Eshoo faces rivals from left, right and center in bid to retain congressional seat | News


The seven candidates vying to replace U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo in a newly redesigned Silicon Valley congressional district know they face a tough climb.

Since she was first elected in 1992, Eshoo has sailed for re-election in the heavily Democratic district, consistently garnering around 70% of the vote. California’s stint in one of the first two primaries barely blunted its political fortunes. Two years ago, she won 63% of the vote in the general election against fellow Democrat Rishi Kumar.

Kumar, a tech executive who sits on the Saratoga City Council, hopes for better luck this time around. He is one of seven candidates hoping to replace Eshoo in the new District 16, which stretches along the Pacifica coast north of San Jose and encompasses large parts of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, including the cities of Palo Alto, Mountain View, Woodside. , Portola Valley and parts of Menlo Park and Atherton.

On Tuesday night, Eshoo and six of her challengers attempted to defend their respective candidacies at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters (Kumar was the only contestant not to attend the event). As Eshoo recalled his recent accomplishments in the House of Representatives, each of his opponents argued that it was time for a change and that they were the best option to represent the vibrant Silicon Valley neighborhood.

Among the challengers was Palo Alto City Councilman Greg Tanaka, a Democrat who over the years has distinguished himself on the council for repeatedly voting against the city budget and, most recently, for his firm opposition to the city’s business tax project. A fiscal conservative whose whining about the decline of innovation in Silicon Valley has been a staple of board meetings, he on Tuesday rejected the idea of ​​voting along a party line.

“There’s this kind of red team versus blue team idea, where the red team can’t vote for a blue team idea and vice versa,” Tanaka said. “What we really should be doing is instead of every elected person voting for their party, you should be voting for the best idea.”

Ajwang Rading, an attorney at the Palo Alto-based firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, is also vying to represent the district. Unlike Tanaka or Kumar, who oppose Sacramento housing mandates and pledge not to raise taxes, Rading leans blue all the way. He adopts an ambitious Democratic platform that revolves around issues of social justice, climate change and universal health care.

A former staffer of U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Rading’s resume includes a stint at the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative and his political idols include the late Rep. John Lewis, who championed the right to vote. Rading grew up homeless and on Tuesday recalled a childhood that involved spending nights in a 2001 Dodge Neon alongside his single mother. He believes his education and background would make him an effective advocate for promoting affordable housing, addressing income inequality in District 16, and advocating for other progressive issues.

“I think the upcoming primary and general elections will be a referendum on reproductive rights, equality and climate action,” Rading said. “We should ask ourselves how we got here and make sure we get a new kind of leadership that takes action.”

Eshoo also faces a challenge from the right, with three Republicans hoping to win a seat in the heavily Democratic district. The most politically moderate of the three is former Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki, whose campaign calls for resisting unfunded housing mandates, fighting inflation and seeking more federal dollars for transportation projects. Ohtaki, who grew up in Menlo Park and spent eight years on the council, said his experience as both an elected official and as a tech company’s chief financial officer made him well qualified for the seat.

“Voters want a credible alternative to this year’s November election, not just another shade of blue,” Ohtaki said.

The two other Republicans in the running are positioned more to the right of the political spectrum. Richard Fox, who leans on libertarians and has been a vocal opponent of vaccination mandates, characterizes his candidacy as a battle not only against Eshoo but also against the President’s chief medical adviser Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the ‘pharmaceutical industry.

Benjamin Solomon is running as a pro-business candidate who wants to cut taxes. However, he also embraced in his campaign the National Republican Party’s opposition to “critical race theory,” an intellectual movement that emphasizes the role of race in shaping American institutions such as the criminal justice and education. And like Fox, he’s skeptical of climate change. Asked about the topic on Tuesday, Fox suggested that government-funded research “usually arrives at the conclusions the government wants it to reach”, while Solomon dismissed the international consensus on the threats of climate change and suggested that “Global science alarmists” aren’t telling people the whole truth.

The only candidate on the slate who is not affiliated with any of the major parties is John Karl Fredrich, a Palo Alto resident and retired government teacher who had made several unsuccessful bids for city council, most recently in 2016. Fredrich supports “Medicare for All”, is skeptical of US military intervention, and wants to abolish the Electoral College and pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which was introduced in 1923 but never ratified. The law seeks to ensure equal rights for all Americans, regardless of gender.

“It’s been long overdue, it needs to be done and I hope to be a party to push this to the finish line,” Fredrich said.

Arguing for a re-election on Tuesday, Eshoo touted her decades of experience, a quality she says is especially vital at a time when women’s reproductive rights are under threat from the Supreme Court and the nation faces challenges. ongoing challenges such as climate change. , inflation, and a war in Ukraine that requires American leadership to defeat authoritarianism.

The political veteran also cited legislation she has championed and supported over the years, including her efforts to expand access to health care for Americans. These efforts have resulted in an additional 6 million Americans being enrolled in the Affordable Care Act over the past year, she said. Eshoo also sponsored and supported the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would prevent government restrictions on abortion access.

“I am not giving way to anyone on health care, the progress we have made and for the progress we need to make, including the price of drugs, the price of insulin,” said Eshoo, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Health. .

His challengers, meanwhile, focused on outstanding issues that remain unresolved and argued that the district needed to change. Tanaka and the three Republican candidates cited inflation as a major concern. He touted his experience as a tech entrepreneur and suggested the district needed a “digital age lawmaker.”

The difference between the candidates was particularly evident when it came to climate change policies. Kumar’s plan centers on carbon capture technology while Tanaka champions nuclear power. Eshoo and Rading, who have both called climate change an “existential crisis”, favor the more common solution of increasing investment in renewable energy, while Ohtaki spoke of the need to strengthen transport services in common and to reduce transport emissions.

Eshoo highlighted its support for Build Back Better, a legislative package that included $555 billion in funding for climate change programs and passed the House before collapsing in the Senate. Rading said he wants to form a “climate innovation hub” that brings together communities and stakeholders from academia, the private sector and activist organizations to create innovative solutions and develop funding mechanisms to enable broad adoption.

“Climate change is always an issue reserved for wealthier communities, and we need to conceptualize how to spread these ideas for the rest of the world,” Rading said.

The candidates also took starkly different positions when it comes to regulating tech companies. Eshoo, Fredrich and Rading all said on Tuesday they support the Digital Services Act, a European Union-led legislative proposal that governs disinformation and would require tech companies such as Meta and Google to provide more transparency on their algorithms.

Fox and Solomon said they agree with Elon Musk, the billionaire who is now buying Twitter and prefers a more passive approach to internet discourse.

Ohtaki, meanwhile, said he supports stronger privacy laws, but worries about a situation where “the government is put in the role of deciding what is misinformation. or illegal information”. Eshoo had no such reservations and said she was proud of the legislation she had drafted on both disinformation and privacy. Last year, she joined U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren in reintroducing the Online Privacy Act, which strengthens users’ data rights (the bill is currently in committee in the House ).

“We see the damage done to our democracy by misinformation, misinformation and lack of privacy,” she said.

The eight candidates will face off in the June 7 primary, with the top two voters qualifying for the November 8 general election.


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