Evan Low wins recount, will face Sam Liccardo in general election

Rachel Lee
Rachel Lee

In the recount of the California Congressional District 16 primary election, California State Representative Evan Low won by five votes against Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and will advance to face Sam Liccardo in the November general election. Low and Simitian originally tied in the March 5 election while Liccardo placed first with an 8,000 vote lead over his challengers.

According to the The San Francisco Chronicle, the recount began on April 15 after Jonathan Padilla, a former campaign staffer for Liccardo’s 2014 San Jose mayoral campaign, filed a request on behalf of Low. Without a recount, all three candidates would have advanced.

In a letter obtained by The San Jose Mercury News, Low’s lawyers attempted to prevent the recount by alleging Padilla had changed his request from a manual recount to a machine recount after the deadline.

However, Steve Goltiao, associate communications officer for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, told The Campanile the request was made in time to be considered valid — within seven days after the election was certified.

In an April 30 press release, the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters said they identified an additional 19 valid ballots that were not included in the original count due to human error and three ballots that were counted twice.

During the recount, Goltiao said some ballots challenged by observers were later accepted.

“We were able to accept seven ballots that were not previously counted — six of those being conditional voter registration, and one being a vote by mail signature mismatch, which we were able to match,” Goltiao said.

Junior and Paly board of education representative Karthi Gottipati said the recount was unnecessary because neither of the candidates who tied for second place requested it.

“The issue is not that there was a recount,” Gottipati said.“The issue is that neither of the people directly impacted by that recount, Simitian and Low, requested it. In fact, Low explicitly did not want it.”

In a statement on X on April 9, House Representative Ro Khanna of California’s 17th Congressional District wrote that the recount request was a “crass political ploy.”

“A candidate wanting to overturn the will of the voters is undemocratic,” Khanna wrote on the platform formerly known as Twitter.. “Sam Liccardo’s supporters should not push for a recount asking to overturn election results in CD16 when all other candidates have accepted them.”

According to Section 15624 of California’s election code, voters or campaign committees who request a recount must pay for it. However, according to Goltiao, Padilla will not be reimbursed for the cost of the recount because of a legal technicality.

“Election code section 15624 provides for reimbursement if the recount results in the candidate appearing on the ballot in a general election, who would not have appeared in the absence of the recount,” Goltiao said. “It was determined that a reimbursement will not be made because both of the tied candidates are entitled to be on the general election ballot.”

A KQED investigation showed Padilla paid for the recount through Count the Vote, a new political action committee that has raised over $300,000 to support recount efforts. The committee has yet to disclose its donors and legally has until July 15 to do so.

With all of this the new money pouring into the race, Gottipatti said the lack of transparency regarding who is facilitating the recount is concerning.

“There needs to be transparency about how this recount is happening and on whose money when there is the appearance of a coordinated campaign knocking one person off the race for the sole purpose of benefiting another,” Gottipati said.

Anna Eshoo, the current representative from California’s 16th Congressional District, also said there should be more transparency regarding the recount. In a statement on X, Eshoo said she supported the “full disclosure of the donors and the amounts they’ve contributed to pay for the recount.”

Max Zarzana, the president of the Santa Clara County Government Attorneys Association, filed a federal complaint against Sam Liccardo last month and alleged that Liccardo illegally supported the recount in an attempt to avoid a three-way election.

Liccardo has denied involvement in the recount request. In an April 29 opinion piece for the San Jose Inside, Liccardo wrote, “Neither I nor anyone in my campaign has communicated with Padilla or his donors about the recount. Candidates and their campaigns cannot lawfully communicate with independent expenditure groups.”

Nevertheless, Goltiao said the close results of this election underscores the importance of voting.

“Our slogan for the primary election was ‘One vote, make it count,’” Goltiao said. “We’re going to keep that slogan for the presidential election. This rare event that happened exemplifies why your vote is important, and how one vote can make a difference.”

Joe Simitian’s campaign declined an interview request. Sam Liccardo’s campaign and Evan Low’s campaign did not respond to an interview request.

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