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Requests for Recount Could Upend Silicon Valley Race for Congress

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Sam Liccardo's campaign headquarters in San Jose on March 3, 2024. (Kathryn Styer Martínez/KQED)

A Santa Clara County voter named Jonathan Padilla has requested a recount in a race for Congress in Silicon Valley — a move that could break a historic tie between Assemblymember Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and potentially leave former San José Mayor Sam Liccardo, a fellow Democrat, with a single opponent in the fall.

Padilla was the finance director of Liccardo’s 2014 campaign for mayor and founded the data company Snickerdoodle Labs. Padilla donated $1,000 to Liccardo’s congressional campaign in December, according to an FEC filing. Padilla did not respond to a message asking about the request for a recount.

The Low campaign accused Liccardo of being behind the recount request, calling it “a page right out of Trump’s political playbook using dirty tricks to attack democracy and subvert the will of the voters.”

“Sam Liccardo, who does not live in the district, did not file a recount himself,” said a Low campaign spokesperson in a statement. “Instead, he had his former staffer do it for him. What’s he afraid of?”

A spokesperson for the Liccardo campaign said the campaign did not make the recount filing and declined to comment further on Padilla.


“The Liccardo campaign would like to thank the tireless work by the election officials and volunteers whose dedication and labor make our elections fair and trustworthy,” the spokesman said in a statement. “Every vote should be counted, and that’s why recounts are part of the state’s electoral process to ensure accuracy.”

The full manual recount in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties could cost the requester more than $400,000 and has the potential to shake up the unprecedented three-way general election currently on tap for voters in the 16th congressional district.

“Eventually, the process will work itself out,” Simitian told KQED on Tuesday. “It’s all just politics at this point, and my job is to stay focused on how I can best represent the folks in our district.”

After weeks of counting ballots, election officials in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties certified results last week that left Simitian and Low tied. For the first time since California adopted a top-two primary system, three Democrats are set to advance to the general election.

However, any voter in the county had until the end of the day on Tuesday to request a recount. Over the weekend, voters in the district, which stretches from Pacifica to Los Gatos, received text messages to participate in a poll conducted by McGuire Research. The poll asked about candidate preferences in a three-way race and in head-to-head matchups between Liccardo and Simitian and Liccardo and Low, suggesting an interest by some political entity in breaking the tie.

The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters said Padilla and a man named Dan Stegink had requested a recount before the Tuesday deadline. Stegink, a Pacifica resident, told the Los Gatan he wanted election officials to re-tally ballots but that he was “hoping the Boards of Supervisors in both counties will chip in” for the cost.

The daily cost of a manual recount in Santa Clara County would be around $32,000, according to county election officials. In San Mateo County, election officials quoted a $3,250 setup cost and a $2,600 counting cost for each precinct.

In Santa Clara County, local races with margins of less than 25 votes result in automatic recounts. However, the law does not apply to federal contests, such as Congressional seats.

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