Political Notebook: Due to redistricting, CA LGBTQ caucus chair Low bunks with dad

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday October 12, 2022
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South Bay state Assemblymember Evan Low. Photo: Courtesy Evan Low campaign
South Bay state Assemblymember Evan Low. Photo: Courtesy Evan Low campaign

Late last year South Bay gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell) found himself a political nomad. Under the decennial redistricting process he was drawn into the new 23rd Assembly District along with his colleague Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto).

Rather than run for reelection against each other, the two legislators came to an agreement where Low would move into the new 26th Assembly District that includes Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and parts of San Jose. Doing so required Low to vacate the 1,100 square foot condo in Campbell that he co-owns with his brother, a San Jose police officer.

But finding an affordable place where he could live in AD 26 proved impossible on such short notice. Talking to the Bay Area Reporter by phone last week, Low noted that the median home price in his new district is $2.5 million and average rents for one-bedrooms are near $5,000 a month.

For Low, who earned $111,077.52 in 2021, according to the website Transparent California, such prices are not within his budgetary reach. Thus, he ended up moving into the Sunnyvale home of his father and stepmother.

"This is about the lived experience of so many who cannot afford to live in California and the Bay Area," said Low, 39, in his first media interview about the housing predicament he faced. "I am in Sunnyvale trying to go back and forth getting my things in Campbell."

Due to nearing his 40th birthday next June, Low told the B.A.R. he has "felt a little bit sheepish to talk about" where he is now living. For how long he will be without his own place in the legislative district remains unclear.

"I am a 40-year-old moving in with dad," said Low, who in his 20s served on the Campbell City Council as its first Asian American member.

Low grew up in San Jose, and his parents separated when he was 18. Both remarried and, in what would be a fortunate turn of events years later for Low, his father bought a home in Sunnyvale. But bunking with dad as an adult wasn't something the San Jose State University alumnus envisioned.

"It is an unfortunate reality," said Low, adding that, "I am lucky to have family here. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to do it."

Low, who chairs the Legislative LGBTQ caucus, is expected to easily win reelection come November 8. His new district overlaps somewhat with his current 28th Assembly District, which includes Cupertino and parts of San Jose.

He has been introducing himself to his new constituents now that the Legislature is in recess. Last week, Low honored the owners of Pineapple Thai in Cupertino with his 2022 Small Business of the Year Award.

And the day the B.A.R. caught up with Low — Tuesday, October 4 — he was on his way to the Cupertino City Council to announce $6 million in state funding for the city. The money will pay for a new all-inclusive playground at Jollyman Park and the reconstruction of the McClellan Road Bridge.

"I was born and raised in the South Bay, so I am very familiar with the area," said Low. "But nothing should be taken for granted. I am excited to get to know a new city and new people."

He is also focused on helping to elect what is expected to be the largest contingent of LGBTQ legislators in California history. The LGBTQ caucus could grow from its current eight members to having a record 13 members, at least, in the next legislative session.

"As chair, this is my job to help identify, recruit, and get across the finish line LGBT candidates at the state level," said Low. "We had an incredible opportunity to increase membership significantly this year. It is looking like it could be plus six."

Also expected to easily win reelection are incumbent Assemblymembers Alex Lee (D-San Jose), who is bisexual; Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), who is lesbian; and Chris Ward (D-San Diego), who is gay. Rick Chavez Zbur, the gay former executive director of statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California, is the predicted winner of the open Assembly District 51 seat in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County is assured of once again having LGBTQ representation in the state Senate due to the contest for the newly drawn 20th Senate District seat. Lesbian social worker Caroline Menjivar and gay hotel manager Daniel Hertzberg are vying to succeed his father, state Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), who is termed out this year.

The victor will become the first out state legislator elected from the San Fernando Valley. After solely endorsing Hertzberg in the June primary, the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus dual-endorsed the two out candidates in the general election.

Gay Chula Vista City Councilmember Steve Padilla appears set to be elected to the open Senate District 18 seat in San Diego County. Corey Jackson, a gay man running for the Assembly District 60 seat in the state's Inland Empire, is likely to become the first LGBTQ African American elected to the California Legislature.

"This would complete our rainbow in respect to diversity. We still have a long way to go getting trans representation," said Low.

Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege is set to become the first bisexual female LGBTQ caucus member. Running for the new Assembly District 47 seat, which former Republican Assemblymember Chad Mayes (I-Rancho Mirage) opted against seeking reelection to this year, Holstege is favored in the race over her Republican opponent Greg Wallis.

Facing harder roads to election are two gay Navy veterans. Joseph C. Rocha of Escondido is trying to oust state Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) in the newly drawn 40th Senate District in San Diego County.

In the East Bay race for the open 20th Assembly District seat, Dublin City Councilmember Shawn Kumagai is in a tough election fight against labor leader Liz Ortega, who is straight. She has the endorsement of outgoing Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), who opted not to seek reelection.

Meanwhile, facing a near impossible path to victory this fall after losing the special election in June to serve in the then-vacant Assembly District 80 seat, queer former San Diego City Council president Georgette Gómez suspended her general election campaign in September. She had lost to David Alvarez, also a former San Diego city councilmember, and the Democratic assemblymember is all but assured of winning a full two-year term next month.

As for the 13 remaining out legislative candidates, Low told the B.A.R. they are a strong slate that can expand out representation into new geographic areas of the state.

"They are high caliber candidates who reflect the diversity of this state," said Low. "It is very exciting to see."

While Low will welcome the election winners to Sacramento in December as chair of the LGBTQ legislative affinity group, he will not remain in the position in 2023. He is stepping down and handing over caucus leadership to current vice chair lesbian state Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton). She had served as caucus chair when she was in the state Assembly.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on queer Washington state Senate candidate Emily Randall.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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