Polls show mixed results in San Jose mayor’s race
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and San Jose Councilmember Matt Mahan are competing to be the next mayor of San Jose. File photo.

    San Jose will pick a new mayor in less than a month, but which candidate has the edge to win depends on who you ask.

    Three new polls paint different pictures for the two candidates vying to replace Mayor Sam Liccardo, who terms out this year.

    In one poll, conducted between late August to early September, San Jose Councilmember Matt Mahan was in a virtual tie with his opponent, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. In a second poll, conducted between early to mid September, he was leading by three points. Political action committees (PACs) supporting Mahan paid for both polls.

    But another poll, conducted between late August to early September and paid for by a PAC supporting Chavez, shows the supervisor continues to gain distance over her opponent with a 12-point lead.

    Chavez led the June primary election with 39.24% of the vote. Mahan finished with 32.22% of the vote. The pair beat out four other candidates.

    Political observers said the polls signal a tight race for the two candidates. Garrick Percival, a political science professor at San Jose State University, also questioned the validity of the polls.

    “Voters want to have some skepticism when you have paid polls that are being promoted for the individual campaigns,” he told San José Spotlight. “We don’t know what kinds of questions that were asked and the best kind of information to make a fuller assessment of what these mean.”

    Despite two polls showing him ahead of his opponent, Mahan said his campaign isn’t focused on polling results.

    “Our own poll showed the race statistically tied. But the focus of our campaign is not on polls, but common-sense policies to address homelessness, lower crime and bring accountability to city government,” Mahan told San José Spotlight.

    Brian Parvizshahi, Chavez’s campaign manager, said the polls show how “exciting and historic” her campaign is.

    “We feel the momentum is moving in our direction,” Parvizshahi said. “We are honored to have the endorsement from every councilmember not running for mayor because they are ready for change.”

    The San Jose mayoral race has become one of the most heated—and expensive—contests in the city’s recent history. The two candidates have collectively raised more than $1.78 million since June to boost their profiles, and PACs are doling out millions to help their chances. The election has gotten ugly as attack ads and mailers are landing in residents’ mailboxes, TV programs and social media feeds. The Santa Clara County Democratic Party recently condemned a local elected official, who’s supporting Mahan, over “racially-charged” comments about Chavez.

    Contradicting results

    In a poll conducted by RG Strategies, the two candidates are neck and neck among voters—with 35% going to both campaigns. Roughly 28% of voters are still undecided.

    The poll surveyed 500 likely voters in San Jose between Aug. 27 and Sept. 1. The poll, paid for by the Common Good Silicon Valley PAC, has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. The PAC, which has spent nearly $700,000 to support Mahan’s campaign since December, shared polling results with San José Spotlight.

    After voters received positive messaging about the campaigns, Mahan gained 10 points in voter support, polling at 45%, while Chavez gained one point and polled at 36%—a nine-point lead for the councilmember. The messages were based on campaign communications, public statements and social media posts, according to the poll summary.

    Jim Reed, who’s running the Common Good PAC, said the poll shows a positive trend for Mahan’s campaign.

    “The good news is the poll shows that Matt’s quite a bit better than a 50-50 chance to win,” Reed told San José Spotlight. “The concern is that these projections assume folks hear messaging about Matt and his opponent in approximately equal strength.”

    Another poll, done by Clear Path Strategies between Aug. 29 and Sept. 4, shows Chavez with a clear lead over Mahan, polling at 40% and 28%, respectively. Roughly 26% of voters are undecided. The poll surveyed 405 voters and has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

    Chavez saw a similar bump in polling when voters receive positive statements. The poll shows Chavez grew her lead, polling at 50%, while Mahan polled at 36%. That’s a 14-point difference favoring Chavez’s campaign. A PAC funded by the San Francisco 49ers football team paid for the poll. The PAC has spent more than $687,000 to support Chavez.

    A representative of the team couldn’t be reached for comment.

    Growing momentum for Mahan?

    In a more recent poll paid for by Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, Mahan has the lead over Chavez, polling at 35% and 32%, respectively. The poll, conducted by American Strategies, surveyed 818 voters between Sept. 6-13 and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

    Gina Zari, director of government affairs for the association, said the poll further shows a growing momentum for Mahan.

    “The most significant takeaway from the polling on the Mahan-Chavez race is not necessarily that Mahan has taken a slight lead, but rather the trend that he is gaining a point or two advantage each week that passes,” Zari told San José Spotlight.

    According to Common Good, Mahan’s campaign has slowly closed the gap since the June primary. He was behind by seven points in the June primary election and one point behind in the poll he released in early September.

    “The trend for Matt is clear and encouraging, but the question is whether his superior message and momentum can stand up to this avalanche of special interest millions against him because those folks are so fearful of Matt shaking things up?” Reed said.

    With many undecided voters, the race is far from being called, Percival said.

    “We can expect just a real tight race, and it’s coming down to voter turnout and (candidates) mobilizing their core supporters,” he said. “Although Chavez certainly is going into this race a pretty clear frontrunner, I think we can also bet, based on history, this is going to be a pretty close contest.”

    Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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