Kansen Chu returns to his roots: The Berryessa school board
Former Assemblymember Kansen Chu is pictured in this file photo.

It’s Déjà vu for Kansen Chu.

After nearly two decades, the former assemblyman is back on the Berryessa Union School District Board of Trustees. Without much fanfare, Chu was unanimously appointed to the school board in February. He beat out four other candidates.

Chu, who lost his bid for county supervisor last fall, filled the seat vacated by David Cohen who was elected to the San Jose City Council. His term ends in 2022, and he is eligible to run for re-election.

Chu began his political career by serving on the Berryessa school board in 2002. Chu did not return multiple calls for comment.

“As someone who is living in this community, raised my family and served as a public servant for decades, I know the needs and issues facing the people living here,” Chu wrote in his application for the position.

Now that Chu has reentered the political mix, some wonder if it is a springboard for his next political campaign.

The longtime politician announced in 2019 he’s leaving the legislature to run for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. He lost that race by 21 percentage points to former Sunnyvale Mayor Otto Lee.

Prior to joining the state Assembly in 2014, Chu served on the San Jose City Council representing District 4, which includes the Berryessa area. He served on the Berryessa school board before that for five years.

Chu’s run for county supervisor last year was marred by controversy and mudslinging.

First, he landed in hot water by telling a Chinese publication that Latino parents told him they don’t care about their kids’ education while attempting to explain his decision to abstain from voting on a measure to repeal the state’s ban on affirmative action. A coalition of Bay Area civil rights organizations demanded Chu’s resignation from the Assembly.

Chu said his words were misconstrued.

“I unequivocally deny saying that Latinos do not value education,” Chu said at the time. “My record on supporting education funding and progressive policies in support of minority communities have been strong and consistent.”

Then Chu swung hard at his opponent, Lee, by questioning a $460,000 contribution he made to his own campaign. He demanded Lee release his tax records to prove it was not dark money.

For Cohen, the councilmember whose seat Chu now holds, history has come full circle. Chu encouraged him to join the Berryessa School Board years ago.

“He was a friend and mentor of mine at the time,” Cohen said. “He recruited me to run for the open seat. I ran in 2006, got elected and joined him on the board.”

Cohen said Chu knows the community well and understands issues the district faces. Cohen and Chu served together for less than a year before Chu was elected to the San Jose City Council.

“It was an interesting completion of that circle that when I stepped down, he ended up taking my seat,” he said, “and I’m on the council.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]


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