Editorial: Elect Patrick Ahrens for Evan Low’s Assembly District 26 seat

Call it the domino effect.

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo’s retirement announcement in November sent ripples through Silicon Valley’s political leadership as top Democrats, including Assemblyman Evan Low, launched campaigns to succeed her. Now six candidates are bidding to replace Low in the state Legislature and represent nearly half a million South Bay residents.

The top candidates are three youthful Democrats, which feels natural for a seat that Low first won in 2014 at age 31. Each comes with political experience: Low’s own district director, a Sunnyvale councilmember and state Sen. Dave Cortese’s deputy chief of staff.

Of that trio, Patrick Ahrens, the oldest at 34, has seized his six years in Low’s office and as an elected official to develop the most nuanced understanding of state issues. He’s spent a decade working in the state Legislature and has served on the Foothill-De Anza Community College board since 2018. Ahrens brings a critical eye to the state’s role in addressing homelessness, housing, transportation and the high cost of doing business here. We endorse him to represent Assembly District 26.

Redrawn after the 2020 census, District 26 in Santa Clara County now includes Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara and part of San Jose. Nearly half of the heavily Democratic district’s residents are of Asian descent.

Although Ahrens has served as Low’s district director, he would bring a different perspective from his boss to Sacramento. The first in his family to attend college, Ahrens grew up in a home around substance abuse and lived for a time in a Ford hatchback with his twin brother.

“I got out and not a lot of people have,” Ahrens said. In the Legislature, “everyone sort of gets a niche issue, and I want to be known as someone who works on poverty.”

He enjoys the support of both Eshoo and Low and endorsements from a long list of state, city and county legislators. On homelessness and California’s housing crisis, Ahrens supports Prop. 1, the statewide proposal on the March 5 ballot to restructure mental health services and approve a $6.4 billion bond for housing.

During his time on the Foothill-De Anza board, the community college passed a $200 million bond measure to build affordable housing. “We did that because over half of our students experience homelessness, and we’re not going to wait around for the cities in our district,” Ahrens said.

The district’s two other candidates with political experience are Sunnyvale Councilmember Omar Din, 26, and Tara Sreekrishnan, 30, Cortese’s chief of staff who also sits on the Santa Clara County Board of Education.

In 2020, Din became the youngest and first South Asian and Muslim elected to the Sunnyvale council. He worked with Google and other local businesses to pass a plan to develop 1,156 acres neighboring Moffett Airfield into a mixed-use project with 20,000 new housing units. But despite Din’s involvement in the Moffett Airfield project and his year as an appointee to the board of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, he still has a lot to learn about the crucial issues of housing and transportation, as well as other state issues.

Sreekrishnan began working for Cortese as chief of staff in 2020 when he was a county supervisor, then she moved with him to the state Legislature the following year. But she, too, had serious gaps in her knowledge of state issues.

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The final three candidates in the race lack political experience.

Sophie Yan Song, 51, the race’s only Republican and a San Jose certified public accountant, served on Cupertino’s audit committee. Accountant Ashish Garg, 52, who has never sought elected office before, says he decided to run for Assembly, as opposed to a local post, because no incumbent was running and because he feels he can do more at the state level. Song and Garg have weak understandings of key state issues.

Libertarian and retired airline pilot Bob Goodwyn, 63, of Sunnyvale, has run unsuccessfully for Assembly in 1988, 1992 and 2018, as well as Congress in 2020. Goodwyn’s “informational campaign” proposes to do away with public education and the minimum wage.

Of the candidates seeking to represent this district in the Assembly, Ahrens has best applied his time in state politics and local education to develop a distinctive and informed approach to California’s most pressing issues. This makes him the best pick for District 26.

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