San Jose Councilmember Sylvia Arenas and her opponent Jim Zito have nearly nothing in common.
She’s a progressive Democrat. He’s a fiscally-conservative Republican. He’s earning the backing of the business lobby, including the Silicon Valley Organization, while she continues to be a labor union favorite. They differ ideologically on some social issues, how the city spends its money and how Evergreen Valley should grow.
But one thing they have in common is the backing of two powerful Evergreen education leaders.
Evergreen School District Board President Bonnie Mace and Evergreen School District Board Trustee Christopher Corpus both quickly endorsed Arenas, with Mace’s endorsement especially a point of pride for the councilmember who shares differing viewpoints from the prominent school board leader.
But now Mace and Corpus have also backed Zito, an unusual move considering the stark differences between the two candidates. Some political insiders say Mace wouldn’t have backed Arenas if she knew Zito would jump into the race. But he barely announced his candidacy in October.
Mace declined to comment on the dual endorsements. She told the Evergreen Valley Times, however, that Zito, who’s also a close friend, continues to be a “strong advocate for District 8 families and neighborhoods and the city of San Jose.”
“With over 12 years of service regarding land use, and almost 10 years on the Evergreen School Board, he has the breadth, depth of experience and commitment needed to be an effective councilmember,” Mace said. “He is the kind of leader we need serving our community.”
Corpus could not be reached for comment.
In addition to Mace and Corpus, Arenas has secured endorsements from her council colleagues, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilmembers Raul Peralez, Maya Esparza, Sergio Jimenez and Magdalena Carrasco, along with California Sen. Jim Beall, Assemblyman Ash Kalra and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese.
The lawmaker is also set to announce a slew of additional educational leaders who are supporting her re-election, including East Side Union High School District President Pattie Cortese, San Jose Unified School District Trustees Jose Magana and Brian Wheatley and Alum Rock School Board Trustee Andres Quintero, among others.
Despite entering the race late, Zito, who considers himself socially moderate, is already sweeping up weighty endorsements from Mayor Sam Liccardo, former Mayor Chuck Reed, the SVO PAC, San Jose Councilmember Johnny Khamis and former Evergreen School District trustee Balaji Venkatraman.
Arenas and Zito will face off in the March 3 primary election for the District 8 council seat, which spans Evergreen and East San Jose.