San Jose councilmember is losing to challenger
Bien Doan is beating District 7 Councilmember Maya Esparza. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

    Last updated 5 p.m. on Tuesday. The next update is 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

    In a surprising twist on election night, San Jose Councilmember Maya Esparza appears to be losing her reelection bid to challenger Bien Doan.

    Doan leads with 53.6% of the vote, or 8,865 votes. Esparza has 46.3% of the vote, or 7,654 votes. The race for District 7 is a battle for representation in one of the city’s most diverse districts. Approximately 90% of ballots have been counted.

    Doan’s supporter celebrate as a win looks likely. Applause broke out as Doan called out different supporters for their campaigning and phone-banking efforts. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

    Doan’s party turned festive and applause broke out as Doan called out different supporters for their campaigning and phone-banking efforts.

    “Anyone in our community, whether or not they contributed in big or small ways, I am very grateful,” Doan said in Vietnamese.

    Dozens of Doan’s supporters gathered at a local event space, conversing boisterously while snacking on eggrolls, noodles and fruit. A few supporters whooped as Doan retained his lead ahead of Esparza.

    “I feel very, very confident that our voice is being heard, our community voice is being heard,” Doan told San José Spotlight. “I ask that all of you continue this course to support our community, to make it better each day and I will need everyone’s support to make a difference.”

    Quynh Mai, founder of the Vietnamese American Organization, has been volunteering with Doan’s campaign. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

    Quynh Mai, founder of the Vietnamese American Organization, mingled with other supporters at Doan’s party. Mai has been volunteering with Doan’s campaign and said if Doan is elected, he should work closely with community organizations.

    “I think it’s very important to have a representative from the Asian American community to represent our voice,” Mai told San José Spotlight.

    Esparza’s supporters gathered at the San Jose Firefighters Local 230 Union Hall, chatting while snacking on a spread that included wings, ribs, corn and cookies. Music pumped in the background and some partygoers even broke out a few dance moves.

    Esparza declined comment after the first round of results at 8 p.m. showed her opponent leading by 10 points.

    The district, which is home to the San Jose Giants’ AAA team near Kelley Park as well as business and community hub Vietnam Town, has a voter base that is about 47% Asian and 37% Latino following last year’s redrawing of political boundaries. A victory for Doan could address the lack of political representation for the Vietnamese community in San Jose despite the city’s significant population.

    Esparza held a strong lead in the June primary, earning 47.5% of the vote as opposed Doan’s 28.7%.

    District 7 Councilmember Maya Esparza waits with her supporters at the San Jose Firefighters Local 230 Union for voting results. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

    Esparza is running for a second term after unseating former Councilmember Tam Nguyen in a victory for Latino representation in 2018. During her tenure, she addressed public safety through more police patrols and funded infrastructure projects including street improvements, new trails and a new garden program at the Vietnamese Heritage Garden. Esparza is a former nonprofit director at Destination: Home and former Franklin-McKinley school board trustee.

    As of Sept. 30, Esparza raised $65,418 in funding for the general election and scored endorsements from the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, the South Bay Labor Council, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and San Jose Firefighters Local 230.

    Doan, 57, was the first Vietnamese American fire captain in San Jose and remains an active member in the Vietnamese community. His priorities include addressing homelessness by pushing the state to spread affordable housing across the city, as opposed to lower-income districts like District 7, and targeting crime by increasing staff at the San Jose Police Department.

    As of Sept. 30, he’s raised $77,342 in funding for the general election and received endorsements from former District 7 Councilmember Tam Nguyen, former San Jose Councilmember and county supervisor candidate Johnny Khamis, the Silicon Valley Biz PAC and Common Good Silicon Valley PAC.

    This story will be updated.

    Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.

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