Cate was raised in San Diego. He attended La Costa Canyon High School, graduating in 2000, then went to community college at MiraCosta and Palomar colleges. While in college, Cate and a friend started an auto glass repair business. After graduating from college at the University of San Diego, where he became interested in politics, Cate then interned at Jefferson Government Relations in Washington, D.C.. Later he worked for Kevin Faulconer as a policy advisor. By 2011, Cate lived in Carlsbad, but moved to Mira Mesa a year later. Before being elected Cate traveled to the Philippines for the first time, and later met with the Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose Cuisia.
Cate ran against three other opponents during the primary; and ran against Carol Kim during the general election. Cate was first elected to office in the 2014 election, the first election to use the new boundaries for this district following 2010 redistricting. District 6 includes the neighborhoods of Clairemont Mesa, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, North Clairemont, and Rancho Peñasquitos. The redistricting effort included an effort by Asian Pacific Islanders to create a district that represented the inclusion of their more diverse population. When Cate took office, he was the first Asian American elected to the city council in several decades. In 2015, at the age of 32, Cate was the youngest serving city councilmember in San Diego. Cate is only the second Asian American to be elected to the San Diego City Council, the first being Tom Hom.
In 2016, Cate received national attention as the Chargers attacked him for his opposition to Measure C, a ballot initiative to provide public funding for a new stadium for the team. The measure failed to achieve the 2/3rds needed to pass, receiving less than a majority of the vote; Cate said of the vote "San Diego voters know a bad deal when they see it,". For his willingness to lead the opposition, the Voice of San Diego wrote positively of Cate. After the election Cate supported an effort to lease the Qualcomm Stadium site for a dollar; the Chargers decided in 2017 to relocate to Los Angeles.
In his first year in office, Cate's district saw a growth of the brewing industry in his district, with part of it being called the "beer belt". In 2016, while other members of the city council were looking to ban vacation rentals, Cate advanced a proposal to allow for regulated vacation rentals. That same year, Cate was criticized in the San Diego Reader for accepting a five thousand dollar donation from San Diego Gas & Electric for a charity event, which the paper claimed was an attempt to purchase influence. In February 2017, Cate supported tax reform for Internet taxes, in an effort to ensure the city was receiving a proportionate share of the state's internet tax revenue; Cate argues that with increase commerce online, the city is losing out funding for city services.
According to the San Diego Office of the City Clerk, Cate is a member of the following committees and sub-committees:
Budget and Government Efficiency Committee
Budget Review Committee
Environment Committee (Vice Chair)
Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee (Chair)
^"How To Run For Office Details". Office of the City Clerk. City of San Diego. Retrieved 14 March 2017. Each of these offices is non-partisan.
Zoltan L. Hajnal; Paul G. Lewis; Hugh Louch (2002). "Municipal Elections in Calfiornia: Turnout, Timing, and Competition"(PDF). Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved 14 March 2017. Nonpartisan elections—those in which party labels are not included on the official ballot and parties do not have control over nominating procedures—are mandated for local elections statewide and are thus not included as a variable in our analysis.
^"New San Diego 6th District Council Member takes office"(PDF). Mira Mesa Town Council. Mire Mesa Town Council. January 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2017. Cate becomes the second Asian American to serve on the San Diego City Council. Tom Hom, a Chinese-American leader, served on the City Council in the 1960’s.
^Valdez, Jonah (14 March 2017). "The South Bay's Craft Beer Boom Is Upending Assumptions". Voice of San Diego. Retrieved 16 March 2017. San Diego City Council District 6, which includes northern central neighborhoods like Kearny Mesa and Mira Mesa, is known as the “beer belt.” It’s home to about two-thirds of the city’s craft beer breweries. Since the end of 2015, eight new breweries have opened, said Chris Cate, the Council member for District 6.