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Eshoo retirement leaves opening in congressional office

Eleven candidates compete in 16th congressional district elections, share different policy perspectives, priorities
Art by Sophia Kelly

House Representative Anna Eshoo’s planned retirement after 32 years in Congress is making the 2024 Congressional elections a competitive race, with 11 candidates running to represent the 16th district, encompassing Palo Alto and parts of the West and South Bay. 

Joby Bernstein is the youngest candidate in the race at 28 years old, and his campaign website says his major focus is environmental policy. The website also cites his experience from his time as an investor and advisor in climate policy and sustainability, as well as founding various corporate sustainability programs. While his campaign says the environment is his primary focus, he has also said education and immigration protection are priorities. In an interview with the Stanford Daily, Bernstein said his age will help his fight for the environment.

“I’m scared that the way things are set up right now, we are not going down a path that will be attainable in the next few decades,” Bernstein said. “We need someone who’s young, who’s willing to stick up for what they believe in and willing to stick up to ensure that future generations are protected.”  

Peter Dixon joined the Marine Corps after 9/11, where his experience led him to the Pentagon and former President Obama’s State Department. He then co-founded Second Front Systems, a cybersecurity company, and With Honor, a cross-partisan organization that elects veterans to Congress and passes bipartisan legislation. Dixon said this background and service record shape his priorities and make him a good fit for the district. 

“Uniquely in this primary, I have reached across the aisle on Capitol Hill to overcome the

challenges of our time as the co-founder of a nonprofit movement responsible for critical bipartisan congressional legislation,” Dixon said. “I’ll be unwavering in my commitment to  codify reproductive rights, expand immigration and protect the LGBTQ community.” 

Rishi Kumar, a former Saratoga city council member and Silicon Valley tech executive, ran for Eshoo’s seat in 2020 and 2022. During both elections, he placed second in the primary behind Eshoo, and lost in the general election. 

In an email to The Campanile, Kumar said he has experience in the economy and technology through his past work but also has other priorities for the district. 

I will leverage the extraordinary technical and financial resources of the richest, most innovative congressional district in America to act on the issues unaddressed for decades such as Medicare for All, reproductive rights, climate change and stopping the senseless deaths of our children at school,” Kumar said. 

Sam Liccardo, San Jose mayor from 2014 to 2022, said on his campaign website that his priorities include homelessness and affordable housing. Liccardo did not respond to requests for an interview, but In a guest article in “San Jose Inside,” Liccardo said he has practical experience combating homelessness in his time in political office.

By the time I left office in 2022, we had constructed five quick-build communities.” Liccardo said. “That year, the number of San Jose’s unsheltered homeless population dropped 11% – while increasing in the rest of Santa Clara County.” 

Evan Low, a member of Campbell city council from 2006 to 2014, and a State Assembly member from 2014 to the present. Low did not respond to requests for an interview, but in a candidate debate on Jan. 31, he said given his demographic, one of his campaign’s priorities is achieving equality.

“As an openly LGBT candidate, I refused to be discriminated against based on sexual orientation,” Low said. “You cannot legislate people like me out of existence, and that is what we’re standing up and fighting for.”

Julie Lythcott-Haims is currently on the Palo Alto City Council. According to her website, she is biracial, bisexual and the only woman in the race for the 16th Congressional District. She said one of her campaign priorities is protecting the bodily autonomy of women. 

“(After) Anna Eshoo announced her retirement, 10 men stepped up. I’m looking for the women, and I didn’t see any, so I said, ‘Alright, I’ll do it,’” Lythcott-Haims said. “The Supreme Court has just overturned Roe V. Wade. In this moment, we do not want to be sending fewer women to Congress. We want more.” 

Ahmed Mostafa, a former policy leader at Google and Director of the Stanford Survivors’ Pro Bono Clinic, said his campaign priorities are reforming Title IX to be more supportive to survivors. He also calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and more affordable housing.

Mostafa said his experience in the technology sector translates to his ability to represent Silicon Valley. 

“Congress is so illiterate when it comes to tech,” Mostafa said. “We need people who actually know what they’re talking about when it comes to science and tech and innovation, who can actually bring forth that promise.” 

Peter Ohtaki, one of two Republican candidates on the ballot for this year’s primary is a former Menlo Park mayor. Ohtaki said rather than solely focusing on Republican issues, he prioritizes finding solutions to pressing problems. 

“I am Republican because I’m fiscally conservative,” Ohtaki said. “I don’t always agree with the Republican Party on every issue. I don’t follow ideologies as much as common sense. I’m willing to be an aggressive, bipartisan problem solver.”

Ohtaki said his primary issues are addressing rising crime, national security and incentivizing renewables before banning natural gas subsidies.

Business owner Karl Ryan is the second Republican listed on the ballot. Ryan has not participated in any candidate forums, has no contact information and has no priorities listed on his campaign website. 

Candidate Joe Simitian received Congresswoman Eshoo’s endorsement for his extensive political experience. According to his Linkedin profile, Simitian has been on Palo Alto’s School Board, Palo Alto’s City Council, California State Assembly and State Senate since 1983. He has also been on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors since 2013.

Simitian’s campaign website said he has taken action against climate change in the State Senate and that he supports affordable housing and protecting reproductive rights. Simitian did not respond to requests for an interview, but in an interview with NBC, he said his experience translates to results.

There’s only one reason to run, and that’s to improve the lives of the people you represent,” Simitian said. “That’s how I viewed my work in the state legislature, how I view my work on the Board of Supervisors. It has to be about real results.”

Candidate Greg Tanaka is a member of Palo Alto’s City Council and was a design engineer, businessman and founder in various Silicon Valley startups. Tanaka said his priorities are protecting the environment, the economy and ensuring justice and democracy. Tanaka said he appeals to voters thanks to the way he prioritizes unique solutions, such as his underground Caltrain proposal. 

“I tend not to go with the pack. I tend to be very independent,” Tanaka said. “One example is if (Caltrain is) underground from Santa Clara to San Francisco, that frees up so much land, that creates housing opportunities,” 

The primary election is March 5. The top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election in November. 

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