Evan Low was elected to the California State Assembly in November 2014 to represent District 28. At the age of 31, Assemblymember Low became the youngest Asian American legislator to have been elected to the Assembly in state history. District 28 is located in Silicon Valley and includes Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, and the areas of West San Jose, Willow Glen, Cambrian, and Almaden Valley in San Jose. Assemblymember Low chairs the Business and Professions Committee.
In 2015, together with Assemblymember Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), he launched the first California Legislative Technology & Innovation Caucus. The Caucus, composed of a bi-partisan group of Senators and Assemblymembers, is a statewide effort to maintain California as a global leader in technology and innovation.
Assemblymember Low is a lifelong resident of and has been a regional community leader in Silicon Valley. His work within the community and his deep knowledge of issues faced by local residents led him to run for Campbell City Council in 2006. He made history as the first Asian American elected to Campbell’s City Council.
In 2010, Assemblymember Low also made history by becoming the youngest openly LGBT mayor in the country at the age of 26. While serving on Campbell’s City Council, he helped balance the city budget without eliminating vital services, and he increased government transparency by streaming City Council meetings online. Assemblymember Low promoted small business and job growth by cutting red tape and streamlining the licensing process for business owners.
Assemblymember Low has been named “Legislator of the Year” by the Internet Association, TechNet, The Computing Technology Industry Association, California Faculty Association, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, California District Attorneys Association, and the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges.
A Bay Area native, Low attended local public schools and earned degrees from De Anza Community College and San Jose State University. He went on to graduate from the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University.
Low also served as a college instructor, teaching American Government and Political Science, at De Anza Community College.
1. Tell us a bit about your role as California Assemblymember for District 28.
I represent close to 500,000 residents in Silicon Valley, including the cities of Cupertino, San Jose, Campbell, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, and Los Gatos. We are home to Apple, Ebay, and Netflix to name a few. I leave home in Silicon Valley each week to drive to our state capitol to work on issues related to my committee assignments. Those interests include Higher Education, Elections, Consumer Protection, and Technology. I have also served as Chair of the California LGBT Legislative Caucus as well as Co-Founder of the California Technology and Innovation Caucus.
2. Your personal hero/who inspired you to work as a public servant?
Silicon Valley is home to American icons and living legends Norm Mineta, Mike Honda, Paul Fong, and so many others. I am grateful each day to be able to follow in their footsteps, carry the mantle, and be in regular contact with them.
3. How has your background as both an AAPI and being openly LGBT shaped your journey in politics?
My initial entry into politics was through my first college course in Asian American studies. As I continued to get deeply immersed in the realm of social justice, I was pulled into my other identity in the fight for equality for the LGBT community. Whether it is being seen as a perpetual foreigner (even though I am 4th generation Chinese American, I speak more Spanish than Chinese) or the continuous fight for equal rights as an openly LGBT citizen in this country, the fight for equality for all is unconditional. Our need for unconditional allyship is more important than ever.
4. You are the youngest Asian American legislator to have been elected to the Assembly in state history. How does that affect your perspective?
Well, I am excited to have been the youngest to date, but I am equally elated to know that I won’t hold that record for long. Our community has a strong pipeline to ensure that Asian Americans continue to answer the call to public service. After this coming November 2020 election, I am confident that my former staffer Alex Lee (age 25) will be successful in his election to the State Assembly representing the neighboring district here in Silicon Valley.
5. What is your morning routine to get you ready for the day?
Spin Class. Not necessarily by choice! It helps that I carpool with coworkers in the morning to class and we grab coffee after. Exercise and a solid morning catch up. Accountability to get you there really works!
6. Favorite book or podcast?
Check out Andrew Yang’s podcast called, “Yang Speaks.” You’ll get relatable policy discussions from the former presidential candidate along with a good laugh. Andrew has a fun loving spirit and has a very infectious laugh. Don’t believe me? Listen for yourself!
7. Message for someone running for elected office?
Be authentic. Be yourself and demonstrate incredible empathy. Also, don’t just engage with someone when you want something. Develop true and meaningful relationships.
8. Favorite boba flavor (or favorite drink!)
When I try to be good, I go for Iced Green Tea, No Sugar, Light Ice, with Grass Jelly. When I’m needing the kick, it’s Almond Milk Tea, Regular Sugar and Ice, with Honey Boba!
9. How did going to community college affect your career path?
I felt an incredible stigma going to a community college, mainly stemming from a traditional Chinese upbringing. Most of my friends went away to internationally renowned universities while I stayed back. At that time, I went through a stage of depression and shame. Looking back now however, I find that it was a very wise financial decision, as well as allowing me to keep my local roots back at home, thus allowing me to build up the important community work that I continue to this day.
10. More and more AAPIs are becoming more politically involved, what would be a good first step?
Find out why you are drawn to being in the front lines. Oftentimes, individuals may be best positioned behind the scenes or in an advocacy role. So, talk to those currently in some of these positions. Ask about the pros and cons. Find a mentor. Many are initially drawn to politics by passion and emotion; but be sure to also make an informed decision with intentionality.
11. What AAPI events do you look forward to every year?
I introduced House Resolution 31 in the California State Legislature to recognize May 10 as California Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial Day to celebrate the anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad assembled from Chinese labor from 1865 to 1869. So, I appreciate being able to join many community events at colleges and schools to talk about APA Heritage Month and Asian American history. So much of our American history is left out of public education. That is why APA Heritage Month is critical. Equally important for us is to advocate for Ethnic Studies as a required course in school.
12. What was the most challenging hurdle when you first ran for office?
I first ran for office when I was 20 years old and the biggest challenge at the time was not my age. It was not even my sexual orientation—it was my ethnicity. The local newspaper would continuously call into question my intentions as well as calling attention to the ethnic surnames of my campaign supporters. Thus, I would field questions as to why “Chinese interests are attempting to buy this election.” Or I would be questioned who I rooted for in the Olympics—the United States or Japan? As I’ve stated, I’m of Chinese descent. Unfortunately, this rhetoric still exists today. That is why we must continue to be active and call out racism when we see it.
13. How do you keep yourself grounded?
My mom. You know Chinese moms. She doesn’t hesitate to send me articles along with her opinions. Not to mention her telling me that I need to eat more since she says I appear so skinny in photos. Her motherly love absolutely keeps me grounded.