Labor leaders eye Johnny Khamis’ seat, endangering mayor’s agenda
Photo courtesy of Jenny Higgins Bradanini

    After nearly a decade of conservative leadership, Jenny Higgins Bradanini says San Jose’s affluent Almaden Valley is ready for a change.

    “I’m definitely more progressive than Johnny Khamis and I think District 10 is ready for a progressive voice,” said Bradanini, 55, president of Women’s March San Jose, who this week announced her run for the City Council seat next year when Khamis terms out.

    Bradanini, if elected, would push the San Jose City Council farther left and steal a reliable, business-friendly vote from Mayor Sam Liccardo’s bloc. Khamis, who left the Republican party and now identifies as an independent, often voted with Liccardo on critical issues such as housing, transportation and economic development.

    But Khamis, who is now running for state Senate, broke with Liccardo on taxes — often denouncing the city’s continuous push to raise taxes through ballot measures to relieve homelessness and other social ills.

    Bradanini says she wants to legislate more like Supervisor Cindy Chavez, the labor movement’s influential leader who’s the powerful source behind the faction’s fundraising and endorsements.

    “Cindy Chavez is a mentor. I look up to her,” Bradanini said in an interview. “And I respect her so much for the way that she deals with her constituents in Santa Clara County. How she listens and how she leads with compassion and empathy.”

    Bradanini, who worked as a policy director for former Councilmember Don Rocha, said she’ll represent “the values and priorities of my community.”

    “I’m going to be doing a lot of listening and seeing what’s important to my community,” she said.

    Other candidates rumored for the seat are Brigade CEO and co-founder Matt Mahan and San Jose Unified School District trustee Kimberly Meek. Broadcaster Robert Braunstein, who faced Khamis in a 2012 runoff, announced he won’t run again.

    “I am taking a very close look at a possible race for city council and expect to make a decision shortly,” Mahan said. “I’ve been deeply involved in neighborhood issues – and I want to make sure we have a strong voice for addressing homelessness, keeping San Jose safe and affordable and protecting the quality of life in all our neighborhoods.”

    Meek said she has no interest in the District 10 seat.

    “I am fully focused on the education and welfare of our youth,” she said in an email.

    Mahan, who serves as a board member of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Joint Venture Silicon Valley, is likely to garner support from the business community. Khamis said he will eventually endorse in the race, and Mahan is poised to win the longtime councilman’s support.

    “I think Matt Mahan has been working very hard in the district, volunteering and being involved in many district activities and issues,” Khamis said.

    Five even-numbered seats on the San Jose City Council will be up for election next year. Khamis’ is the only open seat.

    Incumbents Sergio Jimenez (District 2), Lan Diep (District 4), Dev Davis (District 6) and Sylvia Arenas (District 8) all face re-election. Challengers have not yet emerged in the districts 2, 6 and 8 races — although some political insiders have speculated that small business owner Denise Belisle will challenge Arenas for the District 8 seat once again.

    Diep is facing a challenge from housing commissioner Huy Tran.

    On the current council, Liccardo can comfortably rely on votes from Diep, Davis and Khamis to move his agenda, in addition to Councilmembers Chappie Jones and Pam Foley, who are not up for re-election. Losing Khamis could jeopardize the mayor’s business-friendly majority and give labor leaders a chance to win back control of the City Council.

    The election will be held in March 2020.

    Contact Ramona Giwargis at [email protected] or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.

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