Political Notes: Low, Bauters rack up endorsements in their House, supervisor races

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday January 8, 2024
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Assemblymember Evan Low, left, seeking a South Bay congressional seat, and John Bauters, running for a seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, have picked up significant endorsements for their respective campaigns. Photos: Courtesy the candidates
Assemblymember Evan Low, left, seeking a South Bay congressional seat, and John Bauters, running for a seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, have picked up significant endorsements for their respective campaigns. Photos: Courtesy the candidates

As they mount bids to survive tough races on the March primary ballot, gay candidates Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) and Emeryville City Councilmember John Bauters have racked up endorsements from other elected officials in their respective U.S. House and Alameda County supervisor races. Both would make LGBTQ political history should they be elected this year.

Low is vying to become the Bay Area's first LGBTQ and first Chinese American elected to Congress. He aims to succeed Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), who announced in November her retirement later this year from the South Bay House seat she has held since 1993.

The race for the 16th Congressional District that spans both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties has drawn 11 candidates. Among the Democrats running are Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo, Palo Alto Councilmembers Julie Lythcott-Haims and Greg Lin Tanaka, and tech executives Peter Dixon and Rishi Kumar, who lost to Eshoo in 2022.

The top two vote-getters in the March 5 contest will advance to the November general election. Last week, Low announced the support of a number of local leaders, among them San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa and gay former Campbell city councilman Richard Waterman.

Just after Christmas Low announced endorsements from statewide officeholders Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, gay Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, and Treasurer Fiona Ma.

"Assemblymember Evan Low has my full support in his historic campaign for Congress," stated Lara, the first, and so far only, LGBTQ person to be elected to statewide office in California. "As a trailblazing LGBTQ+ and AAPI leader, Evan brings crucial representation to our political landscape, ensuring diverse voices are heard at the highest levels. His unwavering commitment to equality and the kitchen table issues that matter to Californians make him an exemplary choice for Congress, and I'm confident he will continue to deliver results in this next step."

Also late last month lesbian retired state judge and former Palo Alto city councilmember LaDoris Cordell endorsed Low in the House race. In a December 28 post on X Low quoted Cordell saying of his time in the state Assembly that he "has taken action to protect civil rights, reproductive health care and marriage equality. He has always stood up to extremism and will continue to be a progressive fighter for Silicon Valley in Congress."

Also backing Low in the race are gay former San Mateo County supervisor and state assemblymember Rich Gordon, gay former Santa Clara County supervisor Ken Yeager, and gay Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside). Statewide LGBTQ organization Equality California, the LGBTQ Victory Fund, and Equality PAC, the political action committee for the Congressional Equality Caucus, all early endorsed Low.

East Bay supervisor race

Like Low, Bauters finds himself in a crowded field of candidates vying to succeed Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, who announced in December that he would not seek reelection this year. His District 5 seat covers Berkeley, parts of Oakland, Emeryville, and Albany in the East Bay.

Among the nine people running are Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett, Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, Alameda County Board of Education Trustee Ken Berrick, former Oakland mayoral candidate Gregory Hodge, and Piedmont resident Lorrel Plimier, an attorney and computer scientist. It is unlikely that any candidate will receive more than 50% of the vote on March 5 in order to win the seat outright, thus it is expected that the top two vote-getters in the primary will square off again on the November 5 ballot.

Should Bauters win, he would be the first out gay man elected as a supervisor in Alameda County. Since mid-December Bauters has secured the support of more than 30 local leaders for his supervisorial bid, with Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) endorsing him January 3.

"John has spent his career working to build a brighter future for the East Bay," stated Bonta. "He is exactly the type of leader we need fighting for working families, expanding access to quality healthcare, and creating safer communities for all on the Board of Supervisors."

Among the gay electeds backing Bauters are state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Tracy City Councilmember Dan Arriola, Alameda Unified School District Board Trustee Ryan LaLonde, San Leandro Unified School District Board Trustee James Aguilar, and BART Board Director Bevan Dufty. Also endorsing Bauters is lesbian leader BART Board Director Rebecca Saltzman.

"John Bauters is the pro-housing champion Alameda County needs to tackle the Bay Area's affordability crisis," stated Wiener. "On the Board of Supervisors, I know John will fight to invest in housing, transportation, and public health to create the future that working families across our region deserve. His record of real results on our state's greatest challenges makes John the best candidate for the job."

Straight allies also backing Bauters in the race are Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), Emeryville Mayor Courtney Welch, and San Francisco Supervisor Myrna Melgar. Former Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf endorsed Bauters and Berrick.

"I'm honored and humbled by the growing support and momentum behind our campaign — just days after we launched," stated Bauters in a December 20 news release from his campaign. "From these incredible leaders to the grassroots supporters who have pledged their support or made a contribution in the last 48 hours, it's clear that we are building the movement we need to win this race and deliver real results for working families across Alameda County — more housing, solutions to our homelessness crisis, cleaner air and water, safer neighborhoods, and justice for all."

Meanwhile, Bartlett last month picked up the support of queer Oakland City Councilmember Janani Ramachandran, lesbian former San Francisco supervisor Leslie Katz, and gay Berkeley City Councilmember Terry Taplin, who also endorsed Bauters. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin also endorsed Bartlett in the race.

Among those backing Bas is termed out state Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who opted against seeking the supervisor seat herself. Others include Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, lesbian Oakland At-Large City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, and gay Oakland LGBT Community Center co-founder and CEO Joe Hawkins.

None of the candidates was able to secure the endorsement of the Alameda County Democratic County Central Committee at its meeting January 3.

The Political Notes column will return Monday, January 29.

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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