East San Jose voters appear to be supporting Santa Clara County Board of Education President Peter Ortiz for San Jose City Council in District 5. Ortiz is leading against former Assemblymember Nora Campos in early returns.
Ortiz has secured 54.8% of the vote or 8,733 votes. Campos has about 45% of the vote, or 7,194 votes. About 90% of ballots have been counted.
Celebrating at Cajun Crack’n restaurant on Story Road with his friends and supporters, including members of local labor groups, Ortiz was upbeat and confident in his lead on election night.
“I’m truly grateful to the voters of District 5 for coming out strong and recognizing the authenticity of our campaign,” Ortiz told San José Spotlight. “They realized it’s time for new leadership in East San Jose. Leadership that both has experience and new ideas.”
Ortiz’s party featured boiled Cajun shrimp, fried chicken and creamy pasta, as well as celebratory Modelo beers. The candidate said it’s been a long road to get here.
“We were the first campaign to announce and we were walking before any of the other candidates. I am beat, I am tired, I’m not going to lie,” Ortiz said. “But I am proud of the work we’ve done, I am proud of the conversations we’ve had, the relationships that we’ve built.”
Gathered with supporters and family at the colorful El Portal Restaurant on Story Road, Campos said she is proud of the campaign she ran, and was holding out hope the numbers could shift in her favor as more votes are tallied.
“We’ll see, it’s only 25%,” she told San José Spotlight of the voter turnout. “In politics, you never know what can happen, but the trend is showing that he’s up.”
The District 5 seat was hotly contested in the June primary election, with five candidates vying for the spot. Campos took first place in the June primary, while Ortiz came in second.
Campos, 57, previously served on the San Jose City Council in District 5 from 2001 to 2010. She was elected to the California Assembly in District 27, where she served until 2016 before running two unsuccessful campaigns for state Senate District 15 in 2016 and 2020.
Ortiz previously served on the board of Mt. Pleasant Elementary School District and is in his first term as a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education. He was motivated to become an activist and eventually run for public office after living through a troubled past.
Ortiz was arrested in 2012 in connection with a strong-armed robbery while he was in a gang. The charges were later dropped as part of a deal that included Ortiz severing ties with the gang.
The District 5 seat will have a new representative for the first time in eight years, as current Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco terms out of office.
Following redistricting in 2021, District 5 comprises more than 100,000 people, with about 40.5% of voters being Latino and 38.2% Asian, according to county data. The district is centered around the Alum Rock neighborhood and is bounded by Mabury Road to the north and Reid-Hillview Airport to the south.
East San Jose is home to some of Santa Clara County’s highest rates of poverty and overcrowding, and was hit disproportionately hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both candidates are Democrats and have focused on similar issues in their campaigns, including support for small businesses and more housing. Campos has pushed for hiring more police officers, and Ortiz has called for expanding community programs and services to increase public safety.
Campos championed a state bill that allows for tiny home communities to be developed with supportive services to address the homelessness crisis. She’s pledged to decrease police response times in her campaign. During the pandemic, Campos helped bring a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site to the Mexican Heritage Plaza.
Ortiz said he supports rent control and more aggressive anti-displacement policies in San Jose to help address the affordable housing crisis. He also serves as public policy advisor for the Alum Rock Santa Clara Street Business Association.
He’s said the city needs to treat its homeless people more humanely, and has advocated for more temporary housing, safe parking programs and mental health and substance abuse services.
This story will be updated.
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