Gay Assemblymember Low back to being one vote short in US House bid

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday March 25, 2024
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South Bay U.S. House primary race with gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) comes down to the last ballots to count. Photo: Courtesy of the candidate
South Bay U.S. House primary race with gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) comes down to the last ballots to count. Photo: Courtesy of the candidate

With another vote count update Monday, gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) is back to being one vote short in his bid to survive the primary race for a South Bay U.S. House seat. He is likely to seek a recount should he remain in third place by such a small margin.

After clinging to a bare-bones lead for second place last week, Low had fallen into third place Friday in the race for the open House District 16 seat that spans San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. He now has 30,228 total votes in his bid to become the Bay Area's first LGBTQ congressional member.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian had retaken the second place position Friday to lead Low by four votes. His vote total now stands at 30,229.

One of the two Democrats will move on to the fall ballot and compete against Democratic former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo. He placed first in their March 5 primary contest and currently has 38,464 votes.

The winner of the November 5 race will succeed Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto). She decided to retire when her current term expires.

Elections officials in San Mateo County are working their way through 562 challenged ballots to see if they can rectify the issues with them. They will post another update Tuesday by 4:30 p.m.

In Santa Clara County the registrar of voters continues to process ballots and will post another update Tuesday by 5 p.m. It began Monday with 825 ballots left to tabulate and 800 challenged ballots left to review by the April 2 at 5 p.m. deadline to correct or "cure" them.

The vote count is to be certified on April 4. Either of the candidates or any registered voter in the state can request a recount of the vote.

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 explained by the Santa Clara registrar of voters. The person making the request will also need to cover the cost of the recount.

Back in 2014 gay then-Assemblyman John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) requested a recount in his primary bid to be state controller and first LGBTQ person elected to statewide office in California. He had fallen behind Betty Yee, a fellow Democrat serving at the time on the state Board of Equalization, by less than 500 votes.

It didn't alter the outcome of the race, which Yee went on to win. She termed out of the controller office at the start of 2023 and is now running for governor in 2026.

Two years ago, after neither Richmond City Council candidate requested a recount in their tied race by the deadline to do so, Cesar Zepeda won the East Bay city's District 2 council seat after the city clerk drew his name from a red Christmas holiday shopping bag. As the B.A.R. noted, Zepeda became the first gay man elected to the council.

West Coast House races

Primaries in Oregon on May 21 and Washington on August 6 will determine if out congressional candidates in those states will advance to the November ballot.

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 was feted at a March 23 fundraiser in San Francisco 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.

Monday Laurie Jinkins, speaker of the House in Washington's legislature, and five other state legislators endorsed Randall. Their doing so followed that of the state's Democratic U.S. Senator Patty Murray, who threw her support behind Randall earlier this month.

"Emily is the clear choice for Washington's Sixth Congressional District," stated Jinkins. "She has been an incredible partner in the Washington State legislature — and now more than ever, we need her voice in Congress."

Last Friday, the political action committee for national LGBTQ rights advocacy organization the Human Rights Campaign also endorsed Randall. John Gruber, HRC's national campaigns director, credited Randall for becoming "a force" in her state over the last few years on such issues as access to abortion and health care along with defending democracy.

"As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, she is poised to serve as an essential voice in what we expect will be a return to a pro-equality majority in the U.S. House after the November election," stated Gruber. "Her fight for justice and equality during her time in the state legislature is more urgent than ever, and now is the time for LGBTQ+ and allied voters to go to the ballot box and send her to the nation's capital."

While the HRC PAC has yet to endorse McLeod-Skinner, it did endorse Morales last week.

"As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and the son of a Mexican immigrant, his lived experiences are invaluable to accomplishing real, tangible change that can't be more urgently needed in our current political moment," stated Gruber. "We look forward to mobilizing our forces, getting equality voters to the ballot box, and sending him to Washington to advocate for a more inclusive America."

Other Golden State House contests

California currently is the only West Coast state with LGBTQ members among its congressional delegation. Gay Democratic Congressmembers Mark Takano of Riverside and Robert Garcia of Long Beach are expected to easily win reelection in November.

Lesbian Democratic U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler, appointed last October to serve out the term of the late Dianne Feinstein, opted not to run for the seat. She is expected to step down following the fall election.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) lost her primary bid for the seat and will be leaving the House at the end of her term. While Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, Ph.D., a queer Oakland resident, took second place in the March 5 primary for Lee's District 12 House seat in Alameda County, it is widely expected that BART board member Lateefah Simon will easily win it on November 5.

Endorsed by both Butler and Lee, Simon took first place with nearly 56% of the primary vote. Tran received close to 15%.

With Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) the first place winner in the primary for the Senate seat, expected to succeed him in the District 30 House seat is Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale). She was the top finisher of her primary race and is expected to easily defeat gay Republican Dr. Alex Balekian come the fall in the heavily Democratic district that includes the gay enclave of West Hollywood.

Three gay Democratic Southern California congressional candidates who fell short in 2022 again face tough campaigns this year. All three came in second in their March 5 primary matchups.

Gay progressive lawyer David Kim is again tying to oust Congressmember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) from his District 34 House seat. Kim would be the first out Korean American in Congress.

Progressive activist Derek Marshall is mounting another underdog bid to oust Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) from his District 23 House seat in the high desert areas east of Los Angeles. In the Coachella Valley, gay attorney Will Rollins is once again trying to oust Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona) from his District 41 House seat that now includes the LGBTQ retirement and resort town of Palm Springs where Rollins lives with his partner.

UPDATED 3/26/2024 to correct that Laurie Jinkins is speaker of the House in Washington's legislature.

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