Rosemary Kamei appears to win West San Jose council seat
Rosemary Kamei speaks to supporters during her election night party. Photo by Jana Kadah.

Last updated 5 p.m. on Monday. The next update will be 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee Rosemary Kamei appears to be winning outright in the San Jose City Council District 1 race with 65.79% of the vote, or 9,426 votes.

With 94% of the ballots counted,  Kamei still holds a sizable lead over two other candidates: Ramona Snyder, president of the San Jose Downtown Foundation board, and paratransit operator Tim Gildersleeve. Snyder trails by 25.87%, or 3,707 votes and Gildersleeve has 8.34% of the vote, or 1,195 votes.

“I didn’t expect this result at all,” Kamei told San José Spotlight during her election night party at Mextizo restaurant. “We worked really, really hard and feeling very, very good.”

If Kamei maintains more than 50% of the vote, she will replace Vice Mayor Chappie Jones who terms out of the seat at the end of the year. The district is surrounded by Sunnyvale, Campbell, Saratoga and Cupertino—encompassing the Winchester neighborhoods and Santana Row to the north all the way down to the Westgate area.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee, one of Kamei’s early endorsers, stopped by Kamei’s watch party to celebrate her lead. He said her election means seeing San Jose have some Asian and Pacific Islander representation on the City Council – something it does not currently have.

“The lack of API representation in our county and in our city is clearly ridiculous, so this is something that is long overdue,” Lee said. “But her winning is not only good for the Asian population, but for everyone.”

Lee, who has been friends with Kamei for more than 20 years, said her projected win is a a benefit to San Jose because Kamei is someone with “high integrity, passion, and simply a very good person.”

Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee fist bumps Rosemary Kamei at her watch party at Mextizo restaurant. Photo by Jana Kadah

The election in District 1 is unique in that it could shift the power dynamic of the San Jose City Council. Jones, a former Apple executive, has aligned with the business faction often voting with Mayor Sam Liccardo. The mayor lost his narrow 6-5 majority when labor-friendly Councilmember David Cohen flipped the District 4 seat in 2020.

Kamei, 63, is endorsed by many labor-leaning and progressive candidates and organizations such as the South Bay Labor Council, Congressman Ro Khanna and state Asm. Evan Low.  Though, she wouldn’t define herself that way – pointing to endorsements from the vice mayor and the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors that typically support more moderate candidates. Kamei has a long history in public service as well, serving on Morgan Hill’s Planning Commission and the Valley Water board of directors.

Synder, 52, on the other hand, is new to the political arena. She has not held public office but has sat on the D1 Leadership Group, D1 Decides Participatory Budgeting Committee and on the city’s arts committee. She is the more moderate, business-leaning Democrat with endorsements from Silicon Valley Biz PAC, former Councilmember Johnny Khamis and mayoral candidate and Councilmember Dev Davis.

Snyder did not respond to requests for comment.

Gildersleeve, 60, quietly joined the race and has not made the same campaign efforts as his competitors. He has unsuccessfully sought a number of local and state campaigns since 2014. He is a registered as No Party Preference and has not received any endorsements.

Kamei had raised $87,8000 as of June 3, while Snyder raised $40,500 during the same time period.

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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