The morning after the election, a major shift in Santa Clara City Council politics was taking shape with newcomers holding on to their leads.
As of 9 a.m. Nov. 4 and 58% of ballots counted, Suds Jain appeared to be firmly ahead in District 5 while Anthony Becker was on top in District 6.
With 100% of precincts reporting in District 5, Jain had 61.7% of the vote while Bob O’Keefe trailed with 38.3%.
With all precincts reporting in District 6, Becker had 42.2% of the vote, Robert Mezzetti had 36.9% and Gary Barve had 21%.
Becker said he is planning for victory and very anxious to get to work and get started.
“It’s a very emotional win for me,” he said. “I’m a renter and a millennial and the first renter and millennial to be elected to City Council. I was in touch with the people, had a pulse on the community, and knew what they wanted and I think that’s the difference. I have always listened to the residents and stood up for Santa Clara and I’m enthusiastic and grateful to the voters that they are giving me this opportunity.”
Becker and District 4 candidate Kevin Park joined family and friends to celebrate at backyard gathering at Jain’s house on election night as election results came in.
“I’m feeling great. I think the fact that the three of us on this slate were able to succeed is a big change. A lot of new ideas will come. That’s part of the reason for diversity. We will bring news ideas to the city and make it better,” Jain said Nov. 4.
“I sort of sensed this campaign was going to get dirty so I asked repeatedly for an ethics officer and the city had no interest in doing it and now you can see that it did get dirty,” Jain said. “There was a lot of money poured into this. It would have been nice if there was no outside money.
The District 5 winner will fill the seat vacated by Patricia Mahan, who resigned in February for medical reasons, and the District 6 winner will replace Debi Davis, who will step down at the end of her term.
The results come after a heated election season marked by calls to diversify Santa Clara’s City Council, which currently only has one council member of color. The winners of these races could bring new voices to a council whose incumbents have been accused of voting in lockstep with Mayor Lisa Gillmor.
In the past month, the races have become shrouded in a spending battle by local PACs both for and against Gillmor’s allies. The Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association funneled $25,000 through its PAC to help elect a slate of candidates, including O’Keefe and Mezzetti, endorsed by Gillmor. Meanwhile, the 49ers poured millions into a PAC to elect their opponents, including Jain and Becker.
Santa Clara District 2 Councilmember Raj Chahal said he is very happy with the results so far.
“This is a good sign for the city of Santa Clara,” said Chahal at Jain’s backyard gathering. “They have been recycling people time and time again. They have shown to the residents of Santa Clara we need new faces and new ideas and new perspectives on the council.”
Jain, 58, a former computer engineer, currently serves on Santa Clara’s Planning Commission and has served on both the Charter Review and Chief Police Advisory committees.
Throughout his campaign, Jain emphasized the importance of cutting wasteful spending in the face of an increasing budget deficit amid the pandemic. For him, that includes dropping the city’s costly appeal of the California Voting Rights Act lawsuit, which divided the city into six city council districts.
He said he supports the council’s division into six districts as it enabled the first minority council member to be elected in 70 years.
Jain raised $25,260 and spent $19,325.60 this year through Oct. 23, according to campaign finance reports.
His opponent, retired CHP lieutenant O’Keefe, meanwhile, supported the appeal and thought three districts would work better in Santa Clara. To recover from the deficit, he said the city needed to develop a thorough fiscal plan that could include hiring freezes, promotional freezes, and the use of budget reserves to help small businesses.
Though both candidates agreed on Levi’s Stadium as a source of revenue, Jain focused on lifting the stadium’s 10 p.m curfew, while O’Keefe said he saw potential returns in overseeing its management.
O’Keefe, 60, heavily positioned himself as the only candidate able to vote on the downtown renovation project, as Jain’s residence posed a potential conflict of interest.
Both candidates included affordable housing as a top priority, with focus on developments at nearby transit hubs.
O’Keefe raised $10,278 and spent $5,582.37 through Oct. 23, according to campaign finance reports.
O’Keefe could not be reached for comment.
A content moderating specialist for Accenture, Becker, 35, has been a member of the Planning Commission since 2018. He campaigned on his professional work, as well as his experience as a renter and millennial.
Becker included the budget deficit among his top priorities and said ending the a lawsuit over districts would be one of his first tasks, if elected. To increase revenue, he argued the city needs to reduce its expenses on pricey consultants and called for the renegotiation of the city manager’s $700,000 salary.
“It was a very enthusiastic grassroots campaign,” said Becker. “It’s about connecting to the people. I walked every neighborhood and spoke to a lot of people. I think by going door to door, that shows interest in the people and their quality of life.”
According to campaign finance reports, Becker raised $8,458 and spent $6,901.54 this year through Oct. 23.
While both Becker and Barve, 36, supported removing the curfew at Levi’s Stadium as a potential revenue stream, Mezzetti, 65, said it is easier said than done and would be at the expense of nearby homeowners.
Instead, Mezzetti, a Santa Clara native and longtime attorney, believed that the city should dip into its reserve fund, turn to federal grants, and increase funding for its small businesses grant program to revitalize the economy.
Mezzetti raised $18,180.07and spent $17,374.37 this year until Oct. 23, according to campaign finance reports.
Mezzetti could not be reached for comment.
A proud Republican and Trump supporter, Barve built his campaign around increasing revenue without increasing taxes and defending the police.
Barve raised $24,280 and spent $23,541.07 this year through Oct. 23, according to campaign finance reports.
Contact Devin Collins at [email protected] or follow @dev_collins2 on Twitter.