BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
The first competitive race in 32 years for a Congressional seat based in Palo Alto features a wide range of candidates — a former San Jose mayor with billionaires backing him, the area’s longest-tenured elected official, a couple of Palo Alto council members who break from the majority, three repeat candidates and a Republican whose website was made by artificial intelligence.
The two heavyweights in the race are former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, 53, and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, 71, of Palo Alto.
Liccardo was a criminal prosecutor until he was elected as mayor in 2014. He finished his second term last year and teaches classes on policy and homelessness at Stanford.
Liccardo raised $1.6 million last year. He’s received support from New York City billionaire Michael Bloomberg, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and the owners of four different sports teams.
Lawyers, developers, and San Jose residents are also backing Liccardo’s campaign.
Assemblyman Evan Low, 40, of Campbell, is in third in donations with $875,227, campaign finance forms show.
Low is running to be the first openly gay Asian American to be elected to Congress from Northern California.
He’s picked up support from groups that support people with those identities, including the Asian American Action Fund and the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund.
Low was picked as mayor of Campbell when he was 26 years old. He was elected to state office in 2014 and represents Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and San Jose.
Former Marine Peter Dixon, 40, of Portola Valley, is one of a few candidates who hasn’t held public office before, but he raised a lot of money quickly and is spending big on TV commercials featuring him in a helicopter.
Dixon has raised $856,679 and loaned himself $575,000, campaign finance forms show.
Dixon worked for Hillary Clinton’s State Department and now has a company that makes software for the military. His dad is Donald Dixon, a prolific tech investor who founded Trident Capital in Palo Alto in 1993 and ForgePoint Capital in San Mateo in 2009.
Palo Alto City Council has two candidates — Councilwoman Julie Lythcott-Haims and Councilman Greg Tanaka.
Lythcott-Haims, 56, is starting her second year on council after getting elected in 2022. She is more pro-housing development than her colleagues.
Lythcott-Haims was the Dean of Freshman at Stanford for 10 years. She is a public speaker and the author of three books on race, parenting and youth development.
Lythcott-Haims has raised $374,870, campaign finance forms show. She is endorsed by Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey. Her priorities are to defend reproductive rights, combat climate change and bring down the cost of living. She said she ran because she didn’t see any
other women in the race.
Tanaka, 50, is in his eighth and final year on council, and this is his second time running for Congress. Tanaka lost in the 2022 primary with 6.6% of the vote.
Tanaka often casts the lone “no” vote on council and has some unconventional ideas, like creating a cryptocurrency called “Palo Alto Coin.” Putting Caltrain in an underground tunnel from San Jose to San Francisco would be one of his top priorities in Congress, he said.
Ahmed Mostafa, 48, of San Jose, is a lawyer for Google who works pro bono with survivors of sexual violence for Stanford Law School. Mostafa has made calling for a ceasefire in Gaza a central piece of his campaign. He has raised $125,754.
Stanford graduate student Joby Bernstein, 28, of Palo Alto, has worked at investment firms in San Francisco and in Utah, according to his LinkedIn. He is listed on the ballot as a climate investor. Bernstein has raised $111,306, campaign finance forms show.
Former Saratoga Councilman Rishi Kumar, 56, ran against Eshoo in 2020 and 2022. He received 15.6% of the vote in the last primary election, good for second place.
Former Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki, 62, is running for the second time after receiving 12.6% of the vote in 2022. Ohtaki was a board member for the Menlo Park Fire Protection District from 2007 to 2010 and was on Menlo Park City Council from 2010 to 2018. Ohtaki ran for state Assembly in 2016 and 2022 and lost to Marc Berman most times. Ohtaki has raised $16,570 for this race.
Liccardo lives outside the district in San Jose but is looking for a home within the boundaries, his campaign said. He opened his campaign headquarters in the Willow Glen neighborhood on Saturday. Liccardo’s priorities are addressing crime, homelessness and the rising cost of living.
Simitian has been fundraising for the seat since 2006, waiting for Eshoo to retire. He has raised $1.1 million through Dec. 31, campaign finance forms show. Simitian is getting a lot of support from locally elected officials — 150 have endorsed him, including Eshoo, whose retirement announcement on Nov. 21 kicked off the race.
Simitian’s political career started 40 years ago, when he was elected to the board of the Palo Alto Unified School District in 1982. Simitian was on Palo Alto City Council from 1992 to 1996, on the Board of Supervisors from 1997 to 2000, in the state Assembly from 2001 to 2004, the state Senate from 2005 to 2012 and on the Board of Supervisors from 2013 until now.
Simitian has represented all 15 cities in the Congressional district except for Pacifica.
Simitian’s priorities include addressing climate change and protecting reproductive rights.