The San Jose mayoral race offers four main candidates with two different philosophies for San Jose. On one side Councilmembers Dev Davis and Matt Mahan are dueling for votes, while on the other side Supervisor Cindy Chavez and Councilmember Raul Peralez vie for votes.
The more interesting political battle is on the right. Recently, Davis sent a text missive that Mahan was actively courting Trump voters. While it is true Trump is an anathema to Santa Clara County voters, in a primary it is rare to attack a fellow candidate whose voters share the same side of the aisle.
Mahan, who is seemingly aligning himself with Mayor Sam Liccardo, has openly run a campaign that deems San Jose in crisis. His website leads with, “San Jose Faces a Crisis of Homelessness. Crime. Dirty Streets. Traffic. And Dysfunctional Government.”
Hardly a ringing endorsement of the job for his predecessor.
Davis resigned from the Republican Party and became an Independent. Davis has the experienced resume; Mahan, a lifelong Democrat, has the institutional backing of Mayor Liccardo.
What is also clear is institutional misogyny still exists on the right in San Jose. Davis has more experience, but the money has gone to Mahan.
On the left, Chavez has picked-up large endorsements from Congressmembers Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo, Ro Khanna and former Congressman Mike Honda. She’s running on her record of dealing with the pandemic, crime and homelessness at the county level. She even picked up a coveted endorsement from the late former San Jose Mayor, Congressman and Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta. Also, the San Jose Firefighters Local 230 and South Bay Labor Council.
Peralez has picked up some impressive endorsements as well, including former Mayor Ron Gonzalez and current Councilmembers Sylvia Arenas, Magdalena Carrasco, Sergio Jimenez and Maya Esparza. He touts his former jobs as a San Jose police officer and teacher. He, too, criticizes the current lack of accountability from city leadership, but unlike Mahan has never been seen as a member of the current mayor’s team.
Whatever happens in the primary, the top two candidates will need to expand from their base to win a 50% majority. The good news for voters is that none of the major candidates would be horrible.
That said, unless and until San Jose decides to become a strong mayor form of government, no candidate will have the individual power necessary to create the change they all apparently seek for the city they want to lead.
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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