The last time Ruben Navarro ran for San Jose City Council, he was late to announce, raised a meager $3,000 and won no major endorsements. Political analysts predicted he’d finish dead last.
Yet he finished fourth in a crowded race of eight viable candidates vying for the open District 6 seat. That was 2016, and now Navarro is ready to do it again — he is joining the race to replace Councilmember Dev Davis next year.
“People want more accountability, they want more of a voice and I want to get that accomplished,” Navarro told San José Spotlight on Tuesday.
Navarro, who works in tech sales, has lived in the district on and off for nearly three decades. After his 2016 loss, he remained involved in the community, winning election to the Santa Clara County Democratic Party’s central committee and serving on the city’s housing and community development commission.
What inspired him to run in 2016 was a knock on his door — from another District 6 candidate. He felt that candidate was out of touch with the needs of the community, and decided to jump in. Four years later, Navarro said, those same issues still plague the city — and many of the problems, such as the homeless and housing crises and traffic woes, have only gotten worse.
“Nothing has changed from the time I ran,” he said. “That’s why I’m here again.”
Navarro will face three other candidates hoping to unseat Davis: Jake Tonkel, Marshall Woodmansee and Andrew Boone. His jump into the race could split the vote during the March primary and force Davis, a former Republican and business-friendly lawmaker, into a runoff.
“With Navarro jumping in, it certainly does raise the risk she fails to cross the 50% threshold in March, mainly because more candidates raise the prospects of a splintered vote,” said Garrick Percival, a San Jose State University Political Science professor. “As his second run, Navarro should carry higher name recognition which could help him. On the downside, he’s entering very late, making fundraising difficult.”
But the bigger factor in determining Navarro’s success, Percival said, is likely going to be the surge in turnout.
“The March primary is likely going to drive a lot of Democratic leaning voters to the polls,” he added. “Although, Davis has renounced her Republican Party affiliation, her past association with the party may hurt her in the primary, as left leaning voters look for a clear alternative. All this adds to her challenge of securing a new term in the March primary.”
Davis said Navarro’s announcement doesn’t change her campaign strategy.
“I plan on winning the primary in March and continuing to serve the residents of District 6,” Davis said. “I welcome anyone into the democratic process.”
Navarro said political insiders are already dismissing his candidacy — just like they did in 2016. Once again, he’s entering the race late and doesn’t expect to get any major funding or endorsements, and this time he is facing a popular incumbent.
“It’s an uphill battle, but not one I’m afraid of. I will overcome the obstacles the same way I did last time — by knocking on doors,” Navarro said. “I put so much work into knocking on every single door, no matter what their political stance on issues were. It was because I sincerely want to help my community.”
Navarro said he’ll set himself apart from the challengers and offer an alternative to Davis by running a community-focused, grassroots campaign. As the only person of color in the race, he is also expected to garner the Latino vote.
“What I attribute to my success is my ability to relate to people from all walks of life,” he said. “I grew up in the community, I experienced what it is to sleep in your car because you don’t have a home and have five dollars to your name – do you spend it on gas or do you spend it on food? When I talk to people, I’m able to relate to them.”
Contact Ramona Giwargis at [email protected] or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.