Four South Bay assemblymembers intend to run for reelection in newly drawn state districts, but one has to relocate.
Assemblymembers Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), Evan Low (D-Cupertino), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and Alex Lee (D-San Jose) are running for reelection in districts that have changed in size, population counts and number.
The new redrawn state Assembly and Senate maps were submitted by independent commissioners to the Secretary of State on Monday.
The most notable change impacts District 23, where Low landed in the same district as Berman.
However, to combat two politically-allied incumbents from running against each other, Low has decided to move a couple miles down the road and into the newly formed District 26, where no incumbent candidate lives.
“It made no sense for two friends to run against each other,” Low told San José Spotlight. “Marc and I were able to have a conversation with each other and very quickly figure out who should represent which districts, so we’re both equally excited.”
District 26 encompasses Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara and a small part of San Jose, which is slightly different from the district Low currently represents in that Sunnyvale and Santa Clara were added, while Saratoga and Campbell were removed.
“It’s still definitely home to me,” Low said.
Low currently lives in Campbell, where he formerly served as councilmember and mayor before being elected into the state Assembly in 2014. He has to move into the newly formed District 26 by February in order to run for that seat. Luckily, his district office, located in Cupertino, can stay where it is.
“I’m excited about having an opportunity to campaign and also get to know new neighborhoods and new people and listen to what’s important to them,” Low said. He continued that the big issues for him—housing and health care—are still central issues for all South Bay residents.
Kalra and Lee, who will also represent parts of Santa Clara County, are excited to explore new neighborhoods they are running to represent, but maintained the demographics and priorities of voters would likely not change much over a few miles.
“My district stays substantially the same with some changes that are actually beneficial,” Kalra told San José Spotlight.
Kalra, who currently represents the 27th district, will now run for the 25 district. It expands into more of the east foothills, Henry W. Coe State Park, the Santa Clara County portion of State Route 152, the Mineta San Jose International Airport and down into Morgan Hill, which is a win for Kalra who sits on the transportation committee in the Assembly and has been a long-time advocate in protecting Santa Clara County open space.
“I’ve always been advancing environmental legislation. This just gives me even more backing and more reason to do so,” Kalra said.
Lee, who currently represents District 25, will be running for District 24 in 2022.
“I’m sad to leave the city of Santa Clara, Alviso and Northern San Jose, but I get all of Fremont now and the community of Sunol in Alameda County, so it’s like a 50-50 split between those two counties,” Lee told San José Spotlight. “I don’t really anticipate voter priorities changing because I basically retain most of the same core communities.”
Larry Gerston, a retired political science professor at San Jose State University, said he thinks all of these candidates are in “safe harbor” as they run for reelection.
“All of these people are well known, all of these people are part of the the legislative establishment if you will, and all of them are fairly popular,” Gertson told San José Spotlight. “So for somebody to go ahead and take them on, especially as the incumbent, I think will be a challenge.”
He said the race to watch, however, will be the face-off between Lee and his predecessor, former Assemblymember Kansen Chu.
Lee and Chu will both be running in one of the state’s two newly formed Asian minority-majority districts, in which the API community constitutes more than 65% of the population. The other district with a majority API population is located in Southern California.
The two District 24 candidates also have name recognition and are fairly popular in their home bases, Gerston said.
“All things being fairly equivalent, I think the key is where (the labor vote) goes. That will break the tie,” Gerston said. “I think we can expect a good race that will be no doubt the closest race of all the local districts.”
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.