Former congressional candidate runs for San Jose council seat
Ivan Torres speaks to people at a farmers market in downtown San Jose. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

Health care professional and political organizer Ivan Torres faced an uphill battle when he ran against Rep. Zoe Lofgren in 2020. This year, he’s setting his sights on a more local goal: winning a seat on San Jose City Council.

He says the only way he knows how to deal with adversity is to confront it head-on.

“In order to address the issues we face, we have to go bold,” said Torres, who grew up in the Gardner neighborhood. “We have to go big. We can’t have moderate approaches to crises.”

Torres, a 37-year-old pharmacy worker at Stanford Hospital, is running for the District 3 council seat represented by Councilmember Raul Peralez—who terms out next year and is currently campaigning for mayor. He’s the second candidate—and progressive—to officially declare in the district following activist and YouthHype founder LaToya Fernandez.

Fernandez told San José Spotlight on Monday that she dropped out of the race last month.

“Throughout this past year, I’ve been able to be more impactful on the ground with the people and leading a lot of the city’s reimagining (police) efforts and engaging in a few different contracts with the city and county to help reimagine public safety,” Fernandez said. “I just feel like I have a lot of influence, and I think it will be best this way without me going in there and putting on their uniform and being on their time and on their agenda.”

Torres is a former organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign and volunteer for the Sunrise Movement, a political action committee focused on electing climate change-focused candidates and pushing for the Green New Deal.

His priorities include building more affordable housing, more sustainable businesses, reallocating police funding and making public transit free. He’s committed to eliminating tuition at San Jose City College—which he estimates will take about $6 million from the city’s budget. He pledges to take no money from corporations or corporate PACs.

“In order to resolve some issues, we really have to go to the root of the problem,” Torres said. “We can’t just graze through it and think it’s going to be OK. We have some deep-rooted, systemic issues in San Jose. When we focus more on militarizing our police department and not social uplift—creating opportunities through education, through housing, through health care—this is the result. It creates a need for police officers we can’t provide.”

This isn’t Torres’ first foray into politics. He challenged Lofgren for her seat in 2020 but came in fourth out of five candidates during the primary. In the decades that Lofgren, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and other politicians have served downtown, Torres believes the district has moved in a direction that is “unrecognizable.”

“The cost of living in San Jose is basically extortion,” Torres said. “I view the city’s role—when it comes to the people—that it’s supposed to create an environment where residents can prosper, where residents can thrive, where residents can raise a family. San Jose has completely changed. It’s no longer a city of prosperity. People are struggling more than ever.”

District 3 has see-sawed between business- and labor-backed members on the council. Peralez coasted to victory twice with full labor support, while his predecessor Liccardo has voted in lockstep with pro-business interests. Liccardo’s predecessor, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, was backed by labor when she ran for the council seat in 1998, and again when she ran for mayor in 2006.

“It’s a really important open seat, right now aligned with the progressive faction of the City Council,” said political analyst and retired San Jose State University professor Terry Christensen. “It does go back and forth, so we’ll see who else emerges.”

District 3 encompasses downtown and the Japantown neighborhood. The council primary election is set for June 2022.

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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