Low secures CA Democratic Party endorsement in US House race

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 15, 2024
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Congressional candidate Evan Low is looking ahead to the general election in November. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Congressional candidate Evan Low is looking ahead to the general election in November. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

Weeks after surviving a recount of his primary race for a U.S. House seat, gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) has won the California Democratic Party's endorsement of his candidacy. It is a major coup for Low as he enters a tough general election race against former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo.

Politico's California Playbook broke the news Wednesday afternoon.

The two Democratic South Bay leaders are running to succeed Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto). She opted not to seek reelection this year to her 16th Congressional District seat that spans Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

In the March 5 primary, Liccardo emerged as the first-place finisher. Due to Low tying for second place with Democratic Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, they were set to also advance to the November 5 ballot along with Liccardo.

But after Jonathan Padilla, a former mayoral staffer of Liccardo's, requested a recount of the vote, it was announced May 1 that Low had taken the second spot by five more votes than Simitian. Padilla had claimed he sought the recount on behalf of Low, who had been against doing so and accused Liccardo's campaign of working behind the scenes to help raise funds to pay for it.

Liccardo and Padilla both denied they had collaborated on the recount. A political action committee set up to raise funds for it won't reveal who its contributors were until July.

Meanwhile, once it was clear Low and Liccardo were moving on to the November 5 ballot, the scramble began to secure the support of their statewide party. It opens access to donors, volunteers, and other support in the fall campaign.

California Democratic Party officials announced May 15 that Low had met the 60% percent threshold needed among the local delegates who voted on the endorsement to receive its backing in the race.

"I think I am proud that the delegates who also are voting members within this congressional district have made a very clear distinction on who represents the Democratic Party values over a lifetime. It is important to me, and I will continue to do that in Congress," Low told the Bay Area Reporter during a recent phone interview.

He is aiming to become the first LGBTQ member of Congress from the Bay Area. Should he be elected to the House seat, Low would become the second "gaysian" among California's congressional delegation. Gay Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside) is expected to easily win reelection this year and recently told the B.A.R. he has full confidence in seeing Low also win his race.

Low told the B.A.R. he is standing on the shoulders of those gay elected leaders in the South Bay that came before him, such as the first out elected leader in Santa Clara County, Ken Yeager, who served on the San Jose City Council and county board of supervisors, and former state assemblymember from San Mateo County Rich Gordon.

"It is unfathomable to me there has never been an openly LGBTQ person elected to Congress in the Bay Area region, which has more LGBTQ families living in it than anywhere in the country, so it is long overdue," said Low. "At the same time I realize the obligation I have to continue the work of so many who have come before, such as iconic leaders like Harvey Milk."

He pointed to the saying, "You can't be what you can't see," in wanting to be a role model for LGBTQ youth, whose rights have come under attack in school districts and statehouses across the country, by showing they could one day win election to Congress.

"I realize I have an obligation to the community at hand ... to provide some hope to our community," said Low. "We need that guiding light. Again, my guiding light stems from I am a product of and beneficiary of years and decades of service to make our community what it is today."

Other potential backers

Ahead of the primary Eshoo had endorsed Simitian to succeed her in Washington, D.C. Neither has yet to announce an endorsement of either Low or Liccardo in the general election.

Low told the B.A.R. he has not spoken to either of them about now supporting his candidacy. Pressed on if he planned to do so, Low demurred and would only say he expects to have "many conversations in the coming weeks and months ahead" about why he is the best person to represent the district.

"I am hopeful to earn the trust and respect of as many residents as possible, including those two you just mentioned," said Low. "At the same time I know they have a very high bar and very high standards, and I hope to live up to their expectations and even exceed them."

Already, one of the candidates who failed to survive the primary, veteran and venture capitalist Peter Dixon, has endorsed Liccardo. In a May 9 post on X, Liccardo wrote, "I look forward to continuing to learn from Peter's innovative ideas to make our nation more resilient to climate change, reduce federal budgetary waste, and improve the quality of lives of our millions of veterans and servicemembers."

It would appear Low has a better chance of defeating Liccardo in a head-to-head matchup rather than having Simitian also in the race, as they received a combined 60,517 votes in the primary while Liccardo netted 38,492 votes. Yet Low wouldn't sign on to such a reading of the race when asked about it by the B.A.R.

"I can't say because there are so many different variables. But what I can say is that I put myself up and ran for the opportunity to serve," said Low. "In other words I don't make these decisions based on who is in the race and who isn't in the race."

Low also wouldn't say if he felt those who cast ballots for Simitian would now vote for him rather than Liccardo. He does plan to work for their vote and that of the voters who backed any of the other eight candidates in the primary. (They received a combined vote of 83,1179 votes.)

"Frankly, what we have also realized is you can't pigeonhole a voter in one clean box," explained Low. "The question is how do you appeal to and earn the trust and respect of voters who didn't voter for any of us. That is my plan of action over the next six, seven months."

He hopes he can convince them that he is best equipped to carry on Eshoo's legacy and legislative priorities in Congress.

"I hope I can earn the trust from as many voters as possible on the most vexing issues for our region and district," said Low.

Recount mania

As for going through the recount, Low said the experience was "anything but a wild ride." He told the B.A.R. he tried not to pay attention to the daily updates about the vote count but found it impossible to ignore due to people texting him about it and talking about it wherever he went.

Even the produce section at his grocery store failed to shield him from hearing about the recount.

"I was picking out fruits, and another person picking out fruit next to me turned and said to me, 'Congratulations, I see you are ahead by three votes!' And the next person over to them heard them and says, 'Oh no, today he is down.' For my own sanity, I must admit, I tried not to pay attention to it too much," recalled Low. "But I could not avoid the constant updates from others."

Between the filing deadline in December, the primary on March 5, and throughout the recount process, Low kept his campaign focus on events within the House district, he told the B.A.R. Despite the regional, statewide, and national interest in his vying to break through a political pink ceiling in the Bay Area, Low said he has yet to schedule any fundraisers in San Francisco or another city outside of Northern California.

He plans to do so in the coming weeks.

Turnout in the primary was at roughly 38% of registered voters. With the presidential election on the November ballot, Low said he expects turnout could reach at least 70% in the fall. More people of color and younger voters should head to the polls then, added Low, who believes they are more likely to support him in the race.

Nonetheless, his approach to the fall contest will be the same as that of the primary, Low told the B.A.R.

"The approach is always the same, which is to help ensure you are doing all you possibly can to earn the trust and support of every voter and every individual," said Low. "Ultimately, I hope to be the representative that will work for and represent everyone in the district regardless of whether or not you voted for me regardless of party affiliation."

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