Assemblymember Evan Low hit the ground running this week in fundraising efforts for his 16th District congressional bid, reporting he had raised $300,000 in the first 48 hours after announcing his candidacy.
“This significant milestone demonstrates the vast network of supporters who are fired up to send him to Congress,” his campaign said in a press release. “Historically a strong fundraiser, Assemblymember Low proved he has the enthusiasm behind his candidacy to raise the resources needed to compete in the quickly approaching March primary.”
“There is a growing energy behind the need for a new era of courageous leadership for Silicon Valley,” said Low in a statement. “The generosity and commitment of our diverse supporters ensures we will have the resources needed to run a winning campaign.”
The combination of the new early primary date, March 5, plus the prospect of the most hotly contested congressional primary in the Bay Area in decades boosts the likelihood of campaign war chests in the millions. The primary is less than three months away, with campaigning and fundraising interrupted by the holidays.
Rep. Anna Eshoo’s decision to wait until just three weeks before the next week’s filing deadline to announce her retirement after 16 terms sent potential opponents scrambling to make decisions, raise money and quickly assemble their teams.
Low had to start from scratch, because federal law prohibits him from directly transferring any of the $2.4 million in his Assembly campaign fund to his congressional campaign.
Former Mayor Sam Liccardo, who has yet to formally announce this week after filing paperwork last week with the Federal Election Commission, also started with empty coffers. His supporters held a hastily called fundraiser in Portola Valley last weekend with a $250,000 goal, with no reports as of mid-week of its success.
The third leading Democrat in the race, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who formally announced last week, has been building a campaign fund for a congressional bid for a decade, giving him an instant lead in 16th District fundraising. The Friends of Joe Simitian account held more than $680,000 on Sept. 30, according to the FEC, including $121,550 collected in the first nine months of the year.
Another Democrat, former Saratoga councilmember Rishi Kumar, who announced he would be making a third attempt to unseat Eshoo months before she decided to retire, begins his campaign in the red, according to FEC filings. Kumar reported he had raised $12,285 by Sept. 30, boosting his cash on hand to nearly $21,000. His campaign also reported $295,000 in “debts and obligations owed by the committee.”
Eshoo’ s campaign reported a balance of nearly $600,000 as of Sept. 30, but federal candidates’ contributions to other federal candidates from their campaign funds are limited to $2,000 per election.
“Congresswoman Eshoo will utilize her campaign funds for a combination of approved contributions to entities approved by the FEC and House Ethics and as required or permitted by law,” said a campaign spokesperson in response to a San Jose Inside inquiry.
Tightly contested congressional races are rare in the Bay Area, where current representatives in the 12 congressional districts are serving an average of 16 years, and generally re-elected by wide margins.
In the last closely contested race, in the 15th District in San Mateo County, to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Jackie Speier, all seven candidates spent more than $2.6 million, and Rep. Kevin Mullin defeated David Canepa, 56% to 44%.