Reader Panel: San Jose voters share candidate selections
San Jose residents discuss their candidate choices during a panel hosted by San José Spotlight on June 1, 2022.

San Jose voters are already casting their ballots for the primary election next week, but some aren’t excited about their choices.

Residents who spoke with San José Spotlight said they’ve voted for many key offices up for grabs on June 7, including San Jose mayor, City Council, Santa Clara County sheriffdistrict attorney and county assessor.

This news organization hosted seven readers on Wednesday to discuss who they’re voting for in next week’s election. This is the second of several panels San José Spotlight will host up to the November general election. The panel included registered Democrats, non-partisan voters and a Republican, ranging in age from 24 to 60. Members have served as community advocates, attorneys, political organizers, landscape architects and nurses.

While some are confident about their picks, others still don’t know enough about the candidates.

“I don’t feel really confident about the decisions I’m making,” said Garry Johnson, a 56-year-old nurse and professor at Evergreen Valley College with no party preference. He’s voting for Councilmember Matt Mahan for San Jose mayor and Sgt. Sean Allen for sheriff. “I kind of feel like a lot of the information that I want has not yet reached my ears.”

Almost all panelists have already voted or filled out mail-in ballots for the election. Lisa Charpontier, 52, a Democrat and landscape architect, was impressed by deputy public defender Sajid Khan, who is running for district attorney, and San Jose-Evergreen Community College trustee Omar Torres, who is running for City Council District 3. She said Khan distinguished himself by walking her through his plans for office.

“I’m really grateful for that because it really helped get beyond the minimal amount you can hear in a debate, or what you hear people saying or in a newspaper article,” Charpontier said, noting she’s voting for Andrew Crockett for county assessor and Sgt. Christine Nagaye for sheriff, citing her outspokenness about gun violence in the country.

Donald Gagliardi, a 58-year-old independent and attorney, is supporting Elizabeth Chien-Hale for District 3, citing her support for ending COVID-19 restrictions. For the same reason, he is also backing retired police Sgt. James Spence for mayor, although he acknowledges his chances of victory are remote.

“I’m concerned about all of the candidates who are the top four running because all of them come with baggage, which is a concern to me,” Gagliardi said. He added he likes Supervisor Cindy Chavez, but she’s on the VTA board of directors, which implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its employees, which jeopardized employment for one of his friends. Gagliardi said he’s also voting to reelect Assessor Larry Stone, who he knows personally.

Vicente Lovelace, a 24-year-old immigration law practitioner, said he didn’t vote for any of the sheriff candidates because he wasn’t confident in his choices.

“I had a theme with my ballot and that was anti-incumbent,” Lovelace said, noting he didn’t vote for the incumbent District Attorney Jeff Rosen. “I wasn’t a good Democrat either—I don’t have a lot to be excited about in the party.”

The only ballot measure residents expressed concern about was Measure A, a proposal to extend the term limits of the board members for Valley Water. Several panelists complained the language in the measure is deceptive.

“I think it’s dishonest the way the ballot measure was written by the board majority,” said Shane Patrick Connolly, a 54-year-old Republican and chairman of the Santa Clara County Republican Party. He added the wording might give voters the mistaken impression they’re voting to reduce term limits instead of expanding them. Connolly said he voted for Daniel Chung for district attorney and Councilmember Dev Davis for mayor, citing her practical solutions and experience at City Hall.

Connolly said there have been several misleading political ads. He claimed the South Bay Labor Council launched several. By and large, residents on the panel said attack ads don’t sway their political decisions. While they’re not concerned about voter fraud, several panelists said they are worried about misinformation influencing local elections.

“I’m going to do my due diligence and read and do my research and make that decision for myself,” said Carmen Brammer, 60, a Democrat and political strategist who lives in East San Jose. Brammer, the only panelist who hasn’t voted yet, said she will likely vote for Khan for district attorney.

Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.

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