Silicon Valley candidate ends state campaign, endorses progressive opponent
Jaime Raul Zepeda recently dropped out of the race for California's 10th State Senate district. Photo courtesy of Jaime Raul Zepeda.

    State Senate hopeful Jaime Raul Zepeda is ending his campaign and instead throwing his support behind fellow candidate Aisha Wahab.

    Zepeda, who was running for the state Senate District 10 seat, announced the end of his campaign Monday. The state redistricting process—which occurs once every 10 years on the local, state and federal levels—established new political boundaries last year and drew Zepeda’s home in Castro Valley out of District 10 and into District 9.

    Zepeda, who ran as a Democrat, was an underdog in the race to replace Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) in representing roughly 900,000 residents in District 10. Zepeda jumped into the race with no prior political experience—a fact he touted.

    The old district boundary included parts of Alameda and Santa Clara counties, as well as North San Jose, Hayward, Fremont and areas north of Interstate 580, where Zepeda lives.

    “This means that I am no longer allowed to run for the open seat that will be available after Sen. Bob Wiekckowski finishes his current term,” Zepeda said in a statement.

    During his campaign, Zepeda said he garnered support from more than 60,000 residents, roughly 700 of whom also contributed to his corporate-free campaign. He ran on a platform that prioritized climate change, affordable housing, high-quality public education and supporting small businesses—including forming a public bank for underrepresented communities, minority and women business owners.

    Now out of the race, Zepeda is endorsing Wahab, a progressive candidate and a Hayward councilmember.

    “Councilmember Wahab is a fighter who cares about giving everyone a voice in Sacramento,” he said. “She is focused on solving our biggest challenges around education, climate change, and building healthy and thriving communities.”

    Wahab, the first Afghan-American elected to public office in the U.S., is facing Fremont Mayor Lily Mei, former San Jose City Council candidate Jamal Khan and the lone Republican candidate Paul Pimentel in the race.

    “Jaime has run a great campaign, and he respects the work that we’re doing,” Wahab told San José Spotlight. “I’m grateful for his endorsement.”

    Wahab’s campaign prioritizes housing affordability, civic engagement, education and economic inequality. She previously interned for former Sen. Jim Beall, chaired the Alameda County Human Relations Commission and served as a board member for Afghan Coalition, Abode Services and food bank Tri-City Volunteers.

    Wahab has scored some key endorsements in the race, including one from Wieckowski who’s terming out next year. Wieckowski called her “the only candidate with leadership ability,” according to Wahab’s website.

    “Our campaign is a coalition of support,” Wahab said. “We have a wide variety of donors behind us.”

    Wahab and Mei are the two frontrunners so far. Wahab raised roughly $244,000 in the first six months of 2021, while Mei raised more than $300,000 during the same period, according to the latest campaign data. Wahab declined to share how much her campaign has raised in the last six months.

    Political insiders previously predicted the redistricting process would have minimal impact on the state Senate race. Locally, new political boundaries in Santa Clara County also cut former San Jose Councilmember Johnny Khamis from the District 1 race, prompting him to relocate to keep running.

    The primary election for the state Senate seat is June 7.

    Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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