Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian
Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian is conceding the race for Congressional District 16 after a recount bumped him from a second place tie with Assemblymember Evan Low. Photo courtesy of Simitian's campaign.

Assemblymember Evan Low has won a contentious and highly-politicized recount in Silicon Valley’s open congressional race, beating Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian for second place by five votes.

Of the 16 challenged ballots in San Mateo County’s portion of the recount, election officials accepted seven and rejected nine. Low picked up one vote and Simitian picked up none. Low gained 11 additional votes in Santa Clara County — which covers 80% of Congressional District 16, while Simitian gained seven. Originally, the two candidates tied in the March 5 primary.

“We are very excited that my advancement into the general election was reaffirmed and look forward to the next eventful chapter in this race,” Low said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We extend our heartfelt thanks to each voter and supporter who played a crucial role in reaching this moment. This election reminds us that every single vote and form of participation matters.”

Simitian conceded on late Wednesday afternoon and said he trusted the recount process and accepted the results.

“I want to congratulate Assemblymember Evan Low and former Mayor Sam Liccardo. I have spoken to them both to wish them well. I look forward to the lively campaign they will undoubtedly run,” Simitian said in a statement.

Frontrunner Liccardo commended the efforts of election officials to provide an accurate count.

“Despite the efforts of some to stop this recount, we should all celebrate that democracy prevailed,” Liccardo said on social media. “Previously uncounted votes were counted. We can now re-focus on our work ahead, toward solutions to our region’s and nation’s great challenges, such as homelessness, the high cost of living, climate change, public safety, and protecting reproductive rights.”

Overall, observers in Santa Clara County challenged 45 uncounted ballots, according to a statement by the county’s Registrar of Voters. Of these ballots, elections officials ultimately determined that seven previously uncounted ballots were valid and should be included in the recount results.

The registrar also found 19 ballots from six precincts that will be included in the recount results but were not initially tallied due to what elections officials describe as “human errors” by the tabulation machine operators.

“This recount has been a learning experience, and we will use these lessons learned to improve our processes and strengthen our quality control safeguards.  The Registrar of Voters is committed to continuous improvement to deliver the most effective and accurate elections possible for our voters,” Assistant Registrar of Voters Matt Moreles said in a statement.

The completion of an unprecedented recount to replace Rep. Anna Eshoo’s congressional seat comes 15 days after both counties started recounting the more than 182,000 votes cast in the March 5 primary.

Liccardo secured first place in the crowded race. After nearly a month of see-sawing between razor-thin margins, Low and Simitian tied for second place at 30,249 votes each. As a result, all three advanced to the November runoff.

With no automatic recount provision in statewide and federal elections in California, Jonathan Padilla, a 2020 and 2024 Biden delegate and former mayoral campaign staffer for Liccardo, requested a recount. He has been paying the $24,000 a day for the recount through a super PAC called Count the Vote — founded by people who are also linked to Liccardo.

Liccardo on Tuesday denied his involvement in the recount in an op-ed for San Jose Inside.

“I did not request this recount. Neither I nor anyone in my campaign has communicated with Padilla or his donors about the recount. Candidates and their campaigns cannot lawfully communicate with independent expenditure groups,” Liccardo wrote. “The fact that Padilla is a supporter of mine is not remarkable; every independent expenditure committee in history has been created by a candidate’s supporter.”

Liccardo is facing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging his campaign is coordinating a “dark money” effort to fund a highly-criticized recount in the Congressional District 16 race.

Contact Brandon Pho at [email protected] or @brandonphooo on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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