Robinson: Mayor Sam Liccardo and Matt Mahan—the odd couple
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo with Matt Mahan on election night in 2020. File photo.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez has picked up the endorsements of two former mayoral candidates, San Jose Councilmembers Dev Davis and Raul Peralez, in her run for mayor. In fact, the majority of the San Jose City Council and those elected in June are endorsing Chavez.

But Mayor Sam Liccardo, after pouring money into an independent expenditure to support Matt Mahan for mayor in the primary, only recently endorsed his obvious choice. That was the same day Davis, along with Councilmember Pam Foley, appeared at an event to support Chavez.

The mayor’s endorsement was not news—it is an open secret Mayor Liccardo was supporting Mahan—but the official announcement still comes as a bit of a head scratcher.

The reason is that Mahan is running against the current mayor’s performance for the job. His website includes this indictment of Liccardo’s leadership:

“San Jose Faces a Crisis of Homelessness. Crime. Dirty Streets. Traffic. And Dysfunctional Government. We deserve better. And we can do better. But it will take a revolution of common sense to make sure government is working as hard as we do.”

In short, Mahan is running against the eight years of Liccardo’s stewardship. Which makes Liccardo’s endorsement a little awkward. It is hard to run a change campaign when the status quo is your biggest named endorser.

More unexplainable is Mayor Liccardo has done an impressive job overall. Yes, San Jose still has big city problems like housing, homelessness infrastructure and crime. But relatively speaking, San Jose is well governed and, though policies can always be improved, Liccardo and his team do not lack “common sense.” This is the generic term Mahan uses to describe what is needed to cure his view that city government is dysfunctional.

But Silicon Valley is not common, it is extraordinary. We need exceptional wisdom for the challenges we face in our future.

Voters in Santa Clara County don’t see their local government moving in the wrong direction, according to the most recent poll I saw—it was 50-50 with the raw numbers favoring in the right direction.

The loud mythology of total dissatisfaction with government is a media creation based on national polls and loud right-wing MAGA voices who repeat lies as truth. It does not translate to local government in this valley, as at least half the population is satisfied. Previous polls have shown a higher satisfaction with the direction of the valley, but Mahan’s campaign may be working to convince them otherwise.

San Jose voters are not Wyoming voters. They are educated, urban, Democratic and understand while San Jose may have problems, it is not where big lies are embraced.

The irony of Mahan running against the flawed government of Mayor Liccardo while touting his endorsement is incongruent on its face and downright ludicrous in terms of messaging. It is also not true. Liccardo has been a good, though not perfect, mayor.

We know politics makes for strange bedfellows, but this is a very odd couple on paper.

San José Spotlight columnist Rich Robinson is a political consultant, attorney and author of “The Shadow Candidate.” His columns appear every fourth Wednesday of the month.

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