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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

‘Bruce Almighty’: 2015 alum runs for Congress against former speaker Nancy Pelosi

Anthony Luo
Lou paid a visit to The Falcon on Jan. 26, where he previously was an opinion editor.

During the 36th season of “Jeopardy!” on March 2, 2020, Class of 2015 alum Bruce Lou buzzed in at his podium and discovered he had stumbled upon the third Daily Double of the night — a chance to double his score if he answered correctly. Despite getting the previous two questions wrong, he recalled what famed contestant (and now show host) Ken Jennings had told him over the phone: to swing for the fences. Ignoring the odds, Lou confidently stated “harvest moon,” the correct answer, thus securing him a historic win and a prize of $5,000.

Four years later, Lou, 26, is now buzzing in to contest for a seat in Congress, running as a Republican in a steep uphill bid to unseat incumbent and former House speaker Nancy Pelosi. The famous Democrat and one of the most powerful female politicians in U.S. history is trying to win a 19th term in her seat for the 11th district in the House of Representatives. On March 5, Lou secured the GOP Super Tuesday nomination, coming in second behind Pelosi with 8.6% of the vote and advancing to the general election in November. Pelosi had almost 74% of the vote while another Democrat garnered 5%.

To many observers, challenging such a hard-to-win seat in left-leaning San Francisco would be unthinkable. At 83, Pelosi is 57 years older than Lou. She was first elected in a 1987 special election and has been in Congress for the past 36 years. Additionally, she’s the only woman to have ever served as Speaker of the House, a position she was elected to twice, once in 2007 and once in 2019. 

Adding to the challenge, Pelosi consistently raises enormous amounts of money for her campaigns, bringing in more than $5 million for this year’s election alone, compared to Lou’s $51,000. Lou, a former Falcon newspaper staff member, said he is not deterred by the long odds. He said he has consistently defied the odds in competitions throughout his life.

“If you don’t fight and you let [Pelosi] cruise to victory, she really believes that she’s entitled to the seat … This race is an excellent platform to raise awareness of some of the issues that are the most pressing,” Lou said. 

Lou pinpointed his most important goals in San Francisco as tackling homelessness, crime and the high cost of living. On the national stage, he mentioned securing the border, reforming education to focus on real-world skills, cutting government spending and bridging instead of deepening political divisions.

Specifically, he highlighted the ongoing fentanyl crisis, which has caused opioid-related deaths to skyrocket nationally to over 112,000 last year. Lou proposed tackling the problem at its source, using the RICO Act to target organized drug rings from Honduras or El Salvador that end up selling these drugs all over the Bay Area.

Now that Republicans and Democrats are more polarized than ever, Lou emphasizes moving past party labels and instead focusing on what’s better for the country as a whole. 

“If we continue to run on this factional and very divisive style of politics, we don’t stand a chance to last another 100 or 200 years,” Lou said. “I don’t want people to define me based on my labels. I want people to judge me by what my character is, what my policies are and what I’ll do for the city.”

Lou graduated from UC Berkeley with a computer science degree and worked in software engineering before starting his own business, Stingray, a consulting firm that helps people find or transition between jobs. His campaign has earned endorsements from the California Republican Party, the California College Republicans, Equal Rights for All and Senator Rand Paul, among others.

“I’m proud to be the standard bearer of all these organizations,” he said. “And I feel like I do embody many of their values, which is why they chose me in the first place.” 

When he was a senior at SHS, Lou gained notoriety for leading the History Bowl team in a historic sweep of the national championship, in addition to winning the National History Bee for himself. In school, his talents in memorizing facts, figures and historical dates earned him the nickname “Bruce Almighty” from history teacher Jerry Sheehy, whose mock “Jeopardy!” competitions were constantly dominated by Lou.

“Even for the fun, silly questions I asked for Final Jeopardy, it was pretty hard to get anything by Bruce,” Sheehy said. “When you see people on “Jeopardy!” and you’re like, ‘how do they answer so quickly?’—that was Bruce; he was a born ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant.” 

Lou cited his participation in History Bowl and “Jeopardy!” as being pivotal in setting the stage for him to run for public office, allowing him to greatly improve his speaking and rhetorical skills. Combined with a knack for retaining all things history, Lou has found that these experiences give him an edge over other potential candidates.

For instance, Lou often compares the story of the American Revolution to his own race as the “underdog” against Pelosi.

“When the American colonists decided to rebel, nobody thought they could win. But with a combination of grit, military skill, luck and diplomacy, America was able to triumph,” Lou said. “So whenever people tell me [my campaign] is hopeless, I always bring up that example, and that usually shuts them up.”

Lou is finding that between campaigning, attending public events and doing a host of other activities, politics has consumed almost all of his time, and becoming a public figure has also taken away his former anonymity. 

Although the political lifestyle is fairly draining, Lou still finds time to engage in some of his old hobbies, like watching football in a sports bar in the San Francisco Marina or reading books. Additionally, he can always lean back on memories he made in high school and college, such as watching the sun rise the day after his high school graduation or cheering on the Cal Bears’ football team as they played against Stanford; he advises current students to make the most of their youth.

“Enjoy your time in high school, and try to have a true college experience,” Lou said. “Don’t live life with any regrets thinking about things you should have done. Enjoy the present, because it really doesn’t come around again.”

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