California Rep. Jackie Speier to Retire

California Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough/San Mateo)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 18, 2021 — The second congressional retirement of the week was announced Tuesday as veteran California Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough/San Mateo), following Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s similar statement Monday, said in a video to her constituents that she will not seek an eighth full term in the House next year.

Speier has a long career in politics that began well before her first election to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in 1980. Two years prior, Speier, as a staff member for then-US Rep. Leo Ryan (D-CA), was shot five times on a remote airport runway in Guyana exactly 43 years ago today during the infamous Jim Jones mass murder-suicides of his so-called religious followers. (See this brief article as Speier recounted that day at a National Archives lecture.)

A total of 918 people died during the mass killing, including Rep. Ryan who was on a mission to investigate reports of criminal activity in the commune. Jones had run what was described as a church in the congressman’s district and most of his followers were from the northern California region. Speier, left for dead after being attacked and shot, lay for a reported 22 hours before being rescued and treated.

She obviously recovered from her wounds and was successful in her first run for public office. Six years later, she won a state Assembly seat, and then captured the area state Senate seat before winning a special election to the US House in 2008 after then-Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) passed away.

The 14th District contains over 85 percent of San Mateo County, and a portion of south San Francisco, adjacent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 12th District. The seat is safely Democratic, voting in a 78-21 percent clip for President Biden in 2020, and a similar 77-18 percent spread for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The seat is not expected to change a great deal in redistricting. The 14th is surrounded by water on two sides, the Pacific Ocean on its western boundary, and San Francisco Bay to the east. To the north is the San Francisco peninsula of which the district contains about 15 percent of San Francisco County, including the localities of Daly City and South San Francisco. To the south, is the Palo Alto area.

CA-14 needs to gain just 13,729 individuals to meet the state’s population quota of 760,350 residents. With the Pelosi seat having to shed 10,660 people, it should be a relatively easy draw within the San Francisco region to again bring the 14th CD into legal compliance.

Rep. Speier’s retirement means that 24 regularly-elected incumbents will not be seeking re-election in 2022. In addition, at least eight more seats are being created through reapportionment and redistricting for a total of 32 campaigns to be run without an incumbent in the race. Of the current 24 openings, a total of 14 come from the Democratic column as opposed to 10 Republican seats. Of the eight new CDs, Republicans look to have the edge in five districts, and Democrats’ three.

Since the 14th will likely remain a heavily Democratic district, it is probable that two Democrats will have the opportunity of advancing into the general election. With San Mateo County being the district’s population anchor, state Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) might be in the best position to succeed Rep. Speier.

His 22nd Assembly District covers both South San Francisco and the more population significant San Mateo city region. Mullin was elected in 2012, meaning he can run only one more time for the Assembly under California’s 12-year limit for service in the state legislature.

Though state senators represent approximately 200,000 more people than a member of the US House, the regional political structure suggests that one of the area’s two senators who covers the 14th would not be in as favorable a position to run for Congress. Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) was originally elected in 2016, and re-elected in 2020. He can run for a final term in 2024. His district, however, is more closely aligned with that of Speaker Pelosi.

The senator who best fits the 14th CD is freshman Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park), but he was just elected in 2020. Should he decide to run for Congress, however, he would be on a free ride because his seat will not come up for election until 2024. He could also run for a final four-year term in 2028.

We can expect a lively qualifying primary election here in June from a vote that will send the top two vote-getters regardless of political affiliation to the November 2022 contest. The possibility of two Democratic candidates advancing into the general election is not only conceivable but should be considered probable.

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