This report has been updated, with a comment from Sam Liccardo, Nov.28.
Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is preparing to announce his candidacy for the 16th Congressional District, campaign insiders said today.
The two-term mayor “is doing his due diligence” making hundreds of phone calls in preparation for an expected announcement, said political consultant Eric Jaye, who ran both of Liccardo’s successful mayoral campaigns plus the upset election victory last fall by Liccardo’s successor and political ally, Matt Mahan.
Jaye said a likely bid by Liccardo to fill the seat vacated by retiring Rep. Anna Eshoo was energized this week by results from a weekend poll of likely voters showing the former mayor topping a field of eight possible opponents.
“I don’t have any announcements or decision yet,” Liccardo said in an email response to a San Jose Inside inquiry. “I am still in the process of calling community leaders and supporters to talk about how the federal government can better address the many critical issues we face— such as homelessness, housing affordability, crime, climate change and the innovation economy—and am grateful for the good ideas and encouragement that they’ve offered.”
The news of a likely Liccardo candidacy comes on the heels of an announcement by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian last week that he will be kicking off his campaign this week, and Assemblymember Evan Low’s revelation last week that he would join the contest for the coveted Silicon Valley seat held by Eshoo for 16 terms.
“It’s an open race,” Jaye told San Jose Inside.
The poll conducted via telephone and text messages to 400 likely voters in the 16th District showed Liccardo favored by 16% of respondents, Jaye said.
The poll was commissioned by Liccardo supporters and will be paid by an “exploratory” committee to be formed later this week.
Simitian came in second in the poll by Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina polling firm affiliated with the Democratic Party, favored by 12%.
Rishi Kumar, making a third bid for the seat, trailed next at 7%, a number matched by Sally Lieber, who has filed for county supervisor. Low trailed two Republicans – Karl Ryan at 9% and Peter Ohtaki at 6% – with a 5% tally, with State Sen. Josh Becker at 4%, and Joby Bernstein at 1%. One-third of respondents voted “not sure” in the PPP poll.
As of Nov. 28, only Kumar, Ryan, Ohtaki and Bernstein had filed as candidates for the March 5 primary.
The top two vote getters in the open primary will face off in the November general election.
The filing deadline is Dec. 13, extended beyond the Dec. 8 primary filing deadline because there will be no incumbent in the race.
Liccardo “is making many calls, and is receiving encouraging offers of support,” said Jaye.”This poll is quite encouraging.”
The campaign consultant also said the fact that as many as 40% of the voters in the district, whose boundaries were redrawn before the 2022 vote, are in the San Jose city limits also is a source of potential strength for Liccardo, who served 8 years on the city council before his election as mayor. The location of the affluent west and southwest sections of San Jose in the congressional district “creates a strong base” for Liccardo, said Jaye.
Low lives in Campbell, and much of his 26th Assembly District is in the 16th District. Simitian, also a former state senator and assembly member, lives in Palo Alto, where he served on the school board and city council.
Liccardo grew up in Saratoga, attended Bellarmine Prep in San Jose and lives in the Northside neighborhood about 10 blocks east of the new 16th District boundaries.
With a law degree from Harvard, Liccardo was an assistant district attorney before entering politics, and teaches one course per year as a part-time lecturer at Stanford Law School.
Liccardo said in September that he would not challenge Rep. Zoe Lofgren in 2024, and announced he would join San Francisco-based Ground Floor Public Affairs, which lists him as “senior adviser and counsel.”
Liccardo said at the time he will continue to live in San Jose and continue to teach at Stanford. As a part-time lecturer, he taught “How Cities Can Save the World” last spring, and this fall is teaching “Confronting Our Housing and Homelessness Crises: Policy, Politics, and the Law.”
In February, Liccardo polled his support among likely voters in Lofgren’s 18th congressional district. He reportedly called Lofgren to ask if she was planning to run for re-election. When she said “yes” he dropped the idea of running, but told reporters this fall he was open to running for Congress in the future.
The 16th District is one of the most affluent,highly educated and politically independent of Bay Area congressional districts. Jaye described the district’s voters as “independent-minded” and said it was “less partisan than others.”
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.
The district is 29% Asian, 25% White (Non-Hispanic), 20% Hispanic (all), 13% Mixed Race and 2% Black, with 34% of the population foreign-born, according to census data.
The district’s median household income is $160,623, more than 40% of households earn more than $200,000 per year and the median home value is $1.9 million. The census reports that 83% of adults 25 years or older in the district hold a bachelor’s degree or better. Just 3.6% of households are below federal poverty levels.