The 2022 races for San Jose City Council are heating up, with seven candidates scoring endorsements from a local business-backed political action committee.
On Wednesday, the Silicon Valley Biz PAC, one of several local PACs representing business interests, announced its support for both Councilmembers Dev Davis and Matt Mahan in the contested San Jose mayoral race. It also endorses San Jose Downtown Foundation Board President Ramona Snyder for District 1, small business owner Irene Smith for District 3, San Jose Planning Commissioner Rolando Bonilla for District 5, San Jose Fire Captain Bien Doan for District 7 and Councilmember Pam Foley, who’s running uncontested for District 9.
“COVID really showed us what type of leadership the San Jose business community needs,” Victor Gomez, the PAC’s executive director, told San José Spotlight, adding many businesses in Silicon Valley have been hanging by a thread since the pandemic began. “We’re looking for candidates that certainly understand how important small business is to the San Jose community.”
The Silicon Valley Biz PAC, formed in 2019 by former members of the now-disbanded Silicon Valley Organization’s PAC, have consistently endorsed candidates with business-friendly backgrounds. The PAC endorsed Davis and Mahan in their 2020 races for City Council. In the last election cycle, Silicon Valley Biz PAC spent roughly $141,000. The PAC has raised $125,000 for this cycle so far, Gomez said.
San Jose’s City Council is bound to look different by the end of this year. The biggest seat up for grabs is mayor, as Mayor Sam Liccardo terms out.
“I’m honored to have the support of an organization that advocates tirelessly for our small and local businesses,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “As a long-time entrepreneur, I know what it will take to deliver on a common sense agenda that helps small businesses and our entire community thrive.”
Davis said the endorsement is a testament to her track record of supporting small businesses in San Jose.
“I’m really pleased that (the PAC) believes that my goal to create a safe, clean and thriving San Jose is something that they can support,” Davis told San José Spotlight. “And I’m proud of this dual endorsement.”
Five odd-numbered City Council seats are also up for election this year, as Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, Councilmembers Raul Peralez and Magdalena Carrasco term out in Districts 1, 3 and 5, respectively. Councilmember Maya Esparza is facing two Vietnamese American candidates in District 7. Foley is running uncontested.
“I’m committed to help the businesses in our city,” Foley told San José Spotlight, adding she’s received support from both sides of the aisle.
The Silicon Valley Biz PAC is also throwing its support behind candidates with little political history, such as Smith, Snyder and Doan. Gomez said the PAC did not look at candidates’ political experience in making its decision.
“Our biggest focus wasn’t necessarily on how long they’ve been elected,” Gomez said. “For us, it is about whether they would go to bat for small- and medium-sized business issues.”
For example, Bonilla’s used his platform to advocate for small businesses in East San Jose, Gomez said. Bonilla also set up a small business grant to help mom-and-pop shops weather the pandemic in early 2021.
“Our campaign is focused on bringing our city together for the benefit of our residents and ending the divisive politics that derail progress,” Bonilla told San José Spotlight.
District 1 candidate Snyder said she looks forward to making San Jose a more business-friendly city, while District 3 candidate Smith said the endorsement helps boost her campaign and solidifies her commitment to the business community.
“This is a big deal for me,” said Smith, who has little name recognition in the local political landscape.
Doan, who’s also new to the political scene in San Jose, received an endorsement because he’s able to connect with both Latino and Vietnamese business owners in District 7, Gomez said.
“This is going to be one of many endorsements for my campaign,” Doan said.
The primary election is scheduled for June 7.
Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.
Editor’s Note: Perla Rodriguez, Bonilla’s spouse, and Victor Gomez serve on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.