Silicon Valley Assemblymember Kansen Chu is leaving Sacramento to run for Santa Clara County supervisor, San José Spotlight has exclusively learned.
Chu, who represents the state’s 25th Assembly District, broke the news late Wednesday to friends and colleagues that he plans to give up his seat in the California Legislature in an attempt to replace outgoing Supervisor Dave Cortese on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors next year.
Chu confirmed the decision in an interview with San José Spotlight early Thursday morning.
“I feel I can be more effective working in a local government,” Chu said. “I love local government and I think it’s time for me to get back to the local government and see the implementation of the good policy that we have made at the Assembly for the last six years I was here. I love local government. I’m a homeboy.”
Chu, 67, was elected to the state Assembly in 2014 and faces re-election for his fourth term in 2020. Before his rise to state politics, Chu represented San Jose’s District 4, which spans Berryessa, North San Jose and Alviso, for eight years. He won the seat during a special election in 2007, replacing Chuck Reed who ascended to the mayor’s office.
Chu, who also served on the Berryessa Union School Board for five years, became the first Taiwanese-American elected to the San Jose City Council.
The state legislator’s announcement shakes up the crowded local county race. Other contenders include San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran, San Jose Planning Commissioner John Leyba and former Sunnyvale Councilmember Otto Lee.
The supervisorial candidates on Saturday traded jabs on immigration, housing and health care during the campaign season’s first debate.
Chu has charted a path in Sacramento as a progressive Democrat, most often linked to his signature legislation to put California on permanent Daylight Saving Time — a measure he re-introduced after it died in the Legislature. His voting record shows he co-sponsored or supported bills to establish a statewide sanctuary policy, prohibit landlords from disclosing the immigration status of tenants and amending money bail procedures.
Most recently, Chu advocated for East San Jose residents by urging transit officials to prioritize funding to extend VTA light rail to the Eastridge Transit Center. He stopped by the Westwinds Mobile Home Park in San Jose last weekend to install smoke alarms and discuss his bill to improve fire safety in mobile homes.
Carrasco said early Thursday that she considers Chu and his wife, Daisy, to be “friends.”
“I look forward to debating issues that are important to residents of Supervisorial District 3,” Carrasco added. “This position is extremely important as it serves our most vulnerable communities. It is the last safety net for those families. As someone who has worked with families in crisis, I understand the gravity of this position and do not take the decisions that will be made on this board lightly.”
Multiple sources told San José Spotlight that Chu is eager to return home to San Jose and the pace of serving in Sacramento is wearing on him and his family. Winning a seat on the Board of Supervisors offers him stability.
“I’ve been told by many that a happy wife is a happy life,” said Tran, the Milpitas mayor running for the seat.
“It’s been a dream to represent my home town of Milpitas, and the community where I was raised,” Tran added. “And I’ll continue to dedicate my life to representing Milpitas and the greater community in any way I can.”
Chu said Thursday that the commute from Sacramento back to the Bay Area has been “rough” for him and his family.
“I’d like to be closer to my community and my constituents,” Chu said. “I’d like to be closer to my family and that was one of the factors. I wanted to be close to my community.”
Chu’s departure from the Assembly now raises questions about who might to replace him. The 25th Assembly District covers portions of Alameda and Santa Clara counties, including the cities of San Jose, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Fremont and Newark.
Chu has not yet made any endorsements.
“I will encourage anybody to put their name in for this Assembly seat,” Chu said. “It’s a privilege to be able to serve the people of California.”
The district is one of the most heavily Asian districts in the state. More than half of its residents are Asian, according to the district’s demographics.
Lee, one of the Asian candidates, said Wednesday he’s surprised by Chu’s decision to give up a “very safe Assembly seat.”
“If he runs for reelection every two years, he’ll be able to serve the remainder of his terms,” Lee said. “I see no reason why he would do something like that. For him to give up all that to decide to run for the supervisorial seat, which is not guaranteed because there are so many candidates, it’s just surprising.”
Lee said Chu’s entrance into the race will almost certainly change its dynamics. Political analysts say Chu could pull votes from Lee and Tran.
“Nothing for me is going to change, regardless of who is jumping in,” Lee said. “I believe the best person should win.”
Leyba said he welcomes Chu to the race.
“I’ll continue to be a neighborhood guy focused on fiscal accountability and government transparency,” he said. “Santa Clara County needs a lot more of both.”
In the crowded field of supervisorial candidates, Chu said Thursday he believes he can stand out.
“What sets me apart is my experience — the experience that comes from my years at the local level as well as the state level, and the time and energy I’ve invested in the communities,” Chu said. “That’s what I’m banking on.”
Contact Ramona Giwargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.