Updated: Gay Assemblymember Low down 20 votes in South Bay House race

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday March 15, 2024
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Gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) awaits a final vote count in his too close to call race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. Photo: Courtesy of the candidate
Gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) awaits a final vote count in his too close to call race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. Photo: Courtesy of the candidate

As the number of ballots left to count dwindles down, it remains too close to call if gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) has survived the primary for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. He fell back into third place Friday by several dozen votes.

Santa Clara County officials released more vote counts Saturday afternoon.

After taking the second position in the race earlier this week, Low finds himself in third with a vote deficit of 20 behind second-place holder Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, based on Saturday numbers from Santa Clara County elections officials. But there are still 1,850 ballots to be tabulated in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

One of the two local leaders will be competing on the fall ballot against former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo to succeed Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto). She opted not to seek reelection to her 16th Congressional District seat, which spans the two South Bay counties.

Liccardo's current total is 38,403 votes. Simitian now has 30,189 votes, while Low is is closely trailing behind with 30,169 votes.

A campaign spokesman for Low told the Bay Area Reporter they had no comment Friday and referred to the candidate's statement from Wednesday. In it, Low had said he was waiting for "all votes being counted in this race."

A spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

Another vote tally from San Mateo, which has 450 ballots still to count, is expected Monday by 4:30 p.m.

Low is vying to become the first LGBTQ congressmember from the Bay Area. In the East Bay race to succeed outgoing Congressmember 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., is seen as the underdog of her runoff race on the November 5 ballot.

She came out of the primary for the District 12 House seat in Alameda County far behind BART board member Lateefah Simon, who is currently in first place with 55.196% of the vote. Tran trails in second with 14.68%.

Of the two Democrats, Simon has received the bulk of support from the party and other Democratic leaders. Lee endorsed Simon 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) is the odds-on favorite to win come November in the heavily Democratic district, which includes the LGBTQ enclave of West Hollywood. Her opponent will be gay Republican Dr. Alex Balekian, an ICU physician who is Armenian American.

Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, this week endorsed Friedman in the race. It also endorsed Democrat Joe Kerr, a retired fire captain who is moving on to the runoff race for the District 40 House seat against Congressmember Young Kim (R- Placentia.)

"We are thrilled to endorse these pro-equality champions running for Congress," stated EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang. "The challenges we continue to face in creating a world that is just and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people demand that we elect representatives who will work to defend our hard-fought gains, as well as continue to lead the charge in the ongoing fight for full, lived equality. The road to regaining a pro-equality majority in the House runs through California, and we look forward to supporting these candidates throughout election season."

Three Southern California House races will feature fall rematches between the incumbent and their gay opponent. Congressmember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) is fending off another challenge from gay Democrat David Kim for his District 34 House seat, having defeated the progressive lawyer in 2022.

In an email to his supporters Tuesday, Kim asked them "to recommit ourselves to the task at hand, let us redouble our efforts, and let us continue to stand together as we march towards victory in November. I am proud to have you on this journey with me, and I am confident that, together, we will prevail."

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, where Rollins and his partner live, Democrats are targeting the seat as a pickup opportunity this year.

"The Cook Political Report reaffirmed their classification of our race as a 'toss-up,' and Punchbowl News is calling this the second most important race in the entire country for control of the House," noted Rollins in a March 15 emailed fundraising pitch to his supporters.

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, 3/16/24: This article has been updated with new vote counts from Santa Clara County.

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