Mysterious Silicon Valley poll in congressional race could signal recount
Former Mayor Sam Liccardo celebrates his early lead in the Congressional District 16 race at a watch party on March 5, 2024. Photo by Jana Kadah.

With just one day left to ask for a recount in the Silicon Valley congressional race, a poll is circulating on how Sam Liccardo might fare if he knocks out one of the candidates.

With Silicon Valley Rep. Anna Eshoo retiring this year, the race to replace her in Congressional District 16 has turned into a rare three-way matchup between Sam Liccardo, Joe Simitan and Evan Low. That could change if someone asks for a recount before tomorrow’s 5 p.m. deadline. Assemblymember Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Simitian said  they won’t ask for a recount, but Liccardo’s team has been silent. And now political insiders say his campaign may be exploring the option through a poll. The recount could cost more than $400,000.

The poll, conducted by McGuire Research, asks residents who they would vote for if the election was held today, according to screenshots obtained by San José Spotlight. It also asks residents who they would vote for if Liccardo ran only against Low or Simitian.  The questions’ phrasing and timing have politicos speculating that Liccardo’s team is behind the research. Liccardo did not immediately respond for comment.

Screenshot of the poll sent to voters over the weekend asks constituents who they would vote for in a three-way race for the California Congressional District 16 seat.

Usually only two candidates advance to a November run off, but Simitian and Low tied for second place in the March 5 primary, an extraordinary outcome that qualifies them both to advance with Liccardo. The former San Jose mayor has a measurable lead over the other candidates. While the tie was likely a welcomed result between Low and Simitian who seesawed between razor thin margins for weeks, the three-way race forces each candidate to reevaluate their political strategy.

The poll asks voters who they voted for in the primaries, how strongly they support Liccardo and provides a detailed paragraph about each candidate before asking who they would support if they election was held today.

Screenshot of the poll sent to voters over the weekend asks constituents how strongly they support Sam Liccardo for the California Congressional District 16 seat.

It makes sense for Liccardo to request a recount and knock out a competitor, said Brian Parvizshahi, a South Bay political strategist.

Liccardo is the most moderate candidate, and a three-way runoff could risk the 5% lead he had over Low and Simitian in the primaries. Low, conversely, could have the upper hand as the only LGBTQ and Asian candidate — and the most progressive because he can stand out against two older white men who might split the moderate vote.

“If Liccardo is showing any type of vulnerability, then it is in his best interest to (request a recount),” Parvizshahi told San José Spotlight. “I think this comes down to just pure economics. If he has the funds to issue a recount, and he’s heard that he’ll be able to bump off one of the two candidates, then (a recount makes sense).”

In Santa Clara County, a manual recount is estimated to cost $320,000. For San Mateo County, which accounts for 18% of the district, it would cost roughly $85,000, according to Assistant Chief Elections Officer Jim Irizarry. The recount would need to redo tabulations from each precinct for the vote to be official. And in a race with 182,135 votes split between 11 candidates, Parvizshahi said it’s possible that at least one ballot was miscounted — and there only needs to be one miscounted ballot between Low or Simitian to change the race.

Liccardo’s campaign touted that he raised more than $1 million in the first quarter of this year. The former mayor also leads in most campaign contributions as of Feb 14.

Liccardo’s latest Feb. 14 campaign data does not confirm whether he paid for the poll. However, Liccardo has spent more than $135,000 on polling between various agencies in the first two months of this year — including Stenhouse Strategies, Lake Research Partners and Public Policy Polling.

Over the weekend, voters also received another poll asking who they would vote for in the race, if it was just Liccardo versus Low or Liccardo versus Simitian, according to a campaign manager for one of the other congressional candidates who didn’t make the cut.

The poll also asks which of these endorsements — California Teachers Association, United Farm Workers, Rep. Jackie Speier, Rep. Anna Eshoo, Bob Jonsen, etc — is most likely to help secure their vote. All those endorsers publicly support Simitian, so some speculated the poll may have been commissioned by another political entity also exploring a recount.

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

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