It’s official: Evan Low is running for Silicon Valley congressional seat
State Assemblymember Evan Low is running for Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's seat. Photo courtesy of Evan Low's office.

Silicon Valley Assemblymember Evan Low is running for Congress, hoping to succeed longtime Rep. Anna Eshoo in a crowded field of competitors.

Low confirmed to San José Spotlight he filed paperwork for the House of Representatives District 16 seat on Monday, making official a bid for the role he’s been rumored to be pursuing since Eshoo announced last month her plans to retire at the end of this term.

“I am incredibly excited about this opportunity,” Low told San José Spotlight.

If elected, Low would become the first LGBTQ and Chinese-American representative in Congress from the Bay Area.

Low, 40, said he planned a calm, relaxing time with family the week of Thanksgiving—but when Eshoo confirmed her seat would be opening up he had to consider the opportunity to run. Eshoo has served her three-decade tenure in Congress with distinction and deliverable results, Low said.

“Those will be big shoes to fill, but I’m excited and fortunate to have that opportunity, being that I was born and raised here in this district, and was fortunate enough to serve as mayor in the local community and then in the state Legislature,” Low said.

Low snagged a key endorsement from neighboring Rep. Ro Khanna, of California’s 17th congressional district, who said in a statement he’s proud to back Low’s “forward-looking” campaign. Backing from Khanna—a prominent Silicon Valley Democrat with a national profile and strong fundraising chops—could be a pivotal in a highly-competitive race for the rare opportunity to go to Congress.

“Evan was born and raised here in the Silicon Valley, and he’s dedicated his career to serving the diverse families that call it home,” Khanna said. “In the Assembly, he’s been at the forefront of bridging the gap between technology, innovation, and public policy, building a greener economy, and fighting for fundamental human rights. I know Evan will make a great partner in Congress.”

Voters elected Low to the state Assembly in 2014.  He served as the past chair of the LGBTQ+ Legislative Caucus and currently chairs the Asian American & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. Before that, he served as a councilmember and mayor in Campbell.

Low is jumping into a race where name recognition across San Mateo and Santa Clara counties will be important. He faces other well-known politicians, including state Sen. Josh Becker, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Former Saratoga Mayor Rishi Kumar, climate investor Joby Bernstein, and former Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki and candidate Karl Ryan—the only Republicans in the race —are also running for the seat.

“I’m excited that our district has an embarrassment of riches,” Low said. He added that he’s received “incredible outreach” from residents who wanted him to run for the seat.

Larry Gerston, a political observer and San Jose State political science professor emeritus, said the Democrats have a “treasure chest” of good candidates, and Low fits right in.

“He’s well known, he’s a person who has made himself a force in the assembly, particularly for the LGBTQ and the AAPI communities,” Gerston told San José Spotlight. “He’s been a person who has been out there first and foremost to set the tone for legislation and attention to their issues.”

Gerston added that with such a tough lineup of candidates, voters might have a hard time making a choice.

“Each of these (candidates) are going to have to run through their own peelings to point out those elements that distinguish themselves from the others,” Gerston said. For Low, one distinction might be his relationship with the tech community, as he founded the bipartisan Technology and Innovation Caucus in the assembly, Gerston said.

Low said he’s motivated to pursue higher office to keep alive a “legacy of service” in his family, with his dad serving as a Campbell Chamber of Commerce leader and his brother a current SJPD officer.

Low said he wants to bring to Washington, D.C. a greater understanding and awareness of how technology companies and the internet affect society, something he said is lacking in the U.S. Capitol.

“This district is the global hub of innovation and this community specifically expects exceptionalism, and I’m excited to be able to deliver results on day one,” Low said. “To make sure that we support the innovation economy while also focusing on consumer protection and privacy as well.”

He also said he will prioritize funding for local law enforcement agencies, and plans to continue a track record of combating hate—as anti-Asian attacks and antisemitism are on the rise and hundreds of pieces of anti-LGTBQ legislation have been introduced around the country.

“We have the most homophobic Speaker of the House in generations, and I’m not going to back down from that,” Low said. “And the best way to counter the most homophobic speaker in Congress is to send more openly LGBTQ individuals to Washington D.C.”

When voters elected Low to the Campbell City Council in 2006, he became the first Asian American, openly gay councilmember in city history.

“That recognition is something I take very seriously, but frankly to me, it’s more about the populations of our community,” he said of the district’s Asian American and Pacific Islander and LGBTQ residents. “It’s not about empty tokenism, it’s about the lived experiences that matter.”

District 16 has a large Asian American population, which could end up as an advantage for Low. Among other cities, the congressional district includes Campbell, Los Gatos and parts of San Jose in Santa Clara County, as well as Atherton, Menlo Park and Portola Valley in San Mateo County.

Ken Yeager, a former Santa Clara County supervisor and the founding executive director of the BAYMEC Community Foundation, which provides education and services to LGBTQ community members, told San José Spotlight he is excited for Low to be running for federal office. Yeager said though the candidates are similar in many ways, Low will likely scoop up votes from multiple subsets of voters, including younger people, Asian Americans, members of the LGBTQ community and his assembly constituents.

“I think he’s different enough from Simitian and Liccardo to pick up those votes of his base,” Yeager told San José Spotlight, noting it should give Low about 25% of the vote. “But my sense is that Sam and Joe will sort of divide the older white, straight, moderate vote, which is heavily what that district is, and that sort of gives them both about 25%, as well.”

Eshoo has not yet endorsed a successor and demurred when asked who she might support during a recent interview on San José Spotlight’s podcast.

Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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