Outgoing San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has not endorsed a successor, but based on campaign donations a favorite has emerged.
Election filings show Liccardo raised more than $24,000 for Councilmember Matt Mahan’s campaign for mayor from Dec. 18, 2021 to March 31. He personally called at least 20 people, asking them to donate to Mahan’s campaign, the mayor’s income and time disclosure form shows.
Some of those individuals include co-founder of real estate firm Marcus & Millichap, billionaire George Marcus, along with Devcon Construction President Gary Filizetti and other local executives such as Stephen Milligan, former CEO of Western Digital, Gary Gauba, founder of the investment firm CXO Fund and Phillip Rolla, executive vice president of property management firm Dan Caputo Co.
“Matt asked the mayor for help with a couple of prospective donors, so he helped,” Jim Reed, Liccardo’s chief of staff, told San José Spotlight.
The mayor did not personally raise money for other San Jose candidates during this same time period, the disclosure form shows.
Liccardo also raised more than $400,000 for Common Good Silicon Valley, a political action committee (PAC) he helped create with Reed. Of that amount, the PAC spent more than $295,000 on Mahan mailers, texts and ads this year, as of Tuesday.
The other beneficiaries of PAC funds include District 3 City Council candidate Joanna Rauh—the only candidate to date who’s received a public endorsement from Liccardo. The PAC spent more than $64,000 in support of her campaign. It also spent more than $39,000 in support of District 7 candidate Bien Doan.
Common Good has endorsed Mahan, Rauh, Doan, former Councilmember and Santa Clara County supervisor candidate Johnny Khamis and incumbent District Attorney Jeff Rosen. The PAC spent more than $400,000 within 15 days in May alone to support local candidates.
“The mayor directly supported Common Good’s launch because he believes we need a group like Common Good to promote pragmatic, independent, pro-housing, pro-jobs candidates generally, not any one candidate specifically,” Reed said, adding that Mahan “perfectly exemplifies” the type of candidate the PAC wants to support.
Liccardo did not respond to requests for comment, but documents obtained by San José Spotlight highlight he has long supported Mahan. In 2019, when Mahan first ran for City Council, Liccardo personally fundraised more than $17,000. Liccardo also supported District 4 incumbent Lan Diep who unsuccessfully ran for reelection and Jim Zito who ran for the District 8 seat and lost to incumbent Sylvia Arenas.
Mahan did not respond to requests for comment, but his campaign manager Adrian Rafizadeh said county Supervisor Cindy Chavez, another mayoral candidate, has also received significant outside spending. Several PACs supporting Chavez have spent at least $920,000 boosting her campaign as of Tuesday, campaign filings show.
“By law, campaigns cannot coordinate with these outside groups and we do not,” Rafizadeh told San José Spotlight. “Our sole focus is delivering Matt’s clear message of greater government accountability and change so we can lower crime, clean our streets, end street homelessness and create new housing where it makes sense.”
Name changed, purpose didn’t
The PAC was initially called “Common Good Silicon Valley, supported by Mayor Sam Liccardo” for its first six months before Liccardo stepped down in March. It has since been renamed “Common Good Silicon Valley, sponsored by Solutions Silicon Valley,” the name of an advocacy group started by Liccardo in 2021.
Common Good was created after the Silicon Valley Organization PAC was dissolved following a racist ad scandal in 2020. The now-dissolved PAC was a leading spender for San Jose’s business-leaning candidates.
The political consultant for the SVO PAC was Storefront Political Media. While it is not the same consultant for Common Good, it is the consultant for Liccardo’s Solutions Silicon Valley, which is sponsoring the Common Good PAC. Storefront also consulted for Liccardo’s mayoral runs—and has done the same for both Mahan’s city and mayoral campaigns.
Liccardo’s role in the PAC has raised some eyebrows because it may not be legal. A complaint filed last week claims the sitting mayor shouldn’t have opened the committee or raised any money to support candidates running in this election. It further alleges that contributions the PAC received exceed local donation limits.
Liccardo’s activity this election cycle is also outside the norm, local political observer and retired San Jose State political science professor Terry Christensen said.
“What Sam is doing to influence the future of the city is more than any mayor before him has done,” Christensen told San José Spotlight. “In the past, outgoing mayors who have endorsed successors have endorsed councilmembers, and maybe have given them individual contributions, maybe have helped raise a little bit of money, but nothing on this scale. Nothing remotely on this scale.”
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.