Vote update leaves Low trailing in South Bay US House seat

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 6, 2024
Share this Post:
Gay Assemblymember Evan Low remains in third place in race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. Photos: Courtesy the candidate
Gay Assemblymember Evan Low remains in third place in race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. Photos: Courtesy the candidate

After landing in third place with 16% of the vote on election night in his bid for an open South Bay congressional seat, gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) had hoped to see his showing improve as more ballots were counted. Yet he was left wanting Wednesday when elections officials updated the tally in the race.

Even though his share of the count increased to 15,688 votes, Low continues to trail the top two Democratic finishers poised to advance to the fall ballot. Former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo maintains his first place standing with 22% percent of the unofficial returns, and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian is holding on to second place with 18%.

Liccardo's total vote count is now at 21,538, with Simitian still in second with 17,647. Low's share continues to account for nearly 16% of the vote.

Coming in fourth is Republican Peter Ohtaki with 13,171 votes. Another vote tally update is expected Thursday by 5 p.m.

The trio of leading contenders is competing to succeed Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) in the 16th Congressional District, which spans San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. First sent to Congress in 1993, Eshoo opted to retire at the end of her term rather than seek reelection this year.

Her decision opened up an opportunity to see the first LGBTQ member of Congress elected in the Bay Area. Also among the 11 candidates vying on Tuesday's primary ballot for the seat was bisexual Palo Alto City Councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims, who is near the back of the pack with 5% of the vote.

In the East Bay race to succeed outgoing Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who failed to survive Tuesday's primary race for seat long held by the late U.S. senator Dianne Feinstein, queer candidate Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, Ph.D., continues to hold on to her second place finish with nearly 17%, according to the unofficial returns.

As expected, Democratic BART board member Lateefah Simon took a commanding lead in the race for the District 12 House seat in Alameda County. She remains in first place with close to 43% of the vote, which has yet to be updated since late Tuesday night.

Simon went into Tuesday's primary with strong support within her party and is favored to win the contest come November. With almost 15% of the vote, Alameda City Councilmember Tony Daysog remains in third place.

Southern California House races

Having finished first in their races Tuesday and set to face Republican opponents in the fall, the Golden State's current two gay Democratic House members are expected to easily win reelection in November. Congressman Mark Takano of Riverside is being challenged by David Serpa for his District 39 House seat, while Congressman Robert Garcia of Long Beach is being opposed by John Briscoe for his District 42 seat.

Congressmember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) is again fending off a challenge from gay Democrat David Kim for the District 34 House seat. The progressive lawyer would be the first out Korean American elected to Congress should he win.

Gomez leads in first place with 51% of the vote, while Kim remains in second place among the five candidates who ran in the primary with 24% of the vote.

Two other Southern California House races with gay Democratic candidates are headed to fall rematches this year. In 2022, Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona) defended his District 41 House seat that had Palm Springs added to it from being won by first-time candidate Will Rollins.

The attorney is running again this year with stronger support from the Democratic Party and netted 41% of the primary vote, according to the unofficial returns. Nonetheless, Rollins is facing another tough general election campaign against Calvert, who carried the primary with 50% of the vote.

Facing even longer odds to win the District 23 House seat in the high country east of Los Angeles is progressive activist Derek Marshall. Two years ago he lost to Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia), who continues to have strong support among his constituents and saw his lead in this year's primary grow from 57% to 62% as of the latest vote count posted Wednesday.

With Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) favored to be elected to Feinstein's U.S. Senate seat in November, it appears highly unlikely that his successor in the House will be LGBTQ. None of the out Democrats running Tuesday for his District 30 House seat made it into the top two spots to advance to the fall runoff race.

While gay Republican Dr. Alex Balekian, an ICU physician, remains in second place with nearly 21% of the vote, the Armenian American isn't expected to win the heavily Democratic district come November. Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) remains in first place with 27% of the primary vote, making her the odds on favorite to be declared the winner of the seat in the fall.

Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D-Burbank) continues to trail in third place with 14% of the vote.

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. Thus, LGBTQ political watchers will be looking to see if Democrats Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Eddy Morales 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.

Editor's note: This story will be updated as new vote totals are released.

Never miss a story! Keep up to date on the latest news, arts, politics, entertainment, and nightlife. Sign up for the Bay Area Reporter's free weekday email newsletter. You'll receive our newsletters and special offers from our community partners.

Support California's largest LGBTQ newsroom. Your one-time, monthly, or annual contribution advocates for LGBTQ communities. Amplify a trusted voice providing news, information, and cultural coverage to all members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay -- Donate today!