As California preps to lose one congressional seat by 2022, one Santa Clara councilmember is proactively trying to ensure her city won’t get switched out.
Kathy Watanabe requested city elected officials discuss writing to the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission, the 14-member nonpartisan committee in charge of scratching out new district boundary lines as they assign the state’s more than 39 million residents federal representation.
Ahead of a July 6 council meeting, Watanabe argued Santa Clara should stay snuggled alongside CA17’s suburbs—Cupertino, Fremont, Milpitas, Newark, Sunnyvale and portions of San Jose—because it is “home to the largest Asian American Pacific Islander population of any Congressional district in the United States, which is something we should support maintaining and be proud of.”
That beaming tone about the Mission City’s minority populations doesn’t exactly pair well with Watanabe’s council track record.
Despite boasting about her blended Asian American family, the two-term councilor stubbornly (and unsuccessfully) fought a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit—twice—arguing minority voters weren’t disadvantaged by the city’s previous at-large system, going so far as to separate herself from a fellow councilmember’s apology to Santa Clarans denied fair representation.
Watanabe also caught flack in 2018 for concerns that soccer games attract a “different crowd” than American football, and her March 2021 refusal to hand the mic to the city’s only Korean American council member at a #StopAsianHate event ended with her censure.
It’s not exactly clear why a different district would prove problematic, as CA17’s U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna aligned with District 19 Rep. Zoe Lofgren in 98% of House votes in 2019-20. Lofgren represents residents in San Martin, Morgan Hill and portions of Gilroy, San Jose and unincorporated Santa Clara County.
But as Khanna has historically endorsed Watanabe, City Hall insiders have only one guess as to why Watanabe crafted the odd letter: political fealty.