Congresswoman Anna Eshoo had it all planned out.
She had lined up endorsements, secured donations and volunteers. The 80-year-old Democratic lawmaker was about to launch a reelection campaign for her 16th district congressional seat.
But a voice in her head stopped her.
“Most people don’t think we spend any kind of time thinking about whether we’re going to run again or not. It’s highly private,” Eshoo told San José Spotlight. “I was prepared to seek reelection… I was fully engaged and ready to go. And then I had this little voice inside of me that was pulling me another way. It was last week very late at night that I decided it’s time. I said to myself, ‘It’s time, Anna.'”
As first reported by San José Spotlight, Eshoo confirmed Tuesday she’s retiring from Congress after three decades and won’t seek reelection when her term ends in 2024. The announcement has rocked Silicon Valley’s political establishment. Some are surprised. Others are jockeying to replace her. A handful of politicos are already eyeing the once-in-a-generation shot at serving in Congress. This is the first time a Silicon Valley congressional representative has opted not to run again in two decades.
Eshoo explained her decision and what’s next in an interview with San José Spotlight.
SAN JOSÉ SPOTLIGHT: Why did you decide to retire now and how are people reacting to the news?
ANNA ESHOO: I just decided it’s time. When I told my family they said, ‘Is it because of the mess in Congress?’ I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I’m not running away from anything. This is the time for me.
I made the announcement right before Thanksgiving because it is such a beautiful season. It is a season of thanks. My entire season is full of thanks—and that’s to three decades of constituents because they’ve placed their trust in me. They’ve trusted me every two years. This has been an enormous honor, a great privilege. I’ve done everything and will continue to do everything I can to keep adding distinction to our district.
What direction is that little voice in your head pulling you toward?
I’ve loved the community that I live in—and I love my country. The time I have post-Congress will certainly be devoted to efforts to make our community better.
This job is demanding seven days a week, practically 24/7. I have more than willingly carried that because the responsibilities are serious ones. But my days and my weeks and nights are filled with have-to-dos. That’s my job. But post-Congress I’m looking forward to eliminating a lot of have-to-dos in my life. I want to have the freedom that if I want to go somewhere, I can do it. I don’t have to ask my staff for permission.
I’m looking over my shoulder with enormous gratitude.
Candidates are already lining up for your seat. Have any called for your support yet and what do you hope to see in your successor?
I haven’t had time to check my phone today—it’s been ringing off the wall. I’m sure some have reached out. That’s our democracy. But today is not the day for that.
What’s the one thing you’re most proud of as you reflect on your three decades in Congress?
I hope that for young people and those who were younger at one time that my public service will be a source of pride to them. I hope it’s something they are attracted to—to understand how all this works and to have a deep sense of respect and regard for the awesomeness of our democracy. That they know this job can be done with honor, grace and integrity. That they can make important changes.
Everyone has a role to play in our country to help make her stronger and better. I hope I’ve inspired people and I can continue to be an inspiration to young girls and women—we need them at the public table. Our experiences are different. We need immigrant perspectives—my parents fled to come to the U.S. We need the experience of immigrants and young people.