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Politics & Policy

Jackie Speier’s departure likely to draw crowded field of congressional contenders

Longtime Bay Area Congresswoman Jackie Speier unexpectedly announced Tuesday she will not seek re-election next year, setting the stage for what political consultants predict will be a crowded race to replace her.

After more than three decades representing San Mateo and San Francisco counties, first at the state and then federal level, Speier announced her upcoming retirement in a video posted to social media.

“It’s time for me to come home,” Speier said. “Time for me to be more than a weekend wife, mother and friend.”

With no heir apparent in sight, the announcement presents a rare opportunity for a new generation of local candidates to try their hand at running for national office. At least one politician, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President David Canepa, has already expressed interest in vying for the seat.

“I’m definitely interested. When a seat like this becomes available, it’s maybe once every 20 years,” Canepa said. “Everyone and the postman is interested in running because these open seats don’t happen much.”

Local political consultants agree that any number of candidates could jump into the race, though they would likely hail from San Mateo County rather than San Francisco since the district mostly encompasses the Peninsula.

“With these congressional seats, they come up once a generation or in a lot of ways once a lifetime,” said political consultant Jim Ross. “You would anticipate that anybody ambitious would at least take a look at it.”

“These seats are really attractive because you get to do it a long time and you get to build power,” he added.

Political consultant Alex Tourk said one potential candidate to replace her is Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, who currently represents the Peninsula.

“Assemblyman Mullin will be widely viewed as a natural candidate as he was recently redistricted out of his existing seat,” Tourk said. “But (I) believe he is looking at other political opportunities and also has a young family.” The redistricting has not yet been finalized.

A spokesperson for Mullin declined to say Tuesday whether he would consider running, but forwarded a statement from the assemblyman describing Speier as a “hometown champion” and “embodiment of integrity.”

Speier has represented San Mateo and San Francisco counties in Congress since 2008. She previously served in the state Senate and Assembly, and as a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

Speier launched her political career after being shot five times on an airstrip in Guyana, while on a trip to investigate Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple as a staffer for Congressman Leo Ryan.

In her announcement, Speier recalled vowing to dedicate her life to public service if she survived the 1978 attack.

“I lived, and I served,” Speier said. “It’s been a remarkable journey that has surpassed my wildest dreams.”

Sarah Wright and Annie Gaus contributed to this report.