Two Democrats take the lead in race to replace veteran Congresswoman Jackie Speier | June 10, 2022 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - June 10, 2022

Two Democrats take the lead in race to replace veteran Congresswoman Jackie Speier

Kevin Mullin and David Canepa ended Election Day with 41% and 23% of the vote, respectively

by Leah Worthington

With the first round of votes tallied, two Democrats are likely to face-off in November to replace U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier in Congress.

State Assembly member Kevin Mullin and San Mateo County Supervisor Dan Canepa, who were ahead in early polling, are leading the pack in the race to represent California's newly redrawn Congressional District 15. If the results hold, Mullin and Canepa — who currently have 41% and 23.4% of the vote, respectively — will face each other in a runoff election on Nov. 8.

Republican candidate Gus Mattammal and Democrat Emily Beach trailed with 17.9% and 13.5%, respectively.

"I'm thrilled with the results," Mullin said in an interview. "We suspected that we would finish in first place, but this is a larger margin than we had expected."

Close to 100 supporters gathered inside the spacious central hall of the Plumbers' & Steamfitters' Union Local 467 building in Burlingame to watch the results over catered food and drinks. Mullin has been viewed by many as the race's front-runner, having earned endorsements from some of the biggest names in the Peninsula's Democratic establishment, including Speier and U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo.

Around 9:30 p.m., as Mullin's lead solidified with roughly 40% of the vote, he took to the podium to thank his supporters and Speier, who endorsed him as her successor.

"I am forever grateful for her support and endorsement," he said. "And we all are deeply indebted to her for her service to the Peninsula, which continues for the remainder of 2022 and beyond."

Speier has represented California's 14th district in Congress since 2008 and announced in November that she would not seek re-election.

Several local politicians stopped by the Mullin watch party, including California State Assembly member Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, who lauded the front-runner's bipartisan approval. Describing him as a personal mentor and "the gold standard" for leadership, Berman said he was not surprised but "pleasantly relieved" to see Mullin leading in the preliminary results.

"Kevin is, across the aisle, one of the most respected legislators in Sacramento," Berman said. "And it's because even if people disagree with him on specific issues, they still respect his morals, his character and where he's coming from on issues."

Pacifica Mayor Pro Tempore Tygarjas Twyrls Bigstyck also came out to show support. He praised Mullin for showing up to local events and making himself approachable to the community.

"He's always been there. Very kind, very generous," Bigstyck said. "He's been serving our community really well the entire time he's been here. And on top of that, he is unique of anybody he's running against, in that he has the experience."

Meanwhile, 10 minutes up the road in San Bruno, Canepa was joined by more than 100 supporters in celebrating an anticipated victory with pizza, beer and disco lights. Constituents, friends and family members danced to the likes of Fleetwood Mac in the back room of Atlas Pizza Parlor.

"I'm feeling incredible," Canepa said. "At the end of the day, for a candidate like myself that doesn't take corporate PAC money, it's rather amazing that we're at where we're at."

As a Daly City local and the child of working-class parents, Canepa has positioned himself as a challenge to the political establishment.

"This is not a coronation. This is not about endorsements," Canepa said of his likely second-place finish. "What our win shows tonight ... we can stand up to the hierarchy of San Mateo County."

San Francisco resident and campaign supporter Martin Kirkwood said that he admired Canepa's positions on environmental protections, lower prescription drug prices and Medicare for All.

"I had to pick horses in a race, and this is the guy I wanted to run with," he said outside the pizza parlor. "He's the guy on the block that I want to go to if there's a natural disaster."

Shortly before 10 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7, Canepa's team sent out a press release announcing his second-place rank and progression to the November election. He tweeted just after midnight saying simply, "We made it to the November election. Thank you for all you have done."

Of the seven candidates vying for the seat, only the top two-vote getters in Tuesday's primary will advance to the November election.

