The costs of this year’s high-profile San Jose mayoral race is one for the record books, at $8.5 million—with special interest groups making up 51% of spending in an effort to sway voters.
With roughly two weeks until the Nov. 8 election, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and San Jose Councilmember Matt Mahan are locked in a heated—and costly—competition, with Mayor Sam Liccardo terming out at the end of the year. The pair beat out four other candidates in the primary election.
Mahan and Chavez have collectively raised $2.2 million since June to fuel their campaigns. Mahan has garnered $1.2 million in support since June for his general election campaign. Chavez is trailing behind, raising more than $1 million over the same period. This brings their total campaign contributions to $4.1 million since the start of the election cycle last December.
After helping the two candidates advance beyond the primaries, special interest groups have raced to spend roughly $2.8 million on polling, attack mailers and TV ads to boost their preferred choice. In total, political action committees (PACs) have kicked in roughly $4.4 million for the two mayoral candidates since last December.
Chavez has enjoyed cushy financial backing from half a dozen PACs throughout the election season, spending $1.2 million supporting her primary campaign and $1.6 million backing her run in the general election.
Since June, the South Bay Labor Council has doled out more than half a million dollars to boost Chavez’s bid and attack Mahan’s record. The PAC run by the San Jose police union has spent more than $430,000, while the group formed by the San Francisco 49ers football team has kicked in $460,000—all for Chavez.
Chavez said the special interest money won’t impact her work because it hasn’t in the past.
“My highest obligation is to the people of our community and that’s always been my focus. It always will be,” Chavez told San José Spotlight. “What I have is experience that money can’t buy in any way.”
Mahan, who has criticized Chavez’s campaign on its special interest funding, also received a financial boost from PACs in recent months. Three PACs have spent roughly $1.17 million backing Mahan this general election.
“Our campaign for common sense is organizing one of the largest neighborhood based movements this city has ever seen and we are outraising an entrenched politician because voters are hungry for change,” Matthew Quevedo, Mahan’s campaign manager, told San José Spotlight.
Common Good Silicon Valley, a PAC formed by Liccardo, has spent roughly $578,000 since June on text messages supporting Mahan and polling on the local race that it shared with other special interest groups. The Santa Clara County Association of Realtors has also kicked in $530,000 this general election to attack Chavez and back Mahan.
Gina Zari, director of government affairs with the association, said the decision to endorse Mahan was easy. Chavez refused to answer any of the group’s emails or calls to do an endorsement interview. She was the only mayoral candidate to do so, Zari said.
“For the welfare of our city, the next mayor should be someone who sees their roles as that of a public servant, someone willing to listen to and represent everyone in our city—not someone who’s willing to pick winners and losers and play power games with their political influence,” Zari told San José Spotlight. “Mahan is clearly the candidate who views the role of the mayor as that of a public servant.”
With roughly one week before the election, San Jose residents have seen an avalanche of negative mailers and ads on both candidates. Mahan has faced criticism for pitching his tech company’s services to the National Rifle Association when he was the CEO of an online campaigning platform for people who support a common cause. Chavez continues to see attacks on her record as an elected official. Tension came to a boiling point last month when a supporter of Mahan was accused of making “racially-charged” comments against Chavez.
Tom Saggau, spokesperson for the police union, said the union funded attack ads against Mahan because they believe the public should know about his record.
“The ads tell the story of Mahan and his lack of values in exchange for money. We think that’s important,” Saggau told San José Spotlight. “We need a mayor that’s gonna call balls and strikes and lead this city back to where it once was. We think that is Chavez.”
To follow the money in all the major Silicon Valley races, click here.
The election is Nov. 8.