It’s election season in Silicon Valley, with several key county positions and more than half of the San Jose City Council seats up for grabs in the June primary.
Major offices are at stake this year. The race to replace Mayor Sam Liccardo, who terms out at the end of the year, is poised to be the most heated and costly contest—the four frontrunner candidates have collectively raised more than $2.2 million within four months of campaigning.
San Jose will also elect representatives for five council seats—Districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9—which could potentially shake up the longstanding power split between business interests and labor unions on the City Council.
At the county level, candidates are vying for the Santa Clara County Supervisor District 1 seat to represent several San Jose neighborhoods such as Evergreen and Silver Creek, Coyote Valley and the cities of Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy. Incumbent Supervisor Susan Ellenberg is running unopposed in District 4.
The top county law enforcement job is also open, with incumbent Sheriff Laurie Smith not seeking reelection. Longtime Assessor Larry Stone is also facing one challenger this election.
Local political action committees (PAC) will also play a key role this cycle. A committee backed by labor unions has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into supporting its candidates. Last election cycle, local PAC spending skyrocketed with special interest groups collectively putting $1.8 million toward two City Council races.
Per city rules, individuals must cap contributions at $700 per council candidate and $1,400 for mayoral candidates. Candidates running in county races can fundraise year-round. The cap on contributions is $1,000. But there’s no spending limits for independent expenditures and PACs running political ads in support of or against candidates.
San José Spotlight is following the money and will update this page routinely. The data below is for Dec. 9, 2021 and April 23.
Six people are competing for San Jose’s coveted mayoral seat, with Liccardo terming out this year.
Frontrunners include Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, as well as San Jose Councilmembers Dev Davis, Raul Peralez and Matt Mahan. Retired police officer Jim Spence and student Marshall Woodmansee did not disclose any campaign filings.
Community leader Ramona Snyder, Santa Clara County Office of Education board member Rosemary Kamei and paratransit operator Tim Gildersleeve are all gunning for the West San Jose district. Incumbent Vice Mayor Chappie Jones terms out next year.
Kamei has raised the most money since last December, bringing in more than $70,000.
Incumbent Councilmember Peralez, who has represented the downtown district for eight years, is terming out and running for the mayoral seat. Five candidates have thrown their hats into the race, including business owner Irene Smith, attorney Joanna Rauh, San Jose-Evergreen Community College District trustee Omar Torres, attorney Elizabeth Chien-Hale and healthcare worker Ivan Torres.
Smith’s leading the pack in fundraising after raising roughly $93,000.
One of the most highly-anticipated and contested council races is the fight for the East San Jose seat in District 5. Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco terms out at the end of this year.
San Jose Planning Commission Chair Rolando Bonilla has continued to outraise others in the crowded race with more than $164,000. Others running in the race include former Assemblymember Nora Campos, Santa Clara County Board of Education President Peter Ortiz, Alum Rock Union School District Board President Andres Quintero and community leader HG Nguyen.
Incumbent Councilmember Maya Esparza is fighting to keep her seat in District 7. East Side Union High School District board member Van Le continues to be the fundraising frontrunner in the race, collecting more than $113,000. San Jose Fire Capt. Bien Doan is also vying for the seat.
District 9 Councilmember Pam Foley, elected into office in 2018, is running unopposed.
Santa Clara County Supervisor District 1
With Supervisor Mike Wasserman terming out at the end of the year, five candidates are vying to replace him.
After the county adopted new political boundaries last year through redistricting, District 1 no longer has the conservative strongholds of Almaden Valley and Los Gatos within its borders. Local politicos see this as an opportunity for progressive candidates to take control of a seat held by conservative lawmakers since 1997.
Former San Jose Councilmember Johnny Khamis has raised the most money, with more than $230,000 as of April. Others also vying for the seat include San Jose Councilmember Sylvia Arenas, Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine, former political aide Denelle Fedor and Santa Clara County Board of Education Trustee Claudia Rossi.
Santa Clara County Supervisor District 4
Incumbent Supervisor Susan Ellenberg has no challenger to her reelection campaign. Ellenberg was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2019.
Five candidates are jockeying for Smith’s seat, including sheriff Sgt. Sean Allen, business owner Anh Colton, retired sheriff Cpt.
Allen and Colton have not filed any campaign finance documents.
Incumbent District Attorney Jeff Rosen is facing two challengers—deputy public defender Sajid Khan and former Santa Clara County deputy DA Daniel Chung for the first time since he was elected more than a decade ago. The incumbent leads in terms of fundraising, with more than $572,00 in campaign finance.
Incumbent Larry Stone has been assessor of Santa Clara County for 27 years. He’s outraised his challenger Andrew Crockett by more than six times—totaling roughly $332,000.
Political action committees
A dozen PACs are raising funds—and spending big—to support candidates in this year's election cycle. So far, Common Good Silicon Valley has raised the most amount of money, but the South Bay Labor Council has doled out the most to support its candidates. San Jose Mayor Liccardo helped found and bring in more than $420,000 to Common Good Silicon Valley before stepping down.
Chavez, a mayoral candidate, has the backing of at least four PACs—including one sponsored by the San Francisco 49ers football team. Several smaller PACS linked to a Southern California consulting firm have also popped up to support progressive candidates in San Jose District 3 and 5 and Santa Clara County Supervisor District 1.
Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.
Editor's Note: Perla Rodriguez, spouse of District 5 candidate Rolando Bonilla, sits on San José Spotlight's board of directors.