Democratic Assemblymember Evan Low made it official today, saying he filed paperwork to launch his expected bid for Silicon Valley’s coveted 16th District seat in Congress.
If elected, Low, 40, would be the first openly LGBTQ congress member to represent the Bay Area and the fourth openly LGBTQ person elected to Congress from California.
The Campbell lawmaker’s endorsements include several of the state’s sitting members of Congress, including Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Santa Clara), Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) and Mark Takano (D-Riverside).
Low told Politico ahead of Tuesday’s announcement that he considers himself a “fighter” and said he is prepared to defend the rights of LGBTQ people in Congress. He denounced House Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) conservative record on LGBTQ rights, which has put some civil rights advocates on high alert.
“Given that we have the most homophobic speaker in generations, the best way to combat that is to send more openly LGBT individuals to Congress,” he told the national online political news site.
Low’s entry in the race completes a trifecta of local political heavyweights vying for the seat to be vacated by Democrat Anna Eshoo, who last month announced she would not seek re-election to a 17th term. Veteran state lawmaker and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo filed their congressional paperwork last week. Liccard has not yet formally announced his candidacy.
With the March 5 primary just three months away and a campaign period interrupted by the holidays, the candidates – a total of five Democrats and two Republicans so far – have a big fundraising challenge ahead of them because of Eshoo’s 11th-hour retirement announcement.
Simitian is off to head start. He has been quietly building up his Friends of Joe Simitian congressional campaign account for a decade. It totalled $681,004 as of Sept. 30, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Liccardo just began his fundraising campaign last weekend.
Low has been raising money all year for another campaign for the 26th Assembly District, but that $2.4 million war chest is not automatically accessible for his congressional campaign.
“Federal Election Commission regulations prohibit transfers of funds or assets from a non-federal campaign committee to a federal committee of the same candidate,” a spokesman for the commission told San Jose Inside this week.
The only way Low can use any of that money for the 16th District race is to refund the Assembly campaign money to contributors and at the same time ask each contributor to donate the money back to his congressional campaign, according to the FEC.
The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission allows candidates to transfer campaign funds leftover after an election to a new bank account for a future election to seek a different office, so long as the funds are not “surplus funds,” according to a FPPC spokesperson. But that applies to state and local offices, not to the federal congressional elections.
Low isn't saying exactly how he is going to tap into that Assembly campaign treasure chest, but his Campaign Advisor Whitney Larsen responded this way to San Jose Inside: “We began fundraising this morning and are already seeing the enthusiasm of our supporters through the donations that are coming in. We are confident that we will raise all of the funds necessary to communicate to voters in the district and win this race. All activity from state and federal accounts will comply with applicable laws, respectively.”
Eshoo has nearly $600,000 sitting in her campaign account, but federal candidates’ contributions to other federal candidates from their campaign funds are limited to $2,000 per election, the FEC spokesperson told San Jose Inside.
Low currently chairs the Assembly’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus in Sacramento and serves as a co-chair of the Legislative Technology and Innovation Caucus. He is the former chair of the state Assembly’s LGBTQ Caucus.
The five-term lawmaker got his start in politics in 2006, when he became the first Asian American and openly gay person elected to Campbell city council. In 2009, Low was elected mayor of Campbell, making him the youngest Asian American mayor in the country at the time.
The other candidates in the open primary are Republicans Karl Ryan and Peter Ohtaki and Democrats Rishi Kumar and Joby Bernstein.
The 16th District is one of the most affluent, highly educated and politically independent of Bay Area congressional districts. About 40% of voters in the district live in San Jose.
The 2022 totals of registered voters in the district, as compiled by the California Secretary of State, showed 52.5% Democrats, 26.8% No Party Preference and 16.3% Republicans.