In less than six months, San Joseans will go to the ballot box to pick their next councilmembers and mayor. Numerous candidates have already pulled papers, including well-known politicians Raul Peralez and Cindy Chavez, who are vying to become San Jose’s next mayor. Here’s a roundup of the candidates who have declared so far in the race by office.
Candidates have until March 11 to file to run for political office in San Jose.
Half of the City Council’s seats — all the odd districts — are up for election this cycle. Districts 1, 3 and 5 are open seats, with the current officeholders terming out, while Districts 7 and 9 have two incumbents running for reelection: Maya Esparza and Pam Foley, respectively. The primary is set for June 2022.
The biggest seat up for grabs this cycle is mayor. Sam Liccardo is terming out in December 2022 after eight years as the city’s top elected official and a previous eight years representing District 3.
With nearly half the 11-member City Council potentially changing, June’s results could shift council power back toward business interests or strengthen labor’s narrow 6-5 majority. San Jose is generally divided between the two political powerhouses — the business lobby and labor unions — and the business-aligned leaders lost their majority last year when progressive Councilmember David Cohen unseated conservative incumbent Lan Diep in District 4.
The top two vote-getters in each race will head to a runoff in November unless one candidate wins by more than 50 percent in June.
Next year’s biggest prize already has four big-name candidates in the race: Councilmembers Dev Davis, Matt Mahan and Raul Peralez and Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. Also in the mix: former Nevada congressional candidate Jonathan Royce Esteban.
Davis, who won reelection to her council seat in November, has pushed hard in recent weeks against SB 9, a state bill that allows homeowners to build additional units in single-family neighborhoods. She’s made preserving these suburban neighborhoods a cornerstone of her campaign.
Mahan, who was sworn into his first term of any political office in December 2020, launched his campaign for mayor in September in what he called a “revolution of common sense.” Part of that revolution includes building up to 5,000 prefab units on 50 acres of public land, improving policing by holding rogue officers accountable for misconduct instead of defunding police and building housing around transit.
Chavez, who has served on the Board of Supervisors since 2013, has the longest political tenure of anyone in the field. One of labor’s most seasoned insiders, she was a vocal leader in the fight to close Reid-Hillview Airport amid concerns that leaded fuel was poisoning the community.
Peralez, a former teacher and police officer, is terming out after eight years representing downtown San Jose. He helped launch a business recovery task force to help downtown businesses weather the pandemic. The son of an immigrant and the first in his family to graduate college, Peralez said homelessness has been his number one priority.
Here’s the rest of the mayoral field.
Also in the race is Tyrone Wade, a former marriage and family crisis counselor who used to run a homeless shelter. Wade wants to implement serious criminal justice reform, including community policing and review the San Jose Police Department’s use of force policy. Wade’s first priority would be to reform the children protective services system, he told San José Spotlight.
Another contender is Brian Smith, a political unknown who lives in East San Jose.
Planning Commissioner Justin Lardinois was the first candidate to declare for the West San Jose seat in April. He’s joined by the president of the San Jose Downtown Foundation board, Ramona Snyder. The district’s incumbent, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, terms out next year.
Snyder’s Facebook campaign page is light on details, but she’s been a force in downtown for years. She is a former chair of the city’s Arts Commission and was part of the team that helped build a playground at Sherman Oaks Elementary School.
Lardinois, who has served on the commission since July 2020, is also a former member of the city’s Housing and Community Development Commission. His priorities include more affordable housing, more opportunities for first-time homebuyers, sanctioned encampments and safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians.
Peralez terms out next year and is running for mayor. The downtown seat has flip-flopped between labor and business interests over the years—before Peralez, Liccardo represented District 3 and before him Chavez held the seat. She headed the South Bay Labor Council.
Health care professional and former Congressional candidate Ivan Torres and attorney Elizabeth Chien-Hale have already declared for the seat. They’ll be joined by Gulf War veteran and 2006 City Council Candidate Dennis Kyne, Miles Christopher Linden and Irene Smith.
Kyne, a 15-year Army veteran and insurance worker, previously ran for the seat in 2006. Similar to his prior campaign, Kyne’s top priority is ending the homelessness crisis in the city.
Linden declared his candidacy last month. San José Spotlight couldn’t find a website or other campaign materials for him.
Smith has lived in the downtown area since 1989, according to her campaign website. She’s looking for a different solution to homelessness with a lot more coordination between the county and state.
“No group knows what the other is spending or how the programs might work together. There has been no coordination, no master plan,” she says on her website.
One of the most highly-anticipated council races is the fight for the East San Jose seat.
Three longtime politicians have already declared for the East San Jose crown: Santa Clara County Board of Education Trustee Peter Ortiz, Planning Commission Chair Rolando Bonilla, and former Assemblymember Nora Campos, who held the seat from 2001 to 2010.
Ortiz won election to the Board of Education in 2018, and has kept active in East San Jose’s small business community. He wants to launch paid job training programs for the district’s unemployed residents, sanctioned encampments and alternative policing, such as community patrols.
Bonilla, a former City Hall insider, created a grant program in February to help East San Jose small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, he asked the City Council to spend millions in East San Jose for economic recovery and pressured the council to increase illegal dumping fees.
Campos is no newcomer to politics. Both she and her brother, Xavier, have represented District 5 on the City Council. Her latest comeback centers around supplying East San Jose businesses with resources to survive the pandemic.
Radio anchor H.G. Nguyen is the latest to join the race.
Nguyen doesn’t have an official campaign website, but she has been active in the city’s Vietnamese community. She hosts San Jose Co Gi La, a local Vietnamese language radio station.
Nguyen and husband Thuan Nguyen ran the Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce of Santa Clara Valley, according to a report by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
Esparza will face two Vietnamese Americans for the East San Jose seat: San Jose Fire Captain Bien Doan and East Side Union High School District Board President Van Le. Esparza is expected to draw significant support from the city’s labor camp.
Esparza defeated former Councilmember Tam Nguyen in 2018 leading to a loss in Vietnamese representation — compounded by Diep’s loss in 2020. Vietnamese leaders are eager to win back a seat for their community.
After coasting to victory in 2018, incumbent Pam Foley officially announced her run for reelection on Thursday. She currently has no competition, according to the city’s filings.
“It has been an honor to represent the neighbors of District 9 on the San Jose City Council,” Foley said in a statement. “We have been able to accomplish so much—but we still have much more to do.”