After winning a second term on the Palo Alto City Council, Greg Tanaka is eying a new venture: a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The College Terrace resident, who finished third in the 10-candidate race for the council on Nov. 3, last month filed a statement of candidacy form with the Federal Election Commission, signaling that he is looking to run for the 18th District seat long occupied by Anna Eshoo. With the Dec. 18 filing, Tanaka indicated that he plans to form the campaign committee, "Greg Tanaka for Congress" for the 2022 election.
Along with a new campaign, Tanaka is also crafting a new image. On the same day that he filed his candidacy statement, Tanaka published a story in the Los Angeles-based Japanese paper, Rafu Shinbun, celebrating his reelection to the Palo Alto council and portraying himself as a grassroots candidate who persevered in the crowded race despite being heavily outspent by his opponents. In fact, he raised about $90,000 for his campaign, far more than any of his nine opponents, with the vast majority of the cash coming from developers and builders.
Tanaka also wrote in the self-published story that as a candidate, he was vying with two competing slates, "the newcomer slate" and the "residentialist" slate, which collectively raised a reported $330,000. While the race included two loose groupings — with the political group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning group endorsing three slow-growth candidates and the California Democratic Party backing three progressive candidates — there were no formal slates. Much like Tanaka, the top vote-getter, Pat Burt, didn't receive an endorsement from either group. The other two candidates to win election, Lydia Kou and Greer Stone, were also heavily outspent by Tanaka.
In commenting on the 2020 election, Tanaka wrote that Palo Alto sets "the high bar for a small city with its cutthroat election tactics and fundraising."
"The long-standing struggle between 'pro-housing' and 'residentialists' has increased fundraising competition during the past several elections," wrote Tanaka, who has consistently voted the "pro-housing" faction on land-use issues.
Tanaka, a registered Democrat, did not respond to repeated requests for an interview over the past several weeks. But his campaign manager, Southern California-based entrepreneur Bobby Borisov, said that while Tanaka's decision has not been finalized, it is "gaining traction."
"It's almost final. We're going at it 100% and we're already spending time and effort," Borisov told this news organization.
Borisov said that the campaign's biggest focus is on supporting small business and improving the economy. Borisov, who met Tanaka through their shared involvement in e-commerce, said he and Tanaka share concerns about the direction of the U.S. economy and a feeling that the American dream is in peril.
Borisov also lauded Tanaka for his record of regularly reaching out to residents and seeking their input. As a council member, Tanaka has long been known for hosting weekly office hours and posting videos from these meetings on Facebook. Borisov said Tanaka would bring the same approach to his national campaign. One approach that he and Tanaka are moving ahead with is creating a media network in which they will interview guests.
Borisov emphasized that Tanaka's campaign has no objections to Eshoo, who was first elected in 1992 and who cruised in her bid to a fresh term on Nov. 3, winning 63% of the vote in her race against Democrat Rishi Kumar. Tanaka is not so much running for "Anna's seat," Borisov said, as trying to improve representation for district residents.
"He is representing the people, and the people want him to run for Congress because they see him as a great leader who listens to people and who will make changes," Borisov said.
Tanaka is hoping to have better luck than Kumar in his new quest to represent the 18th District, which includes sections of Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, including the cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Atherton, Woodside and Portola Valley. Though Tanaka has only served on one elected body — the Palo Alto City Council — Borisov noted that his campaign received support and endorsements from many leaders and residents, both from Palo Alto and from elsewhere.
A fiscal hawk known for criticizing staff proposals, voting against city budgets and supporting pro-business policies, Tanaka touted in the Rafu Shinbun story the roughly 400 endorsements that he said he had received for his reelection campaign.
"I understand the dissatisfaction citizens may have with our government," said Tanaka. "Whether you supported my campaign or not, I am a council member for everyone and will work to bridge any division that exists between our residents and our elected officials."