US House race lead evaporates for gay Assemblymember Low

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday March 22, 2024
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Gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) aims to follow in the footsteps of the late congressman Norman Mineta and serve in the U.S. House. Photo: Courtesy Facebook
Gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) aims to follow in the footsteps of the late congressman Norman Mineta and serve in the U.S. House. Photo: Courtesy Facebook

Heading into Friday's vote update in the cliffhanger of a race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat, roughly 900 ballots were left to count in the two counties it covers. Another 1,401 challenged ballots remained for election officials to deal with by April 2.

The top two finishers from the March 5 primary will compete in November for the 16th congressional district seat spanning San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) decided to retire at the end of her current term.

Yo-yoing all week between single digit leads for second place has been gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino). He's gone from having an advantage of six votes down to one then up to two as the count has been updated in the two counties.

As of Friday afternoon Low has slipped back into third place behind Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian by four votes. One of the two Democrats will move on to the general election November 5 and compete against former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo, who took first in the primary.

Simitian had expressed optimism of surviving the March 5 primary following his second-place finish on election night. His vote count stands at 30,222.

Low, aiming to be the first out congressmember from Northern California, now has 30,218 votes. Liccardo saw his first-place standing grow to be 38,455 votes.

Santa Clara County's registrar will post another vote update by 5 p.m. Monday. It now has 825 ballots left to count and another 800 that have been challenged that could be added if their irregularities are dealt with voters by 5 p.m. on April 2.

One of the remaining ballots in San Mateo went to Liccardo Friday, while the county registrar will post an update Monday by 4:30 p.m. regarding any ballots it has cured and added to its vote count; there are 601 challenged ballots now remaining.

The primary for the House seat is one of the closest contests remaining in California. Another with an out candidate is the race to succeed lesbian Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) in her 58th Assembly District seat.

Her younger sister Clarissa Cervantes, who is queer and bisexual, was holding onto second place with 25.9% of the vote as of Friday afternoon. Fellow Democrat Ronaldo Fierro remained in third place with 25.6% and was short 166 votes.

Cervantes is poised to face in November first-place finisher Republican Leticia Castillo. If elected, she would be the first LGBTQ person to succeed their sibling in the California Legislature.

It could also usher in the first time that LGBTQ siblings serve alongside each other in the Statehouse. Assemblymember Cervantes advanced out of her primary race to compete on the fall ballot for the open Senate District 31 seat against Republican Cynthia Navarro.

Neither Low, Simitian, nor Clarissa Cervantes have yet to declare victory in their primary races. The election results are to be certified by April 4.

A candidate or any registered voter in the state can request a recount of the vote in a race. They will need to do so within five calendar days after the completion of the official canvass and signing of the certificate of the election results, as well as pay for it.

Meanwhile, another close primary race with an out candidate has been called. Gay former San Diego city councilmember Carl DeMaio will be facing fellow GOPer Andrew Hayes in November.

DeMaio came out as the clear frontrunner of the March 5 contest for the Assembly District 75 seat with 43% of the vote. Hayes, endorsed by the California Republican Party and local GOP groups, was locked in a tight contest for second against Democrat Kevin Juza.

But Hayes, who netted 18.7% of the vote and led Juza by 652 votes as of Friday afternoon, declared victory March 20 after the count was updated that Wednesday.

"After weeks of waiting, all ballots have been counted in San Diego County and our campaign is victorious!" Hayes wrote in a Facebook post.

Their contest will be one of the most fascinating races on the fall ballot, especially since DeMaio could become the first out Republican elected to the state Legislature. But Democratic voters could derail his breaking through the conservative pink political ceiling.

It is hard to see Democrats, who accounted for 35.6% of primary voters, throwing their support to him in November. DeMaio is a firebrand conservative who led the successful 2018 recall of Democratic state Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton). (He won his seat back in 2020 and is sailing to reelection this fall.)

If they decide to vote for Hayes, rather than leaving the contest blank on their ballots, Democratic voters could provide him the winning margin he needs to defeat DeMaio.

Were DeMaio to pull off a victory, it remains to be seen if he would want to join the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus or, if he did, would be allowed in it having attacked some of its recent legislative priorities. As the B.A.R.'s Political Notebook column first reported in January, the issue of allowing DeMaio membership could come up for a vote among the caucus members.

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