and raised in the congressional district, Low's parents separated when he was 18. He graduated from San Jose State University and went on to win election to the Campbell City Council in 2006.

He was the first Asian American to serve on the governing body. Four years later he became the youngest openly LGBTQ+ mayor in the country at age 26.

He first won election to the state Assembly in 2014. He has strong ties to Silicon Valley's tech industry, which could benefit him in a House race as a source of support and financial donations to his campaign.

As the B.A.R. last year, Low moved into the redrawn 26th Assembly District that includes Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and parts of San Jose in order to avoid competing against his colleague Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) for reelection to the state Legislature. Berman had been drawn into Low's former Assembly District.

Doing so required Low to vacate the 1,100 square foot condo in Campbell that he co-owns with his brother, a San Jose police officer. He moved into the Sunnyvale home of his father and stepmother, where he continues to live, though he told the B.A.R. his plan is to move back to Campbell and re-register to vote there due to seeking the House seat.

Low is the second out candidate running next year for an open House seat in the Bay Area. Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, Ph.D., a queer leader within the state's Vietnamese American community, is seeking to succeed Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who is running for U.S. Senate rather than seek another House term.

Tran is the partner of Nenna Joiner, who owns several sex shops in the East Bay and a downtown Oakland nightlife venue. She is in a tough race to survive the March primary along with fellow Democrats BART board member Lateefah Simon and business owner Tim Sanchez, a U.S. Navy Reserves veteran who served in Afghanistan.

As the B.A.R. reported in an online story November 17, there are now out House candidates in all three of the West Coast states. The 2024 election could thus see the California congressional delegation's LGBTQ contingent expand from its current two gay members, while those in Oregon and Washington state see its first out members.

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