Rose Herrera enters Santa Clara County supervisorial race

Former San Jose Vice Mayor Rose Herrera pulled papers to run for Santa Clara County Supervisor, a move that shakes up the local supervisorial race and could send it into a November runoff.

The longtime Evergreen Valley leader joins a crowded race that includes Assemblymember Kansen Chu, San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, San Jose Planning Commissioner John Leyba and former Sunnyvale Mayor Otto Lee vying to replace District 3 Supervisor Dave Cortese when he terms out next year.

Herrera, who served eight years on the San Jose City Council and two years as vice mayor, says her campaign will be “uplifting” and will spread a message of hope, especially amid the country’s increasingly divisive political landscape.

“It’s going to be a positive, hopeful campaign,” Herrera told San José Spotlight on Wednesday. “People are so tired of the negative.”

During her tenure in San Jose politics, Herrera led efforts to revitalize the business climate in Evergreen, bolster women and veterans rights, create recreational spaces including a long-awaited citywide youth sports complex and fight for improved public transit. Herrera, an Air Force veteran, recently joined other lawmakers to push to prioritize funding light rail to East Side residents.

But Herrera got her start working in Santa Clara County government when she staffed the human relations commission in the late 1970s and worked on gang prevention efforts and curbing youth violence. Running for county supervisor is like coming “full circle,” she said.

“My involvement in this community is deep and it’s long,” Herrera said. “I’ve watched this transformation and what I’m concerned about is making sure we have a Santa Clara County for all of us — not just a few of us. We have to make it work for all of us.”

Herrera said she’d love to see Santa Clara County partner with tech companies to provide employment training, job opportunities and address Silicon Valley’s housing crisis. Since leaving office in 2016, Herrera has served as a consultant, president of the neighborhood group Involved Evergreen and served on various veterans organizations.

“The county is a huge source of funding and government structure that we can mobilize, convene and focus on these issues,” she added.

Herrera in 2012 became the target of local labor unions when she voted to support putting Measure B on the San Jose ballot. The measure, which passed by nearly 70 percent of the vote, slashed employee pensions and benefits. Herrera later worked with her council colleagues to settle pension reform lawsuits and implement measures to help recruit and retain police officers.

In the supervisorial race, Herrera will likely garner support from business-friendly interests, while Chu, Carrasco and Lee will likely pull endorsements and cash from labor groups. Labor leaders must keep the District 3 supervisorial seat to win control of the 5-member board.

Earlier Wednesday, former Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran dropped out of the supervisor’s race to clear the path for Chu. The mayor said he’ll instead seek to replace Chu in the California Assembly.

Chu questioned Herrera’s involvement in the community since she left office. “I hope whoever is running for this full-time public service position is ready to totally give up their day job and give his or her 200 percent,” the assemblyman said.

Lee said he isn’t surprised to hear that Herrera has jumped into the fray — not nearly as surprised as he was when Chu told San José Spotlight earlier this month that he’s leaving Sacramento to run for county supervisor.

“It’s getting more crowded, but sometimes I think, ‘The more, the merrier.’ The more people who run, the more ideas that will come out,” Lee said.

The supervisorial election is only a year away — March 2020 — because of the state’s earlier presidential primary. The district spans north San Jose, Alviso, the Evergreen area, all of Milpitas and the northern half of Sunnyvale.

Contact Ramona Giwargis at ramona@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.

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