Chu, Lee have early lead in Santa Clara County supervisor race
Assemblyman Kansen Chu is pictured on election night during the March primary. Photo by Katie Lauer.

As election results trickled in Tuesday night for the crowded Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors District 3 race, Assemblymember Kansen Chu and former Sunnyvale Mayor Otto Lee have the edge to advance to the November runoff.

By the end of Super Tuesday, Chu secured 34.1 percent of the vote and Lee has 28.1 percent, with 47 percent of the ballots counted.

Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco and former San Jose Planning Commissioner John Leyba are at 23.6 and 14.8 percent, respectively.

The candidates are vying to replace term-limited Supervisor Dave Cortese, who represents residents in Milpitas and Sunnyvale, as well as San Jose’s East Foothills and Evergreen neighborhoods.

Chu gathered with friends, family and supporters at Kung Fu Direct on the north side of San Jose for Tuesday evening. They enjoyed conversation over heaps of catering from Marina Food International Grocery Store, hot tea and a “WIN KANSEN WIN” cake an hour before the polls closed. Chu said he was happy to finally spend some down time enjoying the company — including a four-legged friend.

“I’m feeling good,” said Chu, who plans to return to the Capitol on Wednesday no matter how the election results play out. “I was going to kind of sit back and relax for the day, but my staff from Sacramento wanted to come down and make phone calls. They put me to work another day.”

While technically a demotion from serving in the state Assembly since 2014, Chu said his supervisorial campaign is the opposite: The opportunity to serve the community he has lived, worked and served in for two decades.

“To be able to serve this community in any capacity is a great honor — there’s no higher position or lower position. I know for politicians it’s very difficult to grab it, but I’m not a politician,” Chu told San José Spotlight. “To be able to come back home and offer my service and focus on my community, to me, it is a promotion.”

Chu collected $269,902 in campaign contributions and endorsements from local officials such as Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran and Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor. If ultimately elected to the supervisors’ dais, he hopes to tackle mental health, housing and transportation issues across Santa Clara County.

A few miles down the road, Lee was all smiles Tuesday night.

“We feel good that we are comfortably in the second poll position. This is where we hoped to be,” Lee said. “I’m just so proud of our awesome team and what we’ve done in the last year.”

This isn’t the first time he’s sought the District 3 supervisor seat, having lost to Cortese in 2008. But the 52-year-old candidate said that history worked to his advantage.

“I think what really helped a lot what the fact that I ran 12 years ago,” he said. “These are places and people that I’ve had a relationship with for that long.”

Lee shows off the hole he wore in his shoe from door knocking throughout the campaign. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Lee met at his campaign headquarters in North San Jose to mark Election Day. Mingling among dozens of supporters wearing green “Otto Lee” t-shirts and munching on snacks, many on his campaign staff shared high fives after refreshing the latest batch of results.

Since his Feb. 2019 kickoff, Lee said he’s been proud to watch his campaign move from seemingly the bottom of the barrel to now potentially making it to the November ballot, especially with his list of fellow candidates. But Lee said he knows he put in the work, because he earned a long list of endorsements – including potential future coworkers Santa Clara County Supervisors Susan Ellenberg and Joe Simitian – and knocked on so many doors that he wore a hole through his shoe.

“Running against folks like an assemblyman and a councilmember meant that I was in the deficit from the very beginning,” Lee said. “We expected to be in the top two, so meeting that expectation was nice. But you can suppose whatever you want, because (the vote totals) are the most accurate poll.”

Lee raised $317,257 in campaign contributions for the primary.

Carrasco said this campaign has been a sort of “homecoming,” as the 52-year-old lawmaker worked for the county for 11 years before moving to San Jose City Hall in 2015.

Addressing domestic violence, homelessness and affordable housing are at the top of her list of priorities, and her list of endorsers includes Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, Assemblymember Ash Kalra, State Sen. Jim Beall. A testament to her local name recognition, she raised less than all of her competitors, ending up with $127,794.

Likewise, Leyba, who totaled $140,826 in contributions, said he feels good about the campaign he ran, especially having so many residents continually reach out during the process.

“I’m feeling OK and I’ve been feeling a lot of energy — a lot of momentum,” Leyba said.

Contact Katie Lauer at [email protected] or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

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