Rose Herrera expected to jump into San Jose City Council race

Four months after jumping into a county supervisor race, former San Jose Vice Mayor Rose Herrera is expected to drop out to run for her old seat on the San Jose City Council against Councilmember Sylvia Arenas.

Herrera, who is normally responsive to media requests, did not return multiple calls and emails from San José Spotlight. But numerous sources inside City Hall say Herrera was recruited by business interests to challenge Arenas, a labor-friendly candidate who has taken a progressive stand on issues such as immigration, paid family leave, racial equity and tenant rights in Silicon Valley.

Herrera was also noticeably absent from a supervisorial candidate forum held Monday night by the Silicon Valley Democratic Club without explanation. According to insiders, she is expected to announce her City Council run as early as Tuesday.

Flipping the District 8 seat, which covers Evergreen Valley and East San Jose, is critical for Mayor Sam Liccardo to advance his agenda and policy initiatives. The mayor currently grips a slim 6-5 majority on the divided City Council, but he could lose an ally if Councilmember Lan Diep, who faces two progressive challengers next fall, loses his re-election bid.

Liccardo on Tuesday did not directly answer questions about whether he spoke to Herrera about her potential run for City Council.

“It is up to candidates to announce their campaigns, not me or anyone else,” Liccardo told San José Spotlight.

Two other City Council incumbents in Districts 2 and 6 also face challengers in their re-election campaigns.

In a statement to San José Spotlight, Arenas confirmed speculation that she could face Herrera in 2020, the longtime lawmaker she replaced in 2016. Herrera was termed out after eight years on the council, serving as vice mayor for two years.

“It’s an honor to serve Evergreen families on the City Council, where I’ve worked to improve public safety, expand access to city services for families and support the economic development that our community needs,” Arenas said. “That’s why my campaign has earned the widespread support of Evergreen families and community leaders. Now it appears that special interests are recruiting Rose to drop out of her race for County Supervisor to run against me. It’s disappointing she would chose to run specifically at the request of special interests, not out of a plan to serve our community.”

Just days before Herrera dodged the supervisorial debate and media questions about her plans, Arenas formally announced that she filed to seek re-election to her City Council seat. Her campaign boasted a list of heavyweight endorsements, including California Sen. Jim Beall, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese and Evergreen School Board President Bonnie Mace.

“On the City Council, Sylvia Arenas has been a key partner for Evergreen schools — and she’s successfully expanded access to vital after-school programs,” Mace said in a statement. “I urge Evergreen voters to re-elect Sylvia Arenas so she can keep fighting for kids and families.”

Since leaving office in 2016, Herrera served as a private consultant and as president of the neighborhood group Involved Evergreen. Herrera, an Air Force veteran, told San José Spotlight in May that she wanted to run a “positive” campaign for county supervisor. She was also one of the more moderate candidates in a crowded field of hopefuls that include Assemblymember Kansen Chu, San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, former San Jose Planning Commissioner John Leyba and former Sunnyvale Mayor Otto Lee.

But Herrera also fell behind in early fundraising totals, raising just $50,000 from Jan. 1 to June 30 — but only after loaning herself $37,241. Herrera potentially dropping out of the supervisor’s race to run for City Council will undoubtedly provide a boost to Carrasco, her former colleague on the council.

Reporter Nadia Lopez contributed to this report.

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

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