Bob Brunton leads the tight race for the Assembly District 25 seat to represent a critical cross-section of Silicon Valley as of 11 p.m. Tuesday.
The former Ohlone College trustee had 25.6 percent of the vote to lead the eight-person race. Brunton was followed by Alex Lee — a policy advisor and former field representative for Assemblyman Evan Low — who earned nearly 15.3 percent of the vote.
Brunton’s message has been centered on sending “a shock through Sacramento, showing ’em what true independence is all about,” and lowering taxes while improving the lives of constituents, according to his campaign website.
His campaign has focused on education reform, from how K-12 students are placed in schools to college course coordination; unifying public transit in the Bay Area; addressing issues in the civil justice system; and shaking up the way sales tax is divvied out to incentivize cities to build housing.
Brunton did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.
Lee, a South Bay native who grew up in San Jose and Milpitas has built his campaign around tackling housing and homelessness by speeding up affordable housing development and stronger tenant protections, investing in education, eliminating corporate influence in politics and addressing climate change.
He’s been endorsed by The California, Silicon Valley and South Alameda County young democrats organizations, South Bay YIMBY, the California Bicycle Coalition.
“We built a broad coalition across our district who want real change to the issues affecting our community,” Lee said in a statement to San José Spotlight Tuesday. “It’s early but tonight’s a reflection of that.”
The pair are running against Anne Kepner, a South Bay attorney and West Valley-Mission Community College Board member; Anna Song, a Santa Clara County Board of Education Trustee; Jim Canova, a Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustee; Carmen Montano, a Milpitas City Councilmember; Natasha Gupta, a local tech worker; and Anthony Phan, a Milpitas councilmember.
The only other candidates to register in double digits are Kepner, with 12.8 percent, and Song with 11.5 percent of the early returns.
The top two vote-getters will advance to the November election in hopes of replacing Assemblyman Kansen Chu, who is not running for re-election and is vying for Santa Clara County supervisor. District 25 includes portions of Alameda and Santa Clara counties, including the cities of San Jose, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Fremont and Newark.
The District 25 race has been the hardest to predict which candidates would come out on top, said Garrick Percival, a San Jose State University political science professor.
“It is a really crowded field, so you have a number of candidates … and you have no one with a lot of elected political experience,” he said. “The candidates are just trying to get into that top two, that’s what the primaries are about: To take the seven or eight candidates and get to those top two choices.”
The race has also been noteworthy because of Chu’s departure from the seat to challenge longtime Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese to represent District 3.
“That’s really unusual for a politician to leave a state-level office to go down to the local level without being termed out of office,” Percival said. “I think because this is an open seat with no incumbent running, it (has been) … a really competitive race without a clear front-runner.”
Notably, Californians were for the first time able to register and mail in their ballots on Election Day, so if the race is tight through election night Percival warned that it could be weeks before the victors are declared.
“You have a flood of ballots coming in, which makes it easier for people to vote, but it also takes longer to get the results, especially in some of these closer, competitive races where you have slim margins between the candidates,” he said. “It is very possible we may not have a clear picture tonight.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.