Editorial: It's on to November for Low

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday May 8, 2024
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Congressional candidate Evan Low. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Congressional candidate Evan Low. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

After a historic March primary, and an even more unusual recount, gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) has advanced to the November general election for the open 16th Congressional District seat in the South Bay. We endorsed Low ahead of the primary and stand with him today. Readers should too. Low faces a daunting challenge and needs resources to compete with Sam Liccardo (D), the former San Jose mayor who came in first in the primary. The seat became open after longtime Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) announced late last year that she would not seek reelection.


Low and fellow Democrat Joe Simitian, a Santa Clara County supervisor and former state legislator, were behind Liccardo after the first ballots were tallied. As more votes were counted in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, which make up the congressional district, each see-sawed: Low was behind, then ahead; Simitian was ahead, then behind. In the end, they each garnered 30,249 votes. Under state election law, in the event of a tie under the state's open primary system, the second and third place candidates would have both advanced to the general election. That would have seen three candidates on the ballot: Liccardo, Low, and Simitian.

Both Low and Simitian seemed content to let the process play out under that scenario. But at the deadline to request a recount, one voter did so. That was Jonathan Padilla, who once worked for Liccardo when he was mayor and donated to Liccardo's congressional campaign last December. Padilla denied Liccardo was behind the recount request and wrote on X that he wanted to see every vote counted. A new political action committee, Count the Vote, was formed to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the recount. Its donors won't be known until July, when the PAC must file Federal Election Commission documents. Adding to the confusion, Padilla requested the recount on behalf of Low, though Low has always maintained he did not ask for one.

It's easy to see from Liccardo's perspective that he would prefer to face one opponent rather than two. But the recount request has been suspicious from the beginning, in our opinion, especially attempting to make it appear that Low wanted it. As it turned out, Low won the recount by five votes over Simitian and will face Liccardo - a result that Liccardo may not have anticipated.


Now it's up to Low and his supporters to get him to the finish line and become the first LGBTQ member of Congress from the Bay Area. In an email message to supporters last week, Low stated, "We want to reiterate our thanks to the amazing staff at the Registrars of Voters for their hard work during a complex recount process. We also want to thank Joe Simitian, who was alongside us during this wild ride.

"He ran an incredible campaign, and the Bay Area is a better place to call home thanks to his decades of service," Low added. "His leadership and work continued to be a source of inspiration to me."

We have no doubt that Low is working to secure Simitian's endorsement, as well as that of Eshoo, who backed Simitian in the primary. Both of them should support Low, who would be a tremendous asset in the House, where his legislative experience of serving in the Assembly and his executive experience as mayor of Campbell will help his constituents. Now that the COVID pandemic has entered a different phase — it's not over but neither is it the crisis it was four years ago — Low stated to us that one of his goals in Congress is to work to provide help to small businesses, which make up the backbone of the community. Low is also familiar with the tech companies that call the South Bay home. A fourth-generation Californian, Low was born and raised in Silicon Valley. In other words, he knows the people he's seeking to represent in Washington, D.C.

LGBTQ rights

From our perspective, a Low victory would increase gay representation in the House at a time when LGBTQ rights are under attack by conservative forces. There's a chance Democrats could retake control of the House, which would be an even greater benefit. But even if Republicans eke out a victory, Low, running in a safe Democratic seat, would utilize skills he's honed in politics: namely, the ability to take on tough issues and to work across the aisle. As Low told us in the endorsement questionnaire we sent, "I intend to work in a bipartisan manner just as I have in the past to find consensus and build relationships across the aisle that will be critical in delivering results for CA-16."

Low will work with the out members who are already there, like Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside), and hopefully, new members elected later this year. Takano, for one, was bullish on Low's candidacy during a recent interview with the Bay Area Reporter, noting that if he's elected, Low would be the second out Asian American and Pacific Islander representative.

Low is the co-author of Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 that will appear on California ballots in November. It would remove the "zombie" same-sex marriage ban language that was added to the state's governing document by the passage 16 years ago of Proposition 8.

If the LGBTQ community is to have a real shot at making this country more equitable, we need out leaders in elected office. It's something the late Harvey Milk emphasized, and it remains true 47 years after he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

But Low can only win with help. LGBTQ and allied supporters need to step up now as donors and volunteers, as the campaign fight is only beginning.

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