Whoever wins in the fall will serve Congressional District 15, which encompasses Brisbane, San Mateo, Foster City, Millbrae, Belmont, Daly City, San Bruno, Burlingame, San Carlos, South San Francisco, Colma, Hillsborough, Redwood City, as well as portions of Menlo Park and Atherton.

Among Mullin's and Canepa's competitors are Beach, a Burlingame City Council member; Mattammal, a private tutor and lone Republican; attorney and software developer Andrew Watters; former police officer Jim Garrity; and Ferenc Pataki, an independent running on the single issue of monetary reform.

Mattammal, who, according to unofficial election results, was in the third spot with just under 18% of the vote, spent election night with his family and supporters at Noelani's in San Carlos.

"We're within striking distance of second place and a lot depends on how in-person turnnout was over the last couple of days," Mattammal said, smiling. "We won't know what the results of that will be until pretty late or maybe even tomorrow, so we just have to hang out and be patient."

Mattammal said he went into this election with a platform of "constructive conservatism," an idea, he said, that would appeal across the entire political specturm.

"San Mateo County is obviously a very blue distrtict, but I think we have appeal not just to Republican voters but also to Independents and to Democrats," Mattammal said.

Earlier this spring, four of the candidates participated in a fast-paced, two-hour forum on environmental issues. Each with a unique strategy, they competed to present themselves as the state's best choice for action on climate change.

Mullin, former mayor of South San Francisco and current state assembly member representing the 22nd district, emphasized on the campaign trail his experience both in state politics and in working directly with Speier as her former district director.

"I believe qualifications still matter," he said. "I have been preparing for this role my whole life."

Beach, a U.S. Army veteran and former mayor of Burlingame, called herself an "avid cyclist and pub transportation nut" whose top campaign priority is climate action and justice. Her talking points included protecting open space and biodiversity, imposing a carbon tax and building sustainable infrastructure to prepare for rising sea levels and wildfire.

Canepa, a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and lifelong county resident, touted his commitment to "systemic change." Describing himself as the only candidate not accepting any corporate PAC money, he added, "let's take out the dirty money in politics."

Mattammal, a businessman and educator, and the only Republican in the race, presented his political affiliations as advantageous in what he said "will almost certainly be a Republican congress." Promoting an economy-focused campaign, Mattammal said he wants to reduce carbon by creating jobs, "without demonizing entire industries that employ thousands of Americans."

Canepa, who has been critical of his opponent for accepting corporate contributions, made a pledge Tuesday night not to take any independent expenditure money in his campaign for the November election.

"I don't work for the corporations. I work for the people," he said. "I'm making a commitment right now not to take any super PAC money, if (Mullin) commits to do the same."

Canepa raised more than $670,000, the second most of any candidate in the race. His major contributors include political committees such as ACT Blue, the National Union of Healthcare Workers Federal Committee on Political Education and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC, as well as individual donors.

Most of Mullin's more than $800,000 campaign chest came from individual donations, including a $65,000 contribution he made. He also received sizable checks from political and labor groups, including GenenPAC, the political action committee associated with the biotech giant Genentech, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local #467 and Vision For America, a political action committee run by Speier.

Mullin said that he doesn't intend to take Canepa's pledge.

"I'm not wealthy. I can't self-finance a campaign," he said. "I'm not going to tie a hand behind my back when it comes to raising the necessary resources."

But, he added: "The overwhelming majority of our donors are local donors. And the majority of our contributions are small contributions."

He emphasized that his goal leading up to the November election is to consolidate Democratic support.

"We're mindful that this is just the first step of a two-step process," he said. "There's no hiding the fact that we're going to be considered the front-runner, but you always run the underdog team. So we're going to run a very aggressive grassroots campaign all the way from now on."

Canepa, who originally planned to take a week off, said he was eager to get back to campaigning as soon as Wednesday.

"It's time to grind," he said. "I'm hitting the street corner and thanking voters for getting me top-two. That's the thing I'm doing tomorrow. And then I'm going to find a way to kick his ass."

Michelle Iracheta contributed to this report.

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