UPDATE: Evan Low inches into second place in Silicon Valley congressional race
Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is leading the race for Congress. He appeared at his election night party on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 with his wife. Photo by Jana Kadah.

In Silicon Valley’s most expensive and highly-anticipated race, two candidates have emerged as frontrunners in a crowded race to replace retiring Rep. Anna Eshoo in Congress — a once-in-a-generation contest that has captured national attention.

As of 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo led the pack of 11 candidates with 21.1% of the vote. He is trailed by Assemblymember Evan Low, who after seven days moved into second place, securing 16.6% of the vote. Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian is now in third, just one vote behind Low, also with 16.6% of the vote.

“Thank you again to all of the voters who have made their voices heard in this election. While there are still votes left to be counted, I am encouraged by the latest results that have put our campaign in the lead,” Low told San José Spotlight on Wednesday evening. “I am grateful to all of my supporters and look forward to all votes being counted in this race.”

Liccardo, who served 16 years on the San Jose City Council including two terms as mayor, joined supporters Tuesday night to watch the early results trickle in. His supporters donned Liccardo for Congress name tags and feasted on Mexican food and drinks from LUNA’s in the Pruneyard as they awaited results.

Liccardo has been paving his path to Washington for years. In February 2022, nearly a year before Eshoo announced she’s retiring, a mysterious poll gauged how Liccardo might fare in a congressional race. Before entering politics, the 53-year-old was a deputy district attorney. He teaches at Stanford Law School and started a consultancy before jumping into the race.

As of Feb. 14, Liccardo had raised $2.2 million and earned endorsements from the Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle, as well as San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan and a number of other elected officials and community leaders.

“What I keep hearing from residents at the door, on the phone, is they want to see federal government to take action on homelessness,” Liccardo said at his election night party. “It’s not just a crisis here, it’s a crisis in 44 cities in this country where we have more than 400 homeless residents. The housing crisis isn’t unique here. Any mayor of any major metro area will tell you that it’s too expensive for anybody’s kids to buy a home. We’ve got crises that are national and they deserve a federal response and our residents know it.”

Former Mayor Sam Liccardo celebrates his early lead in the congressional race Tuesday night. Photo by Jana Kadah.

Despite the early lead, Liccardo isn’t declaring victory just yet — it’s a long road to November, he said.

“What I know is that the numbers that will matter are going to be in November,” he told San José Spotlight. “And I am going to be working very hard between now and then. I said I knocked on 2,500 doors in this short sprint. I have a lot more doors to knock on.”

Simitian is a political powerhouse with nearly 40 years of elected office experience, including serving in the state Senate, Assembly, Palo Alto City Council and the Palo Alto Unified School board.

Voters elected Simitian to the county board of supervisors in 2012 and re-elected him in 2016 and 2020.

Simitian gathered with a flock of supporters at Palo Alto Creamery on election night.

As the results trickled in, Simitian exchanged hugs with allies and fellow elected officials — including Supervisor Otto Lee.

“We’re in the top two. And that’s what this race was all about,” Simitian told San José Spotlight. “I am very pleased and very proud that our team was able to pull it together to make the top two. I am really looking forward to a campaign that’s a little more focused and gives us a little more opportunity to campaign person to person — that’s the way I’ve always done my work.”

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian poses with colleague Supervisor Otto Lee on election night. Photo by Jana Kadah.

Simitian said he’s the only candidate who has represented 14 of the 15 cities in the district, including San Jose.

“I think that meant that folks were comfortable. I knew them, I knew their views, the values, the needs of the folks I was aspiring to represent. And that matters,” he added.

Low and his team said the legislator isn’t bowing out just yet — there are many more votes to be counted.

“When we’re thinking about historic low turnout, we’re thinking about how do you make sure you empower young voices — especially to understand the importance of civic engagement,” Low told San José Spotlight on Tuesday night. “Of course the name of the game is to be in the top two, so I’m hopeful of this opportunity and to see voting results continue throughout the night and throughout the month.”

California Assemblymember Evan Low is remaining hopeful as ballots are counted in the Congressional District 16 race. Photo by Brandon Pho.

The race to succeed Rep. Anna Eshoo is the nation’s most expensive U.S. House race. Candidates have collectively raised more than $8 million as of Feb. 14 and have plastered TV airwaves, radio and mailboxes with a barrage of campaign ads. The district spans San Mateo and Santa Clara counties including Los Altos, Campbell, Los Gatos, Mountain View and parts of San Jose and unincorporated communities.

Simitian is in his second stint as a Santa Clara County supervisor. He’s long had his eye on a run for Congress, starting to fundraise in 2009. As of Feb. 14, he had raised $1 million and enjoyed endorsements from Eshoo, Rep. Jackie Speier and more than 200 other elected officials, according to his campaign.

Earlier Tuesday, the veteran politician spent the afternoon canvassing with supporters in front of Bell’s Books in Palo Alto. His supporters chanted, “when I say go, you say Joe” as they clutched campaign signs and lined the sidewalks near the family-owned bookstore.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, a candidate for Congressional District 16, canvassed with supporters in Palo Alto on Tuesday. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

The early results Tuesday night mirror an independent poll sponsored by San José Spotlight that found Liccardo and Simitian leading the tight race. The top vote-getters in the March primary election will face off in November.

This story will be updated.

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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