Silicon Valley Rep. Anna Eshoo has chosen who should replace her in Congress.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian has Eshoo’s support in his run to represent California’s 16th congressional district that covers swaths of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
“I don’t think there is anyone in the entire field that has the experience that Joe has at the very local level, and I know first hand what local level experience means,” Eshoo told San José Spotlight. “I brought that in myself. It was more than instructive for me. He has certainly done that, plus his service in the Legislature. So that experience will be highly instructive and help him to be effective for what I would say is the most distinguished seat in Congress.”
Simitian, 70, is in his second stint as a county supervisor and previously served in the state Senate and Assembly. He has long had his eye on a seat in the House of Representatives, but declined to compete against Eshoo, who he supports and considers a friend. With last year’s announcement by Eshoo that she will retire at the end of her 2024 term following 30 years in office, Simitian was one of the first to officially declare his candidacy for the seat.
“Anna’s voice carries significant weight given the fact that she’s been elected by the folks in this district 16 times over the last 30 years,” Simitian told San José Spotlight. “I am gratified and immensely appreciative that she was prepared to step forward and say, ‘I know the candidates and I know the district and this is the person I think is best suited to get some real work done under very challenging circumstances.'”
Simitian started his political career in 1983 as a Palo Alto Unified School District board member. He then served on the Palo Alto City Council, where he also held the post of mayor. He served his first stint on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors from 1997 to 2000, and was then elected to the state Assembly. After serving two Assembly terms, he ran successfully for state Senate in 2004, where he served until terming out in 2012.
Voters elected Simitian back to the board of supervisors in 2012 and reelected him in 2016 and 2020.
Throughout his career, he said he’s worked closely with Eshoo on issues such as saving Palo Alto’s Buena Vista Mobile Home park from being razed and replaced with a luxury-housing development six years ago. They also worked together on legislation to improve breast cancer detection that Simitian introduced at the state level, which later passed federally.
“The congresswoman made a point of saying that our district punches above its weight,” Simitian said. “It’s a district where people are accomplished and effective and they expect their representation to be accomplished and effective as well.”
Eshoo said she took her time to deliberate before making her endorsement. To her, throwing her support behind a candidate carries significant responsibility for her constituents. Eshoo said Simitian ultimately stood on top because of his yearslong track record of serving residents and solving local issues.
“This is a highly competitive race and I think that’s healthy, but you want a member to be effective to be able to not only introduce legislation, but get it over the finish line,” Eshoo told San José Spotlight. “That requires experience… I’m not suggesting that (Simitian is) the only one that has experience, but I do know that he has the most, and I think that is a very important asset.”
Simitian faces more than a dozen candidates for the first open Silicon Valley congressional seat in two decades, including well-known and formidable politicos such as state Assemblymember Evan Low, former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Palo Alto Councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims. Marine veteran and tech executive Peter Dixon and other past elected officials such as former Saratoga Councilmember Rishi Kumar have also jumped into the race.
Besides Eshoo, Simitian is endorsed by hundreds of current and former elected officials across Santa Clara County’s cities. Low remains the only candidate to receive endorsements from statewide officials like Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, and he also has support from Sen. Laphonza Butler and Reps. Ro Khanna, Judy Chu and Mark Takano. Lythcott-Haims, the only woman and Black person in the race, has received an endorsement from Sen. Cory Booker. Liccardo has not shared any official endorsements, though his team said the list will be released soon. Dixon said his list of endorsements includes six House representatives, though none are from California.
In addition to his long track record as an elected official, Simitian has been fundraising in anticipation of running for Congress for more than a decade. In 2009, Simitian established the Friends of Simitian campaign committee, which has taken in donations every year since.
As of September 2024, the account had about $680,000 on hand. While the money may help his effort, Simitian said he thinks in a primary roughly three months away, his experience as a seasoned elected official is what will make the difference.