David Cohen poised to unseat San Jose Councilmember Lan Diep
David Cohen is seen speaking with District 4 voters in this file photo. Photo courtesy of David Cohen.

Incumbant Lan Diep is running a slow and steady race, inching closer to challenger David Cohen, who is still leading the race for City Council District 4.

As of 5 p.m. Nov. 6, with 100% of precincts reporting, Diep closed the gap by 73 votes. There are now 530 votes between the candidates, with 73% of ballots counted. Cohen leads by 51.0% and Diep trails by 49.0%.

The morning after election night, Cohen said he was feeling positive about the results.

“Looks like the lead is holding and I’m ready to get to work on behalf of the residents of District 4,” Cohen said. “I will take a couple days to rest and recover and then will start preparing for the week ahead.”

Diep reminded his Twitter followers that the race isn’t over yet.

“I feel really good about how our campaign performed and what we did,” Cohen said after the initial vote count was released. “We got our message out and reached the voters and did everything that we had to do to win the race. So now, it’s just a matter of waiting to see how the voters respond.”

Diep did not respond to a request for comment before 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, but tweeted “Amor fati,” Latin for “love of fate” an hour before results were posted.

The fight for the District 4 seat, similar to the race in District 6, has been marked by opposing goals of business and labor groups in San Jose.

District 4 encompasses Berryessa, Alviso and the quickly growing tech hub North San Jose.

If Cohen, a progressive candidate tied to labor interests, wins, the current 6-5 business majority on San Jose City Council could shift in favor of labor interests. If Diep, a more conservative, business-friendly candidate keeps his seat, that majority — which includes Mayor Sam Liccardo — could remain intact. Such stakes have divided city leaders and influential organizations within San Jose.

Labor-oriented councilmembers Raul Peralez, Sylvia Arenas, Maya Esparza and Sergio Jimenez rallied to support Cohen’s election, while Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and councilmembers Pam Foley, Dev Davis and Johnny Khamis want Diep to win another four-year term.

Cohen, who beat Diep by 661 votes in the March primary, says he would vote differently than Diep on issues such as affordable housing. Cohen said he would have pushed for higher commercial linkage fees to support low-income housing projects and will prioritize residents’ needs when new developments are proposed. For example, Cohen criticized a recent council vote to add an overpass near a school — a move he said threatens student safety.

Diep is a legal aid attorney who was elected to the City Council in 2016, unseating one-term Councilmember Manh Nguyen by a mere 31 votes. Cohen is a Berryessa Union School District Trustee since 2006 and works as a senior engineering manager at Lam Research.

Diep, who has served four years on San Jose City Council, has had strong support from prominent business groups such as Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, Business San Jose Chamber PAC, Carl Guardino, former CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

His biggest advocate, Silicon Valley Organization, championed Diep for his business-friendly policies. The SVO recently dissolved its PAC after a racist image posted on its website sparked citywide outrage. The organization has spent $212,342 on ads opposing Cohen.

Cohen has earned support from progressive organizations such as the South Bay Labor Council, Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood and the Santa Clara County Democratic Party.

Diep faced scrutiny after former employees said he used city resources to help his re-election campaign. Diep was also denounced by local Democrats for changing his party affiliation to Democrat after being a registered Republican for years.

His supporters say Diep is an independent thinker and has held the city accountable for its budget and combating the citywide trash buildup.

Cohen said he’s in favor of doing more to bolster low-income housing availability and criticized Diep for extending tax breaks for downtown developers. Cohen’s platform has highlighted community engagement as a weak point in the District 4 office, saying he wants to address the office’s slow response times to resident concerns.

As a Berryessa Union School District Board trustee, he advocated for mental health services for students and green energy and wants to continue pushing for such policies at the city level.

Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.

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