In an alleged act of “revenge,” California Assemblymember Evan Low, an openly gay Democrat representing Silicon Valley, was removed as chair of a key legislative committee and subsequently replaced by a straight white male colleague.
What happened: Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon removed Low as chair of the Committee on Business and Professions, a post the Campbell native had held in the last five years. Rendon has not released an official explanation, but a source reportedly claimed that the decision was made out of spite.
- The source, a “trusted person within the legislature,” told ABC10 political reporter Morgan Rynor that last week’s move was “vindictive.” Apparently, there had been rumors over the summer about Low running for speaker.
- Low’s supposed bid for speaker emerged out of frustrations within the legislature over Rendon’s handling of COVID-19 policies, another source told the San José Spotlight. Those frustrated lawmakers reportedly lobbied Low to go after the position.
- Rendon replaced Low with Assemblymember Marc Berman of Palo Alto. “I’ve asked Assemblymember Berman to take the helm of Business and Professions. His service in the Assembly has demonstrated his commitment to the Democratic Caucus,” Rendon said in a statement. A spokesperson from his office reportedly added that the speaker simply makes periodic changes to the makeup of the committee chairs.
Ensuing outrage: Low’s unexplained removal — and the fact that he was replaced by a straight white man — has sparked outrage among Asian American and LGBTQ plus advocacy groups. Many took to social media to criticize Rendon’s actions.
- John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), described the news as “troubling” since Low is “one of the most passionate and effective leaders” in the Asian American community. “At a time when anti-Asian hate remains an issue, why this change? Will he receive another Chair position? If not, why not?” Yang tweeted.
- The Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC), an LGBTQ+ political action committee, said they were “shocked” and “outraged” over the news. They also demanded an explanation from Rendon. “Assemblymember Low’s leadership has been crucial in responding to the crisis of hate and attacks against AAPI and LGBTQ+ people. To talk about elevating leaders that represent our communities while doing the opposite is mere lip service,” the group wrote on Twitter.
- Equality California, a statewide LGBTQ plus group, said they were “deeply disappointed” over the news. They praised Low’s “policy-driven and solution-oriented” leadership in the communities he represents. “At a time when the API community faces a surge in hate, violence and discrimination, and state legislatures across the country relentlessly attack the LGBTQ+ community, Assemblymember Low has provided critical representation for our communities in Sacramento,” Director Tony Hoang said in a statement, according to ABC10. “Removing Assemblymember Low as chair is an unfortunate example of people of color — especially API people — being sidelined from leadership roles despite demonstrated success and a commitment to strengthening and diversifying the Legislature.”
- The OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates also released a statement on Low’s removal. The group said they were “deeply disturbed” over the news and described it as “counter” to California’s commitment to equity. “Assemblymember Evan Low remains a key leader and representative for both the AAPI and LGBTQ+ communities. Stripping him of the position moves California backwards in its work to protect and serve its constituents, many of whom are AAPI.”
- The Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA) said they were “extremely disappointed” about Low’s removal and described the move as “a blow for all of us.” The group said they remain committed to supporting the Assemblymember for being a “consistent and strong voice advocating for our community.”
- U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, who represents California’s 17th Congressional District, also voiced support for Low. “I stand with BAYMEC and Evan Low. Low has been an important leader for our area on many issues concerning equality and social justice. He should not be stripped of his leadership role on committees,” Khanna wrote on Twitter.
Low responds: Low remains the chair of California’s Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and vice chair of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. In a statement to NextShark, he said it was an “honor” serving on the Business and Professions Committee.
- “It has been an honor to serve as Chair of the Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee, where my colleagues and I crafted legislation to help small businesses, combat the opioid crisis, implement a system to regulate legal cannabis, and work with Gov. Newsom to protect patients and health professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to continuing to serve in any capacity,” Low said.
Featured Image via California Assembly Democrats