Johnny Khamis jumps into state Senate race

Several prominent politicians are lining up to replace termed-out state Sen. Jim Beall in an election that’s more than a year away.

San Jose Councilman Johnny Khamis, a former Republican who fled the party in June over Donald Trump’s immigration policies, confirmed that he’ll run for the seat. Khamis discussed the idea with political consultant Victor Ajlouny, who helped steer his successful City Council races.

Following the departure of termed-out Councilman Don Rocha, Khamis is now San Jose’s most senior council member, having represented District 10 since 2012.

“I’m running because I feel like there has to be some different voices up in the state Legislature,” Khamis said in an interview. “It’s going to be a very one-sided discussion and I think there has to be a balance. I have a lot more interest in fiscal responsibility and that’s what I want to take to Sacramento.”

Rumors swirled last year that Khamis might run for San Jose mayor, but the councilman said he can make a bigger difference in Sacramento – despite being outnumbered by Democrats. That was the situation in San Jose, anyway.

“It’s a different environment up there – I’d be one of 120 votes,” Khamis said. “But I work well with others. I’ve done a lot of successful things at City Hall working with people who are definitely more liberal than I am.”

Khamis isn’t the only candidate jockeying to succeed the Silicon Valley senator in 2020. A handful of other recognizable politicos jumped into the fray.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese launched his Senate campaign Facebook page and website in early July, perhaps the first to publicly announce his run. The veteran lawmaker will be termed out from the county board in 2020 after 12 years.

“With the support of my family and friends I have decided to take our fight for building affordable housing, creating more living wage jobs, and improving our infrastructure to Sacramento,” Cortese said on his website. “You are the reason I am announcing early, because the issues that matter most cannot wait.”

But Cortese could face off with his longtime board colleague, Ken Yeager, also a rumored candidate for the open Senate District 15 seat. Yeager, one of Silicon Valley’s first openly gay lawmakers, termed out in 2018. San Jose Unified School District trustee Susan Ellenberg won the election to replace him.

Yeager declined to comment on a possible Senate run.

Following her unsuccessful 2016 bid to unseat Beall, former Assemblywoman Nora Campos kept her Senate campaign committee open and now she’s running again for the highly-coveted seat. Campos, who’s stayed out of public life since leaving Sacramento, said it’s time that a woman represents Silicon Valley in the upper chamber.

“There are zero women representing Silicon Valley,” said Campos, a Democrat who termed out of the Assembly in 2016 after six years. “With Silicon Valley having over 50 percent of the population being women, I think that’s something that needs to change. My qualifications are equal to the men if not a little bit better because I’ve served in Sacramento.”

Campos said right now the residents are being governed to – not governed with.

“I bring collective voices with me,” she said. “People won’t be sending Nora Campos to Sacramento. They’ll be coming with me to Sacramento.”

While candidates line up for Beall’s job, some are wondering what’s next for the 66-year-old legislator. Some political strategists speculate that Beall is eyeing a run for San Jose mayor after Sam Liccardo terms out in 2022.

Beall did not respond to requests for comment.

Senate District 15 spans most of Santa Clara County, including San Jose, Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga. The district is home to more than 900,000 residents.

Contact Ramona Giwargis at ramona@sanjosespotlight.com or follow her @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.

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