This article was originally published in the Mercury News
After weeks of speculation, former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is making a run for Congress.
When Liccardo filed paperwork to run for U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo’s open congressional seat last week, he said at the time that he had not made a final decision on whether he’d enter the race. On Friday, though, the ex-mayor made it official.
“My experience as mayor, I saw too many missed opportunities for the federal government to play a more significant role in helping local communities tackle our biggest challenges such as homelessness, crime and the rising cost of living,” he told The Mercury News. “I believe I can bring my experience as a local leader to Congress and ensure that the ideas that come from our communities, the world’s most innovative, are brought to bear on these national challenges.”
The race for the highly coveted District 16 congressional seat has become a crowded one in the last several weeks since Eshoo, 80, announced last month she won’t seek re-election after nearly three decades in Congress. The district spans from the Peninsula to the South Bay, stretching from Pacifica in the north to San Jose, Los Gatos and Pescadero in the south.
Liccardo, a former criminal prosecutor, was elected to the San Jose City Council in 2006, where he represented the downtown area. In 2014, he was elected the city’s 65th mayor and handedly won re-election in 2018 with 76% of the vote. Since he termed out, Liccardo has taken on gigs as a lecturer at Stanford Law School and as the senior advisor and counsel for California civic initiatives at San Francisco-based Ground Floor Public Affairs.
As mayor, Liccardo spearheaded plans to erect quick-build housing communities for homeless residents, advocated to turn PG&E into a customer-owned cooperative and introduced a first-in-the-nation law requiring gun owners to purchase insurance for their weapons.
If elected to Congress, Liccardo said he wants to focus on homelessness, housing, climate changes, utility costs and crime.
Eshoo’s decision to not seek re-election has left the Bay Area with a rare open congressional seat, leading to a long list of hopefuls who have their eyes set on Washington D.C. It’s one of two open Bay Area seats in the coming year as Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) opted to run for former Senator Dianne Feinstein’s seat instead.
When asked about the fierce competition, Liccardo said that “it’s good for the voters to have many choices,” and that he is “a choice of someone who has been in a leadership of a city of a million residents making the difficult decisions required to balance budgets, tackle challenges and get things done.”
“We hear plenty about the warring voices on Capitol Hill,” he said. “We need to hear more about how Congress will step up to help us address our biggest challenges here in Silicon Valley, the Peninsula and coast side.”
In the last few weeks, several big name candidates in Silicon Valley have jumped into the race including Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino). Both candidates have already started filling up their war chests with Simitian having roughly $680,000 in campaign cash on hand from a committee he formed back in 2009 and Low raising $300,000 in the first 48 hours of his campaign.
Thursday, Palo Alto City Councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims and tech entrepreneur Peter Dixon also joined the race. On Friday morning, Dixon’s campaign announced he had raised $350,000 in the first 24 hours.
Other candidates running include former Saratoga City Councilmember Rishi Kumar, who has raised nearly $21,000, investor and Stanford graduate student Joby Bernstein and Republicans Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki and Karl Ryan.
California’s primary election will be held on March 5, 2024, making it a short race to the finish line.