San Jose lawmaker running for county supervisor
San Jose Councilmember Sylvia Arenas is pictured in this file photo.

San Jose Councilmember Sylvia Arenas is running for Santa Clara County District 1 supervisor, campaign filings show.

The newly drawn District 1 expanded during a contentious redistricting process to include San Jose neighborhoods like Evergreen and Silver Creek—the area Arenas currently represents on the City Council—allowing her to throw her hat into the race. District 1 no longer encompasses Almaden Valley or Los Gatos, but still maintains the cities of Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy.

“San Jose and south county families need a passionate advocate on the Board of Supervisors, a tireless fighter for the needs of our most vulnerable women and children, someone who is ready to go from Day 1 to serve in this critical role,” Arenas said. “That’s why I’m running, and why I’m confident that the voters will again put their faith in my dedicated service to our community.”

Before the redistricting, Arenas would’ve fallen into District 3. The redrawn region gives Arenas and other potential South San Jose candidates an advantage because now two out of every three district residents is in San Jose. A quarter of likely voters in the district are also in Arena’s city council district alone, according to her office.

The District 1 race is one of the most contended, as it has the most candidates running including former San Jose Councilmember Johnny Khamis, Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine and Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee Claudia Rossi.

District demographics have changed to create a more equal balance of white, Latino and Asian residents, which gives labor-leaning candidates a better chance to win the seat, retired SJSU political science professor Terry Christensen said.

“Arenas has got a pretty strong base in Evergreen,” Christensen told San José Spotlight. “But another Latina in the race could split that vote between (Arenas and Rossi) so I think it will be a tight race.”

However, he also said conservative voices still have a good chance at representing the district, noting that parts of Silver Creek and The Villages, for example, vote more conservatively.

“Those are relatively conservative districts, but the population of those areas is way smaller than the Almaden Valley or the town of Los Gatos,” he said, noting there’s still a base for Khamis, who’s moving back into the district to stay in the race after being drawn out in the redistricting process.

Los Gatos Mayor Rob Rennie, who was also running for District 1 supervisor, ended his campaign after his town was drawn out and placed in District 5. He told San José Spotlight his biggest concern with the new District 1 is it has a much larger portion of San Jose than it did previously.

“A lot of people in South County told me they fear they will be left behind with more of San Jose in the district and having more San Jose people run,” Rennie said.

Christensen, however, said while South County and South San Jose constituencies and interests may differ, what will be most important is how the future supervisor is able to deliver services to those residents.

“(Current District 1 Supervisor) Mike Wasserman is from Los Gatos and he was a good supervisor for South County and paid significant attention to Morgan Hill and Gilroy, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much,” Christensen said. “I understand why people might, but I wouldn’t.”

During her time on council, Arenas has championed a myriad of social services and policies best exemplified by her efforts to launch San Jose’s Family Friendly Initiative, which works to increase access to early education, after school programs, safe housing and paid family leave. In her councilmember bio, Arenas also points to her work to reform the city’s response to rising rates of sexual assaults and improve public safety.

“She’s created a platform for herself on social service issues and that is what county does, so it’s a pretty logical move for her,” Christensen said.

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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