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Candidates compete in District 16 election to replace Rep. Anna Eshoo

From+left+to+right%2C+top+to+bottom%2C+the+candidates+competing+in+the+District+16+election+are+Sam+Liccardo%2C+Joe+Simitian%2C+Evan+Low%2C+Julie+Lythcott-Haims%2C+Ahmed+Mostafa%2C+Peter+Dixon%2C+Peter+Ohtaki%2C+Rishi+Kumar%2C+Joby+Bernstein%2C+Greg+Tanaka+and+Karl+Ryan+%28no+photo+available%29.+Used+with+permission+from+Ahmed+Mostafa+and+Joby+Bernstein+or+from+public+domain.
From left to right, top to bottom, the candidates competing in the District 16 election are Sam Liccardo, Joe Simitian, Evan Low, Julie Lythcott-Haims, Ahmed Mostafa, Peter Dixon, Peter Ohtaki, Rishi Kumar, Joby Bernstein, Greg Tanaka and Karl Ryan (no photo available). Used with permission from Ahmed Mostafa and Joby Bernstein or from public domain.

What you need to know: 

  • Eleven congressional candidates, nine democrats and two republicans, are campaigning for the District 16 primary election on March 5
  • Incumbent Rep. Anna Eshoo is retiring at 80 years old, having spearheaded a wave of female leadership and widespread reform
  • The candidates, including frontrunners Sam Liccardo, Evan Low and Joe Simitian, address a wide range of issues such as reproductive rights, guns and homelessness

Candidates not directly quoted did not respond to a request for comment from the Epic.

Eleven congressional candidates will compete in a historic  primary on March 5 to replace District 16 Rep. Anna Eshoo. Following Eshoo’s 3-decade incumbency and retirement at 80 years old, the candidates — nine democrats and two republicans — covet legislative leadership in the Santa Clara County and San Mateo regions. Their profiles and campaign strategies are detailed below. 

 

Sam Liccardo (Democrat, Frontrunner)

Former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo hopes to craft a decisive campaign approach for this primary. He centers his campaign around his “bold action” as an innovator, citing his creation of housing communities that reduced homelessness in San Jose by 10 percent and his advocacy for the first national gun law that requires gun owners to insure their firearms. He champions congressional transparency and accountability.

“We need to bring that accountability to Congress, because on issues like homelessness, crime and the high cost of living, we don’t have an accountable Congress,” Liccardo told ABC7 News. 

Liccardo is endorsed by San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan. 

 

Evan Low (Democrat, Frontrunner)

Evan Low promotes a commitment to public service as a District 26 assemblymember. Low also advocates for abolishing cultural stigmas and hate toward Asian Americans, condemning xenophobia and rampant Asian hate during the Trump administration. He champions civil rights in Silicon Valley, and strives to become the Bay Area’s first openly LGBTQ member of Congress.

“I think his streak of progressivism and openly gay identity does appeal to young people,” Bale said. “Not necessarily because they want a gay candidate, but because his confidence and openness follows the new norms that people are looking for.”

 

Joe Simitian  (Democrat, Frontrunner)

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian — former State Senator, Assemblymember, Supervisor and Palo Alto Mayor, and the oldest candidate at 71 years old — underscores his lasting political experience addressing issues like climate change and affordable housing in his campaign. Simitian cites women’s reproductive rights as his primary priority moving forward. He is openly endorsed by Eshoo, which has worked in his favor thus far, with Simitian starting the race with over $600,000 in campaign funding.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Simitian has previously represented 85% of District 16 through past political office holdings.

 

Rishi Kumar (Democrat)

A seasoned mechanical engineer and big-tech proponent, Rishi Kumar is running for the second time, after losing to Eshoo in the 2022 general election. The premise of his campaign rests on the abolition of dark money — undisclosed funds from special interest groups — and calls for “bringing back integrity” in Congress. 

Kumar dedicates a large portion of his campaign to empowering youth, particularly through STEM initiatives and his internship program for Silicon Valley students, a hands-on opportunity to learn about politics and campaigning. 

“I learned so much from the experience and am still harnessing skills from the internship in my life initiatives,” senior and former intern Adithri Sharma said. “Specifically for Lynbrook students, I’d say that it’s very accessible.”

Kumar enthusiastically supports youth involvement in politics and social issues.

“Youth empowerment is one of my top priorities,” Kumar wrote in a statement to the Epic. “It’s important to give the bright young minds of today a steady platform to explore new opportunities and find their voices.”

 

Peter Ohtaki (Republican)

An opponent of “partisan gridlock,” the phenomenon of important political issues remaining unaddressed, Ohtaki advocates for decisive action in Congress.

“I’m running because I want to stop the madness in Congress,” Ohtaki told the Stanford Daily. “[Members] spend more time trying to make the other party look bad than actually working on solutions to the major problems that are facing the country.”

