The Santa Clara County Government Center in San Jose at 70 W. Hedding St.
Numerous candidates are running for seats on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in 2024. File photo.

In about two months, Santa Clara County residents will be asked to select a candidate in the primaries who can govern through a landmine of challenges over the next four years.

Three of five seats on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors are up for election this year. Districts 2 and 5 are open contests, with current officeholders terming out, while in Districts 3 the incumbent is running unopposed. The primary is set for March 5, 2024.

The top two vote-getters in each race will head to a runoff in November, unless one candidate wins by more than 50% in March.

Here’s a roundup of Santa Clara County candidates running in the primary:

District 2

With Supervisor Cindy Chavez terming out, there are five candidates seeking to fill her seat and represent the district centered in San Jose, which includes swaths of downtown and East San Jose.

Alum Rock Union School District board member Corina Herrera-Loera’s No. 1 priority is inequity—particularly in East San Jose. Through her roles as county deputy juvenile probation officer for 18 years and current Alum Rock trustee, she’s been able to address ongoing inequality while also advocating for youth to be connected to their identities.

Jennifer Celaya, founder of nonprofit New Beginnings, is a fresh face in a race full of politicos and is running without the backing of special interests. She is a Native American woman with tattoos. Celaya is aware that’s not what a typical elected official looks like, but is what people in her community look like, and she believes they deserve a voice. Her top priorities are expanding social services, mental health support and housing across the county.

Former San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen is a well-known politico looking to make a comeback. She began her career in public service as a Franklin-McKinley School District board member in 2002 and later became the first Vietnamese American San Jose councilmember in 2005 and vice mayor in 2011—serving on the council until 2014. Her goals are to increase affordable housing projects on county-owned land and tackle homelessness with more mental health, substance use and workforce development programs.

Betty Duong, Chavez’s chief of staff, is also eying the seat after decades of work in the county. Duong worked in the county executive office for several years where she led the Vietnamese American Service Center project, the first of its kind in the nation. She was special counsel for the Vietnamese American Workers’ Rights Project at Legal Aid at Work, and also the campaign manager for Measure A, an affordable housing bond measure that was approved by voters in 2016.

Nelson McElmurry is a practicing attorney and father of four who wants to advocate for county residents. The San Jose native’s priorities include homelessness and affordable housing, mental health and crisis support, public safety and restorative justice, access to affordable child care and creating a business-friendly environment.

District 3

Incumbent Supervisor Otto Lee is running unopposed. He won his District 3 seat in 2020 on a platform of environmental activism, addressing homelessness and improving mental health care.

Lee’s political career began in 1996 when he began serving on the Sunnyvale Planning Commission before being elected to the City Council in 2003 and serving a term as mayor.

Lee worked as an intellectual property attorney and served in the U.S. Navy for 28 years. He earned a bronze star for helping to lead the drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq.

District 5

Supervisor Joe Simitian is terming out of his north Santa Clara County seat—which represents Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Saratoga, Stanford and portions of Sunnyvale and San Jose. Five candidates are competing to replace him.

Mountain View Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga is looking to continue her work at the regional level. Abe-Koga said she’s most concerned with climate change and the needs for more mental health services. As supervisor, her priorities would be working with local cities to address those issues, as well as public safety and the housing and homelessness crisis.

Sally Lieber is a “corporate free candidate,” according to her campaign site. Lieber was elected to the California State Board of Equalization in 2022 and currently serves as its chair. She also previously served on the Mountain View City Council and in the California Assembly. She said she has the experience and knowledge to focus on each of the county’s policy areas: medical and mental health care, social services, environmental protection, homelessness and the criminal justice system—to name a few.

Barry Chang is a former Cupertino mayor and councilmember looking to serve at the county level. His priorities are traffic congestion, environmental protection, affordable child care, mental health services and senior services, according to his campaign site.

Peter C. Fung is a doctor and director of the El Camino Healthcare District. His priorities are mental health services, financial accountability and affordability for all. He said his work in the medical field equips him to solve some of the county’s most pressing issues.

Sandy Sans is a business owner and father living in Los Altos. He is the founder of real estate business Los Altos Holdings Inc. Sans holds a master’s degree in material science engineering from UCLA and an undergraduate degree from University of California, Davis.

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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