“It’s the Papans vs. the world.” That’s how a local official described Millbrae Councilmember Gina Papan’s plan to challenge Emily Beach, Burlingame councilmember, for Dave Pine’s seat on the Board of Supervisors. Meanwhile, sister Diane Papan, San Mateo councilmember, is planning to challenge Dave Pine for Kevin Mullin’s Assembly seat. All this drama in 2024. The Papan sisters may have labor support and for sure lots of money. Eleni Kounalakis, state lieutenant governor, is a close friend. Her father is a very rich Sacramento developer.

It may be a tough challenge. While the Papans are strong in north county, Burlingame has a big slice of the district. Councilmember Beach lives in Burlingame and is well-liked in her hometown and countywide because of her leadership role on transportation. Plus she has the ideal resume which includes military service in Saudi Arabia and Korea. Yet Gina Papan was elected by her fellow mayors to represent them on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Diane Papan is strong in San Mateo and north county but Mullin’s seat goes south to San Carlos and in mid and south county Pine is well-liked and known because of his leadership role on climate change, a top concern of voters. But never underestimate the Papans and their years of community and public service.


Longtime political activist and labor leader Rich Hedges is planning to run for San Mateo City Council from the soon-to-be newly formed district including his home in Harbortown. He will be hard to beat if he has a challenger. He has been involved in many campaigns of local officials. He has been a leader on flood control. He would make a great councilmember. Redistricting has been a boon for Hedges, but not for the current five members, except for Amourence Lee who will be strong in her North Central district. The most vulnerable is Deputy Mayor Rick Bonilla who lives in Hayward Park. He is in the same district as Mayor Eric Rodriguez and Diane Papan and would have to run against them to keep his seat. The district includes Baywood and San Mateo Park where Bonilla’s aggressive stand on more housing is not popular. Joe Goethals now lives in Bay Meadows. He is OK if he doesn’t have a challenger. And Papan now seems focused on her run for the Assembly and if she has to give up her council seat or run for re-election, she may not have to do that for a while.


Shame on the three members of the Burlingame City Council who voted to increase contribution limits when the small city is being divided into even smaller districts. As Councilmember Beach, who was in the minority said,

“it seemed pretty nuts that a candidate could fund an expensive $50,000 campaign in a district election with only five households (couples/partners) donating. I don’t think this outcome is what [Mullin’s] legislation intended (locals going from an existing $700 limit to $4,900 limit). Four-thousand-nine-hundred dollars is [what] people can donate for county supervisors, house of reps, state senator or assemblymember for heaven’s sake!’’


U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, has a determined young progressive challenging her on social media. Rishi Kumar is attacking Eshoo because she is too old and out of touch. She is 78 and has held the seat since 1993. But Eshoo is very popular in the 18th Congressional district she represents which includes a part of San Mateo County where she once served on the Board of Supervisors. Plus her best friend in Congress is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who will not let Eshoo lose her seat. Kumar is making a lot of noise but for now it will not go anywhere. Another challenge for Eshoo may be redistricting. The first redistricting commission’s map has U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, expanding her district to Palo Alto, a longtime stronghold of Eshoo.


What’s most important for members of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate? Their constituents? Their country? The Constitution? No. It’s getting re-elected. That is why we see once respected Republicans groveling at the feet of Donald Trump. They live in fear he will not endorse them and find a primary challenger loyal to him. If they still have a moral compass, they will usually leave office rather than fight back. We can no longer honor them with the label of Republican. They are Trumpites. Just look at Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, once severe Trump critics. Now they have drunk the Kool-Aid and are acolytes. That is why nothing gets done in Congress.

Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs every Monday. She can be reached at sue@smdailyjournal.com.

Note to readers: This column has been changed to correct a fact. The donation of $4,900 is the same for state senator and assemblymember.

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(6) comments

Tommy Tee

The last paragraph is actually spot on.


Hear, hear....

As usual, a fact-checker is advised for Sue's column, particularly the last paragraph in this article.

Dirk van Ulden

Well Sue, let's be honest. You never liked Republicans and as far as I can tell, there is wholesale groveling going on in your party. Imagine a nitwit like AOC running the show and Queen Pelosi having to grovel. We are in a strange world, fully endorsed by the likes of you.

Terence Y

Actually, Sue, your diatribe about the importance of re-election is also applicable to all Democrats. But thanks for reminding us that our great President Trump continues to live on.


How is it that Shoreview and Parkside aren't a district of their own? This is the most abandoned and neglected area of San Mateo.


I agree that Shoreview and Parkside need more attention and I am going to work to change that. I will need your help if you live in either of those neighborhoods. One of the reasons is that we have only had one person on the City Council for 8 years in the last 50 years. I plan on changing that.

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