Youngest, Openly Gay Elected Official
by Philip Mayard
You might not even notice Evan
Low walking down the streets of Campbell, California,
a suburban community of 40,000 in the heart of Silicon
Valley, where Asian-Americans are the second-most populous
demographic. Home to high-tech megaliths eBay and Netflix,
Campbell is also one of the youngest cities in the Bay
Areathe average age of residents is about 35.
Evan Low, however, is no ordinary suburbanite.
Low, 23, made history last year when he became the first
Chinese-American, openly gay, and youngest person to
be elected to Campbells city council. Having earned
endorsements from such political heavy-hitters as U.S.
Congressman Mike Honda and California Assemblyman (and
gay politico) Mark Leno (not to mention a throng of
local and state officials) Low won one of the three
open spots in the November 2006 election, after narrowly
losing his first campaign two years ago.
Community service is in Lows blood.
He traces his roots back to Robert Locke, the first
police chief of Campbell, while his father Dr. Arthur
Low, an eye doctor who worked and volunteered in the
community for over 25 years, was Campbells Citizen
of the Year and president of the Chamber of Commerce.
During Evans teens and early
20s, while his peers worried about prom dates,
keg parties, or figuring out ways to sneak into San
Franciscos gay clubs, Evan was volunteering in
the community. He served on the County Commission on
Senior Care, as Director of Government and Public Affairs
for the Volunteer Center of Silicon Valley, as an instructor
at De Anza Community College, as Treasurer of the local
Kiwanis Club, on the Campbell Chamber of Commerce, and
on the board of directors for the citys museum,
as well as numerous other affiliations.
Among his many awards, Low received
the Asian-American Hero Award for Santa Clara County,
and, on June 5, 2006, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom
honored Evan (months before he was elected to public
office) with a proclamation, naming the day Evan
Low Day in the city and county of San Francisco
for his leadership in the greater community, an endorsement
that raised Lows visibility throughout the Bay
For such a non-traditional candidate,
Low ran for office on a surprisingly traditional platform:
promising to revitalize downtown Campbell; to revamp
the citys Web site; to work with the local school
district to support higher teacher salaries and to secure
funding for after-school and extracurricular programs;
and to promote public safety and traffic control through
street improvements and additional bike lanes.
Since his election, he has been working
to improve the citys library, which he says is
one of the most antiquated in the state, and is
not easily accessible to many families, because it is
closed on Sundays and Mondays.
is also focused on a problem that plagues the entire
Bay Area: an increasing lack of affordable housing.
He says, We must address skyrocketing housing
costs that continue to displace low and moderate-income
people. I support zoning plans, which include an increased
amount of affordable housing. I will also work to ensure
that basic repairs are made to buildings in disrepair.
Perhaps the most important issue that
Low plans to address during his tenure is domestic violence,
which, over the last 15 years, has increased at an alarming
rate in this seemingly peaceful suburb of San Jose.
According to Low, since 1993, the number of Emergency
Protective Restraining Orders has increased seven fold
in Santa Clara County, while the City of Campbell itself
had more calls related to domestic violence than any
other city in the county. Low says, We can and
should be a leader in eliminating violence against women.
My approach focuses on two main goals: effectively dealing
with domestic violence where it already exists, and
furthering a culture of respect for women that condemns
such mistreatment. We should work with our local police,
county social services agency, and various community-based
organizations to reduce domestic violence in our city.
As a young, gay Asian-American male,
Low clearly faced many challenges in terms of voter
perception in his bid to become a city councilman in
Campbell. Although he says he got a sense of a
whisper campaign against me being gay, which
was spread to conservative voters, Low states
emphatically that it was his age that was the greatest
roadblock to an election night triumph. Low says, I
did receive hate mail stating that We dont
want gays in our communities or We want
American interests, not Chinese interests. That
was particularly puzzling to me to see these types of
comments, given that I am a fifth-generation Californian,
more native to this country than many of my fellow Council
members. However, out of the three challenges, youth
was the greatest.