Silicon Valley congressional candidates bag $1M in early funding
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are already funneling in for the race in California's 16 congressional district. File photo.

Nine candidates have jumped into the race for Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s seat since she announced her retirement plans about two weeks ago—and hundreds of thousands of dollars are already funneling in.

Eshoo’s retirement opens a once in a generation opportunity to hold a seat in Congress. Candidates will have to fundraise and spend quickly before the primary elections on March 5, 2024.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian sits at the top with $680,000 raised—though he has been building out his fund for years in anticipation of a congressional run. Marine veteran and tech executive Peter Dixon announced his campaign on Wednesday and said he has already raised $350,000. Assemblymember Evan Low, who also entered the race earlier this week, said he was able to raise $300,000 in 48 hours.

“Candidates announce big collections early on in their campaign as a way of discouraging others, as a way of suggesting they’re viable, and of course, there’s a way of publicizing their race,” political observer Larry Gerston told San José Spotlight. “But just because one accumulates a large amount at first, that doesn’t mean that he or she will continue to accumulate along the way.”

Gerston said money is important and candidates will seek to raise large amounts to be competitive. But to represent California’s 16th congressional district—which includes parts of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties including Los Altos, Campbell, Los Gatos, Mountain View and parts of San Jose and unincorporated communities—demographics and name recognition are also paramount.

“Money is always important. But it doesn’t mean that money wins the race,” Gerston said. “There are enough examples around to show that sometimes a person can spend a whole lot more than another person and still lose.”

But Low said his fast influx of cash indicates that he has a network of supporters “who are fired up to send him to Congress.” Low has proven to be a strong fundraiser in past campaigns and has $2.4 million remaining in his state Assembly campaign committee. Election law prohibits Low from transferring those donations from a state to federal race, but he can return the donations and ask for the donor to instead contribute to his congressional fund.

“I am deeply honored by the outpouring of support from every part of this community,” Low said in a statement.

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo officially filed papers to run on Friday. He held a fundraiser last Sunday that his campaign said “exceeded expectations and is highly encouraging”—though would not release a figure.

“And it’s not just Sunday,” a spokesperson from Liccardo’s campaign said. “Every day has been a good day and every day has been better than the previous day.”

Climate investor Joby Bernstein said his grassroots campaign has raised $50,000 raised as of Friday and is well on his way to $100,000.

“Fundraising has been off to a great start,” Bernstein told San José Spotlight. “I have been inspired by all the impassioned voices since announcing my candidacy. Young folks typically cannot afford to give what others in their 70s can, but their voice matters. It is increasingly clear that people expect more from our government. With the open seat, we have an opportunity to raise critical issues that matter to future generations—particularly climate change.”

Former Saratoga Mayor Rishi Kumar may also be a formidable fundraiser this campaign. He raised more than $700,000 when he ran against Eshoo last year, securing 42.2% of the vote. This year, federal filings show Kumar has $35,000 through Sept 30.

Palo Alto Councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims, who announced her congressional campaign on Thursday, has not disclosed if and how much money she has raised. Former Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki and candidate Karl Ryan—the only Republicans in the race — also have not publicly disclosed figures.

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

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