Nearly a year after telling San José Spotlight he’s eyeing a run for mayor, downtown Councilmember Raul Peralez on Wednesday publicly kicked off his campaign.
And he’s already staked out his campaign platform: Affordable housing, equity and boosting disadvantaged communities and local businesses.
“I didn’t grow up in a wealthy or a politically connected family, just graduating from high school meant defying the odds,” Peralez said. “My parents dropped out of high school and put in long hours at underpaid jobs to put food on the table and pay the rent each month on our west San Jose apartment, determined that my sister and I would have more opportunities than they did. I am thankful for their sacrifice every day and committed myself to public service, ensuring that other kids like me could defy the odds too.”
The move comes after Peralez has worked nearly a year behind the scenes to take the reins of the nation’s 10th largest city.
Peralez, who was the first candidate to announce his 2022 mayoral run and cleared the field of labor-backed candidates, already has an advisory council and is soliciting support.
But Peralez isn’t the only councilmember gearing up for the big race.
After denying she’s running for months, Councilmember Dev Davis jumped in on Wednesday, the same day as Peralez’s announcement. Davis, the business-backed candidate, will likely win Liccardo’s endorsement, though some business leaders previously expressed concerns about her candidacy after she appeared to struggle in her re-election campaign last year.
It’s still unclear if the other rumored candidate from the labor camp, Supervisor Cindy Chavez, will actually take the plunge. She has not returned multiple calls for comment.
Councilmember Sergio Jimenez endorsed Peralez in part because of his work on key issues like homelessness and housing.
“He has taken on those challenging issues many councilmembers have shied away from through the years,” Jimenez told San José Spotlight. “And the challenges they pose. That’s the leadership we need from the next mayor of the city.”
Jimenez said the gap between the haves and have nots has grown immensely in the city and Peralez recognizes there are two Silicon Valleys; one where people are thriving, buying homes worth $1.5 million with cash, and the other where people are living on the streets and fighting for better minimum wages and health care.
“He brings the unique experience to elevate the plight of some of those folks who don’t have a voice, and I think that’s more important now than ever,” Jimenez said.
If elected, Peralez would become the third mayor of color in San Jose’s history — despite the city’s rich diversity.
“Raul Peralez has dedicated his life to improving the lives of the people of San Jose,” said former Mayor Ron Gonzales, who has endorsed Peralez. “First as a math teacher, then as a police officer, and for the last eight years, as a city council member. He’s knowledgeable, prepared and committed to improving our city.”
The son of an immigrant and the first of his family to graduate from college, Peralez said he differs from Mayor Sam Liccardo on how the city budget and services should be allocated, especially for community members most in need.
“There have been some pretty contentious and important votes during my term on the council that reflect where we had different values and approach on policy around who in our community we are focused on helping,” Peralez told San José Spotlight. “The perspective I bring is different because of my own personal upbringing. I don’t come from a family of wealth. I don’t come from a family that is politically connected.”
Peralez shared concerns about the disproportionate effects of homelessness and housing on low-income communities of color.
“Too many people in our community are still being left out,” he said. “They’re left out of an ability to afford a house, priced out of the rental market…left out of an equitable share and prosperity from our city itself.”
San Jose State University political science professor Garrick Percival said Peralez has built a strong base of political support and as the downtown representative, has focused on policy issues affecting the city.
“So many of the issues that confront District 3 are some of the most challenging issues that our city faces,” Percival said, “like homelessness, economic development, blending economic growth with opportunity for all residents and the ongoing Google development. Having that experience as a councilmember, it’s a launching pad for mayor.”
Peralez said homelessness has been his number one priority since taking office. He helped establish the first two permanent supportive housing developments in the city, including Second Street Studios.
Peralez is also championing sanctioned encampments for homeless residents, a measure Liccardo has not yet publicly supported.
“If we can identify locations where we can provide services and sanitation, sites we can better manage that aren’t as impactful to our environment and community, that a win-win,” he said. “It’s certainly not a permanent solution, but it’s an interim solution needed to address the challenges going on today.”
Although he would bring a labor perspective to the role, Peralez said he understands the needs of small businesses, having led the Greater Downtown San Jose Economic Recovery Task Force.
“I have my core values and they have aligned with working families and more progressive values, but I’ve also worked closely with our business community,” Peralez said in an interview Tuesday. “I’ve found a good working relationship with everybody and I think that’s been demonstrated through my terms on the council. It could really benefit our city. We’ve certainly had a lot of tension and divisiveness over the years. It’s one of the elements in my candidacy that will stand out over other candidates.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]
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