Fact check: San Jose councilmember under fire for absences
Councilmember Maya Esparza speaks on making streets in her district safer. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

    San Jose Councilmember Maya Esparza’s attendance is the latest salvo fired by a realtors group backing her political opponent.

    The California Association of Realtors PAC sent at least two mailers claiming she missed four important votes since she took office on reducing gang crimes, affordable housing and utility hikes. The meetings, which were between June 2019 and March 2022, were among the 22 council and committee meetings she missed since 2019, a review by San José Spotlight found.

    The political action committee cited San Jose meeting minutes, which can be faulty because they’re based on a roll call of councilmembers at the start of the meeting when many aren’t yet in their seats. A similar tactic in 2016 inaccurately accused Assemblymember Ash Kalra of missing council meetings, but was debunked.

    Esparza is fending off challenger Bien Doan, a fire captain, in her reelection bid Tuesday. The PAC has supported Doan.

    Political mailer paid for by the California Association of Realtors PAC.
    Political mailer paid for by the California Association of Realtors PAC.

    Esparza, who was elected in 2018, admitted to missing those three meetings, but said most of her absences were for a good reason.

    Nick Kaspar, Esparza’s campaign manager, said she became the primary caretaker this year for an injured family member who is now recovering. The meetings she missed before 2022 was because she was sick, Kaspar said. He also said Esparza is known for being out in the community.

    “Maya has held more than 50 Dumpster Days, that’s 50 Saturdays, resulting in over a million pounds of trash being removed from our neighborhoods,” Kaspar told San José Spotlight. “The realtors are trying to say Maya hasn’t been around because they are supporting a candidate who just moved to the district to run for office.”

    Gina Zari, director of government affairs with the California Association of Realtors, said it chose to focus on Esparza’s attendance record because of constituent complaints.

    “After researching the candidates, it was clear that Maya has an unprecedented number of absences that have led to poor representation of her constituents,” Zari told San José Spotlight. “We are convinced that Bien will be a better representative.”

    City documents reviewed by San José Spotlight support the claim that Esparza only took days off because she was sick or had to take care of a sick family member.

    Esparza’s campaign said she’s been present for other important votes and has spearheaded efforts to reduce gang violence.

    “She also secured more funding to expand (a city program) for gang prevention and intervention programs for our youth,” Kaspar added.

    Political mailer paid for by the California Association of Realtors PAC.
    Political mailer paid for by the California Association of Realtors PAC.

    San Jose has seen an avalanche of attack ads in the weeks leading up to election day, and the California Association of Realtors has had its fair share of mudslinging.

    In the primaries, the PAC sent mailers that criticized Assemblymember Alex Lee for his age and for living at home. The Silicon Valley Biz PAC, the South Bay Labor Council and several campaigns have also been under fire for a slew of misleading or racist mailers.

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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