In terms of foreign policy, Ohtaki vows to protect the nation against external threats such as terrorism. He also publicly stands with Israel amid the Israel-Gaza war. Following a more conservative ideology, Ohtaki plans to equip police officers with the resources necessary for public safety. Like Low, he presents himself as a voice for the Asian American community. He opposes affirmative action solely based on race, backing the Supreme Court’s June 2023 decision.

“The key concept of the American dream runs very strongly among all of the Asian communities here, and I believe we deserve equal opportunities,” Ohtaki said. “Children today have it much harder; I was fortunate back in high school to get into an Ivy League school at a time when there weren’t many Asians, but I worry about the ability of my kids to do the same.”

 

Ahmed Mostafa (Democrat)

Mostafa combines social justice and technology in his dual-approach campaign. A former Google employee and social justice attorney, he places issues like internet scams, protecting user data and Title IX reforms under his campaign umbrella of ethics and protecting human dignity.

Mostafa also defends survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as an attorney and Director of the Stanford University Pro Bono Clinic, an institution that provides legal advocacy, specifically regarding the Title IX statute at Stanford

“When representing communities that were not my own, I learned to take a step back and say, ‘I don’t speak for them; I amplify their voices,’” Mostafa said. “If you speak for them, you may not truly understand them, but if you listen, you can bring their stories to the front.”

He also hopes to inspire students to pursue their unique dreams, unrestricted by the high price of education.

“It’s so common for students to say, ‘Well, this is more realistic,’ and go about pursuing a dream they’re not truly passionate about,” he said. “It really hurts me when I hear that. We must do so much more to ensure that people have access to their dreams of a quality education.”

 

Peter Dixon (Democrat)

Former marine Peter Dixon connects his experience fighting to protect democracy abroad to his sincere approach to politics at home. Dixon is also vehemently in favor of reproductive health services and accessibility, and ultimately trusts “women and doctors, not politicians” regarding this issue. Among his other priorities are transitioning to renewable energy and implementing universal background checks. Having worked in the State Department under former President Barack Obama, Dixon says he wants to continue working to pass initiatives like The Safer Communities Act, a gun violence protection reform that went into effect in June 2022.

“The [act] was the first meaningful improvement in gun violence prevention in more than a decade,” Dixon told San Jose Spotlight. “These bright spots of action in a do-nothing Congress are why I have faith that big things are still possible.”

Dixon has received endorsements from various veteran congress members Rep. Jason Crow and Rep. Mikie Sherrill, among others. 

 

Julie Lythcott-Haims (Democrat)

Palo Alto Councilmember and New York Times bestselling author Julie Lythcott-Haims advocates for reproductive rights.

“When I’m elected to Congress, I will work to codify Roe v. Wade,” Haims said. “We have to make it clear that a woman’s right to reproductive freedom is an essential human right.”

She also hopes to combat skyrocketing housing prices and climate change catastrophes through increasing employment for parents and creating clean energy jobs. In the wake of “MAGA extremists” and the 2024 election scandals, Haims supports election integrity and equitable voting rights through the 2022 Freedom to Vote Act, among other such statutes. She also vehemently opposes gun violence.

“The use of guns today is simply an atrocious mischaracterization of what our founders intended,” Haims said. “Had they known that the rifles they used back in the 1700s would become automatic weapons that could kill 100 people in a minute — nobody can ever convince me that the founders would have wanted this for America’s future.”

Haims is endorsed by Sen. Cory Booker, widely known for his advocacy of African American civil rights.

 

Greg Tanaka (Democrat)

Tech industry veteran Greg Tanaka hopes to address the intersection of technology, business and politics, specifically the challenges that arise from a digitized society. Climate change, inflation and Asian hate are three of multiple issues he plans to address. A Palo Alto public servant with over 15 years of experience, Tanaka hopes to combine his business and tech background with serving the common good. He is endorsed by former U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

 

Joby Bernstein (Democrat)

Stanford MBA student Joby Bernstein, despite being the youngest candidate in the race, hopes to make his mark nonetheless.

Bernstein is a proponent of higher education, specifically making education more accessible by minimizing debt. As a student himself, he hopes to appeal to students of all ages and empower the political voices of youth. He is also a major supporter of environmentalism.

“As someone who’s spent a lot of time in the educational system and has a deep respect for teachers, education is very much a central part of my platform,” Bernstein said. “Too often, our arbitrary backgrounds and experiences can determine our ability to attend school — our most important years of development. I hope to ensure that all children have the ability to have subsidized, if not free, preschool.”

 

Karl Ryan (Republican)

Karl Ryan, one of two Republicans in the race, is a member of the Santa Clara County Republican Party Central Committee that aims to elect Republicans, according to KQED News.

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Surya Saraf, Copy Editor
(she/her) Surya is a copy editor and grammar enthusiast. In her free time she enjoys reading thought-provoking novels written by great women, watching films for hours and trying new Italian restaurants.

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