Ruben Navarro said he doesn’t mind having the odds stacked against him — he’s been “fighting those odds” his whole life.
Now, Navarro, along with Jake Tonkel and Marshall Woodmansee, is challenging Councilmember Dev Davis for the San Jose City Council District 6 seat, which covers Willow Glen and the Rose Garden. His launch into politics came in 2016, when Davis knocked on his door looking for support — and he felt she wasn’t the best candidate to represent his district. He finished fourth that year in a crowded race of eight candidates running for the open seat.
Although he didn’t win then, he brought issues to bear such as housing and the homeless.
“People like me don’t lose a race,” Navarro said. “People like me change the topics and the talking points.”
Navarro has advocated for the district he’s lived in for 40 years. He volunteers at Sacred Heart and motivates his neighbors to give back — for example, by supplying food for those displaced by the Coyote Creek flood and selling hot chocolate and cookies to raise $1,000 for the family of a young shooting victim.
“When people are impacted, my wife, Olivia, and I rush to help them,” Navarro said. “It’s who we are. I tell my kids that they are lucky, but others need help.”
Navarro grew up poor. As a child, he remembers other kids having new shoes at school, but his mother couldn’t afford them. Although his family struggled, he was inspired by the pastor of his church and local park namesake, Father Mateo Sheedy, to give back.
“It has to do with the people who supported us,” Navarro said. “As a little kid, I remember eating at Martha’s Kitchen, and when I finished my shift at Sacred Heart, they’d say, ‘Here, take some food home.’”
According to recent financial disclosures, Navarro has raised a little more than $1,800 for his campaign.
Navarro said knowing his district has been the key to bringing people together to find solutions for the city’s most pressing problems.
With the wealth and economic disparity of Silicon Valley increasingly driving families out of the area, Navarro thinks the city should partner with schools and businesses to help students prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.
Navarro’s fight for working families is one of the reasons San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra supports him.
“Ruben really focuses on serving the community,” Kalra said. “We engage the working class who find it hard to survive in this valley. To have a voice like that in District 6 is critical because it’s neighborhoods like those Ruben’s from that are often forgotten.”
When Navarro joined San Jose’s Housing and Community Development Commission, his first question was, “Why aren’t we preventing people from becoming homeless?”
Navarro believes that rather than try to build itself out of the housing crisis, the city should focus on keeping people housed.
“I don’t know why we don’t invest more in homeless prevention programs,” Navarro said. “Data shows that with a few investments, you can help thousands of people. Once we decrease the number (of people) going homeless, we can help those living on our streets.”
Longtime Democratic activist Gina Gates is impressed Navarro garnered so much support on a shoestring budget.
“It’s because he’s legit,” Gates said. “When you see Ruben, it’s like the people are speaking. It’s important we get a councilmember in that district who makes sensible housing decisions.”
As a rental property owner and a previously unhoused person, Navarro said he understands both sides of the housing issue. Navarro is also concerned about the jobs-housing imbalance, transportation and infrastructure.
He believes telecommuting is one answer to getting cars off the street, but realizes that for some, driving is a necessity. “For blue collar workers with trucks or parents that drive their kids to school, public transportation isn’t feasible,” he said. “Let’s make sure we don’t forget about them when we’re deciding on infrastructure.”
Navarro wants to ensure the city hires more police officers and curtail the exodus of police officers who go to neighboring cities for better pay and benefits.
“San Jose is known as a training center,” he said. “You learn your skill and go to work for a city that pays more. That has to stop.”
Navarro said he knows how to get things done, despite jumping into the race late, and has knocked on 15,000 doors since January.
“I’ve been part of the community for many, many years,” Navarro said. “I got involved in politics to take that to the next level. Let’s go make some history.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]
Name: Ruben Navarro
Family: Married, three kids: Elijah, Delilah, Isaiah “Sebastian”
Political affiliation: Democrat
Education: Santa Clara University Combined Sciences degree (Pre-Med)
Profession: Tech Sales (developed passion for tech while studying for mcat)
Current or previous elected or appointed positions: San Jose housing commissioner, Democratic Party Central Committee Delegate, Willow Glen Police Activities League Commissioner
Top 3 priorities: Housing, public safety, economic development
Top 3 endorsements: Assemblymembers Ash Karla and Evan Low, and the Santa Clara County Democratic Party.
Special talent: Communication
In one sentence, why vote for you? “I’m the people-first candidate.”