More than two dozen supporters cheered Wednesday as veteran San Jose politician Nora Campos launched a run for her former East San Jose council seat.
Campos, 56, jumped back into the political fray standing in front of a small Mexican bakery against the backdrop of impending rain. She hasn’t been in elected office since leaving the state Assembly in 2016 — but said it hasn’t stopped her from serving the East San Jose community.
And now she wants to win back the District 5 seat on the San Jose City Council.
“We’re going to give everything we have to win this race,” Campos told the crowd as they huddled under a tent outside Mexico Bakery, a small restaurant on Story Road. “Because It’s not just about the candidate. It’s about the district having the representation that it so desperately needs.”
The choice of venue is symbolic: While Mexico Bakery didn’t shut down during the pandemic, all of owner Jose Landin’s siblings contracted COVID earlier this year. It’s a reflection of the struggles the city’s east side has disproportionately faced during the pandemic.
Amid the pandemic that shuttered local businesses, Landin had to replace a front window at least three times after vandals shattered it.
“Down the street on Poco Way, the city is doing such a good job cleaning up the neighborhood. It’s great. But what about the rest of us?,” Landin told San José Spotlight. “We are lacking services in this historic corridor. But I don’t think it’s a lack of funding. It’s a lack of people fighting for what we need. Nora Campos is the person who is going to be able to do that job.”
Campos stressed the importance of public safety, noting that the San Jose Police Department is at its most thinly-staffed in recent history. She pledged to cut police response times—now nearly twice what the department’s target is. Campos leaned on her experience on the City Council, where she fought to fund East San Jose’s Fire Station No. 2.
“I will work hard to keep the faith that you have in me so we take on the next journey in East San Jose,” Campos said.
Campos hopes to replace Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, who terms out next year. Campos served on the council from 2001 to 2010. She went on to serve in the state Assembly, representing District 27.
The two politicos have long been rivals: Carrasco unseated Campos’ brother, Xavier Campos, from that seat in 2014. This was after Campos defeated Carrasco in 2010.
Campos and her allies say they are fed up with Carrasco ignoring emails and offering “half-baked solutions” to neighborhood crises. Carrasco did not return calls for comment.
“If we were out here digging a hole for a project, Nora was right there beside it,” Julie Soito, a Plata Arroyo resident, told San José Spotlight.
Campos has snagged an early endorsement from state Sen. Dave Cortese, who said she’ll invest city dollars to improve the area he calls home.
“I see a park and I say, ‘That’s a park that Nora Campos fought for.’ And I’ll drive a little further and there’s affordable housing, and I’ll say to myself, ‘I remember when that housing was approved. Nora Campos fought for that,’” Cortese said Wednesday. “It’s pretty simple for me. That’s what I want again. If she could do all of that in eight years, imagine what she can do with more experience over the next eight years.”
After terming out of the Assembly, Campos ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2016 and 2020. Her 2020 senate campaign was marred by a donation to Chevron, leading opponents to label her as a supporter of Big Oil. Campos denied any wrongdoing, noting that the $4,700 check was donated to her campaign independently.
Also in the running for District 5 is Santa Clara County Board of Education Trustee Peter Ortiz.
“I’m running so individuals can walk,” Campos said. “Walk safely in their neighborhood, shop in their neighborhood and take their children to school with a safe route. To make sure we bring back the quality of life we had here in East San Jose.”