Longtime education trustee Anna Song will run for the Assembly seat held by Kansen Chu, who announced last week that he’s leaving Sacramento to run for county supervisor.
“I’ve always been interested in running for state Assembly. I was waiting and hoping that I might have an opportunity,” Song told San José Spotlight. “I do think this is the right time. I’m older and wiser and a little more seasoned as an elected official.”
Song isn’t the only politician eyeing the 25th Assembly District, which covers portions of Alameda and Santa Clara counties, including the cities of San Jose, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Fremont and Newark. Since Chu’s stunning announcement, Silicon Valley politicos are shuffling to replace the longtime legislator, some considering dropping out of other local races or resigning their current positions to line up for the rare opportunity.
Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran and Vice Mayor Karina Dominguez are both weighing a bid for the open Assembly seat. Tran would have to quit his current bid for county supervisor — the same seat Chu is now running for — to make a run for Chu’s Assembly seat.
Dominguez called running for the Assembly seat a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“Yes, I am interested and thinking about it because my community is asking me to step up to this role,” Dominguez said. “We have never had someone from Milpitas represent us in the state Legislature. It’s an honor that my hometown of Milpitas is asking me to step up to lead in this capacity. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity because these seats don’t open up like this.”
Chu, who was elected to the Assembly in 2014, told San José Spotlight last week that he won’t seek re-election in 2020 — giving up a safe Assembly seat — to jump into the race to replace outgoing Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese. Other supervisorial candidates include Tran, San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, Planning Commissioner John Leyba and former Sunnyvale Councilmember Otto Lee.
Song, 51, who was first elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Education in 2000 and re-elected four times, now serves as the powerful board’s vice president. She was also elected four times to the Santa Clara County Democratic Party Central Committee.
Song, who was awarded the California Democratic Party’s JFK, Jr. Award, became the first Korean-American elected in Santa Clara County and is the longest serving Korean-American elected official in the United States.
Song unsuccessfully ran for state Assembly in 2008, losing to Democrat Paul Fong. But the political landscape has significantly shifted in the past decade, Song said in an interview, and Californians are ready for a Democrat even more progressive than Chu.
“I think I bring a lot to the table especially given that we are missing an Asian-American woman in the Assembly at this point,” Song said. “I admire Kansen very much and I consider him my mentor and he is very progressive. I consider myself just as progressive, if not more. My policy perspective would be coming from being a single mom.”
Song, who championed measures on fair housing, youth education and domestic violence prevention, was entrenched in controversy in 2014 when she was arrested on suspicion of spousal abuse. Her ex-husband, Chris Stampolis, became a polarizing figure in Santa Clara County politics after a string of scandals, including allegedly assaulting an employee at a storage facility in 2008.
No charges were filed against Song, who shares custody of her two children with Stampolis. The couple has no political or professional connections anymore, according to Song.
“I think my personal character and integrity stands for itself. My voting record stands for itself,” Song said. “And how my colleagues and friends regard me also stand for itself. It’s a personal unfortunate incident, but I came out of it. I think I’m stronger, I’m happier and better and I have many colleagues to vouch for my character.”
Other rumored contenders for the Assembly District 25 seat include Milpitas Councilmember Bob Nunez, Milpitas school board member Michael Tsai, Santa Clara Unified School District Trustee Jim Canova, Ohlone Community College District Trustee Sue Chan and Fremont Vice Mayor Raj Salwan.
Nunez on Monday said he will not run for the Assembly because “I haven’t finished my work in Milpitas.”
Salwan told San José Spotlight that he’s been asked by “several prominent people” to run, but hasn’t made any decisions.
“Right now, I’m just listening to people and trying to understand the district,” Salwan said. “Based on my understanding, this is a predominantly Santa Clara County seat and there are only nine months before voting starts, so definitely some challenges there.”
Some political insiders speculated that Carrasco would quit the county supervisor race after Chu jumped in and instead seek his seat in the Assembly, but Carrasco said through a spokesperson that she’s sticking to her local race.
Contact Ramona Giwargis at [email protected] or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.