California 15th District
A few decades ago, the broad valley of Santa Clara County around San Jose was mostly orchards and vineyards. Sheltered by mountains from the chilly ocean fogs, with soil incredibly fertile once it was irrigated, this valley produced peaches, plums, prunes, apricots, and grapes and made San Jose the nation’s biggest fruit-packing center. Today, subdivisions, shopping centers, and office buildings have replaced the orchards, and Santa Clara County has a population of 1.7 million. San Jose, with a growing downtown, an arena for its National Hockey League team, and 940,000 people, has become a major American city. In 2005, it replaced Detroit on the list of the nation’s 10 largest cities. But this has not been a family-friendly increase: a shortage of students has led to the closing of several schools. Despite price declines triggered by the recession, real estate prices in the San Jose metropolitan area were the highest in the nation in 2008.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 15th Congressional District consists of the central slice of still-growing Santa Clara County, which is the sixth biggest in the state and has large numbers of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Mexican immigrants. Nearly half of the district’s population is in San Jose, and the majority of those residents live in the city’s affluent neighborhoods. West of San Jose, the district includes the cities of Santa Clara and Cupertino, where Steve Jobs started Apple in a garage in the 1970s and where the company is still headquartered. The district also includes the salt flats of San Jose, now the site of a Great America theme park; the heavily Asian city of Milpitas; and, far to the south, connected by a swath of mountains, Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world. Outside of Hawaii, this district has the highest percentage of Asians in the nation, 34%. In Cupertino, where Asians are nearly a majority, their influence has made them a political force. This area was once marginal political territory but is now heavily Democratic. John Kerry got 63% of the vote here in 2004, and Barack Obama got 68% in 2008.