San Jose candidates raise—and spend—big ahead of primary election
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez is pictured in this file photo.

With ballots going out to voters in about a week, San Jose candidates across six races have collectively raised more than $3 million in an election year set to be the most expensive in the city’s history.

In the most high profile race, replacing terming-out Mayor Sam Liccardo, four frontrunning mayoral candidates have raked in more than $2.2 million since last December, according to recent campaign filings—with Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez leading the pack with more than $810,000. Chavez has loaned her campaign $20,000.

“I am humbled to have the outpouring of support from residents throughout each neighborhood in San Jose,” Chavez said in a statement. “It’s a signal that voters are looking for a mayor who has the experience to solve our issues of housing, public safety and homelessness.”

San Jose Councilmember Matt Mahan, who led early fundraising efforts in January, came in a close second with roughly $804,000. Mahan, who lists billionaire real estate developer John Sobrato among his supporters, gave a $10,000 personal contribution to his campaign last year.

“I’m excited about how many people contributed and how many people have hosted house parties and put out lawn signs,” Mahan told San José Spotlight, adding more than 1,500 individuals have contributed to his campaign. “There’s a lot of grassroots energy.”

The two candidates have also doled out big bucks to make sure voters know their names. Chavez, a labor-backed candidate, has spent roughly $268,000 this year—including $60,000 on polling, another $60,000 on a campaign consultant and roughly $15,000 on advertising her campaign in Vietnamese-speaking media. Chavez has more than $550,000 in cash on hand.

Mahan has spent more than $285,000 this year to reach voters of all demographics. His campaign reports more than $488,000 in cash on hand.

Councilmember Raul Peralez, supported by several council colleagues, has raised $376,000 since December. His campaign has spent roughly $166,000 this year, including more than $10,000 on TV ads set to air next week. He said a recent fundraiser celebrating his birthday added a big boost to his campaign. Peralez is loaning his campaign $500 and still has $198,000 in cash on hand.

“We’re certainly not up as high as Cindy Chavez or Matt Mahan, but we’ve got sufficient resources to be able to finish up the campaign,” Peralez told San José Spotlight. “I am feeling very good about our race and how things are starting to speed up.”

Backed by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, Councilmember Dev Davis has raised $294,00. Davis, whose campaign has spent roughly $115,000 this year, said she’s happy with the current momentum. She’s loaned her campaign $20,000 and still has $137,000 in cash on hand.

“This election is not necessarily about the dollars—it’s really about the support of the individual voters,” Davis told San José Spotlight. “I’m comfortable with having made my own plan and working my own campaign in the way I see fit.”

San Jose mayoral candidates Jim Spence and Marshall Woodmansee did not disclose any campaign filings.

Financial support to schools’ trustee in West San Jose

The fight to to replace Vice Mayor Chappie Jones to represent West San Jose is also heating up. Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee Rosemary Kamei has raised more than $70,000 in financial support since she jumped in the race in January. Kamei loaned herself $10,000.

Community leader Ramona Snyder has brought in roughly $38,000, including a $10,000 loan, since last December.

Non-politicos break ahead in the downtown race

In the contested race to represent downtown San Jose, business owner Irene Smith continues to be the frontrunner in fundraising, raking in roughly $93,000 since last December. She loaned herself $10,000. Attorney Joanna Rauh, who officially jumped into the race early March, came in second place after raising more than $85,000 in less than two months—$40,000 of which came from Rauh’s personal contribution and loan to her campaign.

San Jose-Evergreen Community College District trustee Omar Torres has raised more than $58,000 since he jumped in the race. Intellectual property attorney Elizabeth Chien-Hale has brought in $33,000, including a $10,500 loan, since last December. Health care worker Ivan Torres did not report his campaign finances.

An influx of cash in East San Jose

In East San Jose, Planning Commissioner and District 5 candidate Rolando Bonilla has brought in roughly $164,000 in financial contributions since last year, dwarfing his opponents’ fundraising efforts.

“This campaign has been built on the idea of hard work and dedication to community,” Bonilla told San José Spotlight. “The voters in District 5 are clearly energized not only by our vision, but also by the fact that we’re actually backing it up with work.”

Bonilla, entangled in scandal since 20-year old allegations of domestic abuse resurfaced, is facing calls to step out of the race—but he said his campaign continues to push forward.

Four other candidates are also running to replace Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco who terms out at the end of this year.

Nora Campos, a former assemblymember who previously held the District 5 council seat, came in second place in fundraising with $97,700. Peter Ortiz, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Education, has raised $64,220. Andres Quintero, president of the Alum Rock Union School District board, has brought in roughly $56,000. Community leader HG Nguyen didn’t disclose any campaign donations.

District 7 challenger gains momentum

In District 7, incumbent Councilmember Maya Esparza is facing two Vietnamese challengers. East Side Union High School District board member Van Le continues to dominate in fundraising efforts, bringing in more than $113,000 in contributions since December. Le’s $20,000 loan also helped put her well ahead of the incumbent, whose campaign has raised roughly $91,000 so far.

“I think it shows that people do want me to succeed this time,” Le told San José Spotlight, referring to several failed attempts in running for San Jose City Hall. “I have never raised this much money in the past, but we have worked very hard and the community is giving me a chance.”

San Jose fire captain Bien Doan has raised roughly $79,000 since December. He loaned his campaign $20,000.

District 9 Councilmember Pam Foley, who’s running unopposed for reelection, has raised roughly $54,000 since last December.

The primary election is June 7. Ballots are scheduled to go out to voters May 9.

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter. 

Editor’s Note: Perla Rodriguez, spouse of District 5 candidate Rolando Bonilla, sits on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.

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