Marshall Woodmansee works to motivate young people on his way to the ballot
Marshall Woodmansee if running for San Jose's District 6 seat. Photo by Janice Bitters

Marshall Woodmansee may be the youngest person running for City Council in San Jose, but he speaks with the confidence of someone who has spent years thinking about issues facing the South Bay city.

The 19-year-old District 6 native has run one of the most grassroots campaigns in the race so far. He hasn’t locked in major endorsements from local business, labor or other interests and has raised about $4,200, according to campaign finance filings. He’s challenging Councilmember Dev Davis, who was elected in 2016, in addition to two other challengers: Ruben Navarro and Jake Tonkel.

Inspiring a new generation

His experience in public service and advocacy stems primarily from Project Now SJ, a youth organization he co-founded to address environmental issues, and an internship with Assemblymember Ash Kalra. His volunteers and supporters have primarily been his peers, generally passionate about transportation, public safety, housing and sustainability, just like him.

Woodmansee admits he got into the race late, announcing last August his candidacy for the council seat representing central San Jose including the Alameda, Willow Glen, Rose Garden and Buena Vista neighborhoods. He won’t rule out a win, but says that’s not how he’s measuring success.

“I’ve had young people come up to me saying they want to run for City Council as well… so there, I’ve won my mission,” he said. “And I’ve had kids that I know… people will call them delinquents, sitting in the back of the class with their hood up and they said, ‘Yeah, of course, I’m gonna vote for you.’ There’s a win… I got one more person to vote.”

Fighting for more transit investment 

Woodmansee exudes the direct activism his generation has become known for, particularly when he talks about poor local infrastructure and the dangers people face getting around, which would be one of his top priorities if elected.

“When I went to every Lincoln High School classroom and asked the students, ‘How many of you have almost been hit by a car?’ and everyone raised their hand,” he said. “I think a great place to start, that is unilaterally accepted, is making it safe to get to school.”

Woodmansee is car-free. He rides a bike with a cart attached which bores his name and campaign message on the side. It had pictures of his face on it, before the cart fell over as he tried to avoid being hit by a car.

That’s one of the reasons Monica Mallon, a local transportation activist, supports and has endorsed Woodmansee.

“The great thing about Marshall is that he has so much experience with this,” she said. “He bikes and walks and takes transit… I think he would prioritize this while on City Council.”

Mallon said Woodmansee will also likely help motivate young people to vote — a feat that could have impacts throughout the city because of other measures on the ballot.

“There are a fair number of (San Jose State University) students who live District 6, and a lot of them know who Marshall is and know that he represents them,” she said. “Even if he doesn’t win, it’s still getting people to the polls.”

But the relentless campaign cycle has also taken a toll on the upbeat council hopeful.

“The lack of structure that a campaign in which you are also the campaign manager and the treasurer … is really hard,” he admits, suddenly looking a little tired.

If he doesn’t win, he’ll return to De Anza College to finish his degree in civil engineering.

And at the end of the day, he wants his campaign to serve as an example to other young people.

“This campaign has been done in a way that can be emulated by the average teenager or early 20-year-old feasibly and again with measurable success,” he said. “We really need to get new people in office, and in my honest opinion, young people… need to be running in office every election.”

Name: Marshall Woodmansee
Age: 19
Family: Father of rescued snake and turtle
Political affiliation: Democrat
Education: Civil Engineering Student at De Anza College
Profession: Community organizer and student
Current or previous elected or appointed positions: Legislative intern for Assemblymember Ash Kalra, president and founder of Project Now SJ
Top 3 priorities: Housing for all income levels, mass transit/pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure, resilient communities
Top 3 endorsements: N/A
Special talent: Marshall is proficient in stage sword fighting.
In one sentence, why vote for you? “District 6 needs a bold, community-focused leader to help guide us to a sustainable, safe and resilient future. I will be that leader.”

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