Longtime Peninsula Congresswoman Anna Eshoo is planning to retire from the House next year, and she announced Tuesday that she will not be seeking reelection.
Eshoo made the announcement with a video message.
"I'm choosing this beautiful season of Thanksgiving to announce that I will not seek reelection, and I do so with a heart filled with unending gratitude to you, my magnificent constituents," Eshoo said. "For three decades, you’ve given me your trust, and I’ve given every fiber of my being to live up to the sacred trust in every way possible."
Eshoo, 80, has held the office representing California's 16th congressional district since being elected in 1992, and she will be 82 when she leaves office at the end of next year.
"I think it's time," Eshoo told the Chronicle in an interview today. "These jobs are 24/7. I have commuted across the country, for 31 years, every single week that the House is in session. To do my legislative work at the Capitol, but to come home, to be in my district, that means working weekends to be with my constituents. I’ve never resented the responsibilities, but as a member of Congress, my life is filled to the brim with have-to’s. That’s what comes first.”
Eshoo's district covers a significant swath of Silicon Valley and the wealthiest communities of San Mateo County, including Palo Alto, Mountain View, Campbell, Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos, and Los Gatos. The 16th District, outlined on the map below, also comes up the western part of the Peninsula nearly to San Francisco, including Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, and includes some unincorporated parts of San Jose.
Kevin Mullin, who took over the neighboring 15th District last year from retired Congresswoman Jackie Speier, tells the Chronicle that Eshoo is a "living legend" who is "universally respected and revered, and her district and the Congress has benefited greatly from her steady and moral leadership during some [of] the most challenging times our country has faced."
Eshoo's retirement will leave open a seat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce committee, and it will set off a frenzy of campaigning for some number of potential candidates. The two that the Chronicle knows of already are Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, 70; and California Assemblymember Evan Low, 40. Both are expected to make campaign launch announcements last week.
Low, who is gay, is likely to make an issue of age if pitted against Simitian — and in campaigning for the Assembly he has used his youth as an asset. Low was elected to Campbell's city council in 2006, at the age of 23, and then became the city's mayor in 2009 — and while he currently represents Sunnyvale in the state house, the Chronicle notes that he still owns a home in Campbell and could move back there in order to run for this office.
"Throughout my life, I've blazed trails and made history as the first Asian‐American, openly gay person, and one of the youngest people ever elected to Campbell’s City Council, the youngest Asian‐American Mayor in the country, and the youngest Asian American legislator to be elected to the Assembly in state history. But I'm just getting started fighting for the Silicon Valley," Low said on his campaign website.
State Senator Josh Becker, 54, whose district also straddles San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, may also end up in the running for Eshoo's seat, as might former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, 53.
Eshoo, who was born in Connecticut to an Assyrian-Armenian mother and Assyrian father, came to the Bay Area as a young adult and received an associate's degree from Cañada College in Redwood City in 1975. She was elected to the San Mateo Board of Supervisors in 1988, and was in the middle of her second term when she ran for Congress in 1992.
Eshoo's retirement comes at a transitional moment for Bay Area politics, with the recent retirement of Speier and the death of Dianne Feinstein, and the assumed impending retirement of Nancy Pelosi — which may not come for another few years.
"I want you to know you’ve made me a better person. You have deepened my love of democracy. You have demonstrated the goodness and the decency of the American people over and over again,” Eshoo said in the video announcement. "So on this Thanksgiving, I will bow my head and say thank you for choosing me for the high privilege of representing you."