With less than a week until election day, local voters participating in San José Spotlight’s reader panel have mostly made up their minds on key contests.
San José Spotlight hosted its fifth panel of six readers on Wednesday to hear their thoughts on the election overall, the ways San Jose mayoral candidates have tried to differentiate themselves and whether endorsements matter.
Carmen Brammer, a Democrat and member of the Black Leadership Kitchen Cabinet who lives in East San Jose, said recent racist ads and mailers in the San Jose mayor’s race have helped cement her decision for Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez over city Councilmember Matt Mahan—but she is less clear about how to vote in local school board elections.
Brammer, 60, said she’s receiving more mailers compared to prior elections, and she is concerned about efforts by conservative groups putting candidates up for school board seats.
“Because they don’t have to say which party they’re aligned with, it’s difficult to determine who really is there to represent our children, or if they are there to represent a political party,” Brammer said.
San Jose State University associate professor Ellen Middaugh, 47, said she is firm on her choice for mayor of San Jose, is well-versed on statewide propositions and enjoys teaching and engaging her students about these initiatives.
But she still wants to do more research on who to vote for in the race for a Valley Water board seat, where she is less certain about what qualifications a candidate needs to succeed.
When discussing the mayor’s race, some panelists said first-term Councilmember Mahan’s effort to paint Chavez as an entrenched politician, and himself as a newcomer with fresh ideas that will fix government’s problems, didn’t land with them.
“The common sense framing did not appeal to me, because it’s not common sense, it’s complicated,” said Middaugh, a Democrat. “There are different constituencies and points of view, and so I am looking for a candidate that understands it’s complicated and can navigate those complications.”
Lisa Charpontier, a 52-year-old Democrat and landscape architect, said she thinks newcomers or those with long political careers could both do a good job as mayor.
“But I think it’s more important that they really go into detail about what they believe, and have a deeper conversation with the community about a vision for the future for us to reach toward,” Charpontier said.
There was some debate about Measure I, put on the ballot by San Jose City Council with the aim of making changes to the city charter to boost inclusivity.
If approved, Measure I would allow noncitizens to serve on planning, civil service and salary setting commissions in San Jose. The measure would remove binary gendered language from the city charter, and codify the city’s ethics and elections commission so it can only be disbanded by voters and not the city council.
Shane Patrick Connolly, chair of the Santa Clara County Republican Party, said he is concerned about noncitizens being able to serve on those commissions which could open the city to litigation or court reviews of the commissions’ decisions. He also said it feels like a step toward allowing noncitizen voting.
“It’s a slippery slope argument, but it’s quite clear that certain people on the city council want noncitizens to vote in elections in San Jose,” Connolly, 54, said. “It’s an extreme idea and people don’t like it.”
Alex Shoor, 40, said he’s in favor of Measure I to bring a broader subset of people into city decision making, and in general favors giving noncitizens access to voting in local elections.
Shoor is the executive director of Catalyze SV, a housing advocacy organization.
“The planning commission in particular and multiple commissions don’t have the amount of diversity that’s needed to fully represent this community,” Shoor said. “If this is a way to bring in more immigrants to that process, I’m all for it.”
The panelists all shared concerns about lower turnout in a midterm election without presidential races on the ticket. They said they appreciate and hope to see more efforts by local media outlets to help voters understand what’s at stake in elections.
News outlets should offer unbiased coverage of issues, clear information about where and how to vote, question and answer sessions or forums with candidates, and voter guides, the panelists said. Some panelists said outlets should keep an eye on the money in elections, as well.
While San José Spotlight does not make endorsements, some panelists, like Shoor, said they see value in endorsements made by other local media outlets such as The Mercury News.
Others panelists, like Vicente Lovelace, a Democrat and immigration law practitioner, said news endorsements don’t have much of an effect on how he chooses to vote.
“My primary tools to make a decision on a candidate are what they do, what they say and what they believe,” Lovelace said. Everything else is secondary.”