Low stuck in third place for South Bay US House seat

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 6, 2024
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Gay Assemblymember Evan Low is falling short in his bid for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. Photo: Courtesy the candidate<br>
Gay Assemblymember Evan Low is falling short in his bid for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

Gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) is trailing in his bid to become the first LGBTQ member of Congress from the Bay Area. He was one of 11 candidates on Tuesday's primary ballot vying to succeed Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto).

Eshoo will retire later this year from the South Bay House seat she has held since 1993. Her 16th Congressional District spans San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Low is currently in third place with 16% of the vote, with only the top two finishers advancing to the November ballot. The current first-place finisher is former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo, a Democrat, with 23% of the vote, while Democratic Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian is holding on to second place with 19%.

In a post on X late Tuesday night Low expressed hope in being able to secure one of the top spots as more ballots are tabulated.

"With numerous votes outstanding, the election remains too close to call," wrote Low. "I look forward to reviewing the results of the remaining votes as they come in and remain hopeful we will continue to the General Election."

The race, seen as a prime opportunity to elect the first LGBTQ congressmember from Northern California, had also drawn bisexual Palo Alto City Councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims. But based on the early returns, she was trailing in eighth place with 5% of the vote.

In the East Bay race to succeed outgoing Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who failed to survive Tuesday's primary race for a U.S. Senate seat, queer candidate Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, Ph.D., is currently in second place with nearly 18%, according to the unofficial returns.

As expected, Democratic BART board member Lateefah Simon took a commanding lead in the race for the District 12 House seat with close to 43% of the vote count so far. Simon went into Tuesday's primary with strong support within her party.

Lagging in third place is Alameda City Councilmember Tony Daysog. He currently has almost 16% of the vote.

In San Francisco, transgender candidate Bianca Von Krieg failed to survive the primary contest for the city's District 11 House seat, landing in fifth place with 3% of the vote. Incumbent Democratic Congressmember Nancy Pelosi easily finished in first place with nearly 74% of the early vote, while Republican Bruce Lou was in second with nearly 9%.

Southern California House races

The Golden State's current two gay House members, Democratic Congressmen Mark Takano of Riverside and Robert Garcia of Long Beach, easily took first place in their contests Tuesday as they seek reelection this November.

Takano was leading his Republican opponent, David Serpa, with 60% of the vote to maintain his District 39 House seat. Defending his District 42 seat against one Republican and two Democrats, Garcia was in first place with roughly 56% of the vote based on the early returns while GOPer John Briscoe was at 31%.

A number of Southern California LGBTQ leaders are aiming to join them come the 2025 congressional session. After narrowly losing two years ago to Congressmember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), fellow Democrat David Kim is again vying for the District 34 House seat.

The gay progressive lawyer would be the first out Korean American elected to Congress should he win. As of Tuesday night Kim was in second place among the five candidates with 24% of the vote, while Gomez was in first place with 53%.

Two other gay Democratic congressional candidates are mounting rematches against the Republican congressmembers they lost to in 2022. Seen as more of a long shot is progressive activist Derek Marshall, who is trying to oust Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) from his District 23 House seat in the high country east of Los Angeles.

Based on the early returns, Obernolte has a comfortable lead in first place with 57% of the vote. Marshall currently has 43%.

"We need your help to launch our general election campaign strong, and show that Democrats can compete EVERYWHERE - from the cities, to the suburbs and the rural High Desert," wrote Marshall in a fundraising email he sent out as soon as the polls closed Tuesday at 8 p.m.

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. It includes the LGBTQ resort and retirement mecca Palm Springs where Rollins now lives.

Receiving far more support from the Democratic Party this year compared to his inaugural bid in 2022, Rollins currently stands at 45% of the primary vote. Calvert's share of the early returns is 46%.

"I'm honored that voters have once again entrusted me with the responsibility to flip this seat in November," said Rollins. "In our first campaign in 2022, we gave Ken Calvert the closest midterm election of his 30+ year career, and we did it by bringing Democrats, Republicans, and Independents together who know that Calvert's self-dealing might be good for his own bottom-line, but it's bad for us. This November, we're going to flip this seat and turn the page from his corruption-riddled career, and usher in a new generation of public-service leadership that will focus on bringing good jobs, wages, and benefits for Riverside County families."

While none of the out Democratic candidates vying to succeed Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) appear to have survived Tuesday's primary race, gay Republican Dr. Alex Balekian, an ICU physician, is poised to advance to the November ballot. The Armenian American was in second place with nearly 20% of the early returns, with Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) the top finisher at 29%. Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D-Burbank) was holding on to third place Tuesday with 15%.

Rather than seek another term, Schiff is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated this fall by lesbian Senator Laphonza Butler, appointed last October to serve out the term of the late Dianne Feinstein. He is almost assured of winning the seat against Republican Steve Garvey in November due to Democrats' advantage in statewide races.

Maebe A. Girl, a nonbinary drag queen elected in 2019 as the at-large representative for the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles, had mounted her third bid for the District 30 House seat. While advancing to the November ballot in 2022, she is currently in fifth place with 6% of the vote.

West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne, a former resident of Cupertino in the South Bay, had sought to be the first queer Iranian woman elected to Congress. But she was in 10th place with 1.17% of the vote Tuesday night.

Another gay Armenian American seeking the seat, Jirair Ratevosian, Ph.D., was also trailing based on the early returns. Ratevosian, a Democrat who had worked for Lee as her legislative director, was in eighth place with 2.45% of the vote.

He conceded Wednesday afternoon.

"Although we don't see a path to victory with 61% of the votes currently counted, I could not be prouder of how we ran this campaign," wrote Ratevosian in an email to his supporters. "From being the first candidate to call for a ceasefire to standing up for the rights of all LGBTQ people, I'm proud of the values that this campaign stuck to even when the going got tough."

California is currently the only West Coast state with LGBTQ representation in Congress, though candidates in Oregon and Washington are aiming to change that this year. Thus, LGBTQ political watchers will be looking to see if Democrats Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Eddy Morales 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 is expected to attend a March 23 fundraiser in San Francisco being 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.

Editor's note: This story will be updated as new vote totals are released.

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