In a stunning move Sunday night, a leading Evergreen education leader revoked her endorsement of San Jose City Councilmember Sylvia Arenas, who is facing re-election in 2020.
Evergreen School Board President Bonnie Mace announced she’s withdrawing her support for Arenas and opting instead for a sole endorsement of her challenger Jim Zito, also an Evergreen school board trustee. Mace had initially endorsed Arenas before Zito jumped into the race last month. She then expanded it to a dual endorsement, a somewhat unusual decision given the stark differences between the two candidates.
But Mace on Sunday said she decided to switch to a sole endorsement because Zito is the better candidate.
“I originally endorsed Councilmember Arenas at an earlier time when there was no opponent,” Mace said. “Now that Mr. Zito is a candidate, I have decided that he is a better choice for voters and therefore I am only endorsing him and am revoking my earlier endorsement of Councilmember Arenas.”
Arenas could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday.
Mace said Zito has been a strong advocate for District 8 residents, students and families for 25 years and has the “breadth and depth of experience needed to be effective as a councilmember.”
Mace’s decision to rescind the endorsement is a blow to Arenas, a labor-friendly lawmaker who touted Mace’s backing as a sign that she can work across the political aisle with more moderate business leaders and those with differing political ideology.
Arenas, a Democrat was elected in 2016, will face off with Zito, a Republican, in the March 3 primary election.
In addition to the now sole endorsement of Mace, Zito has the backing of Mayor Sam Liccardo, former Mayor Chuck Reed, San Jose Councilmember Johnny Khamis, former Evergreen School District trustee Balaji Venkatraman as well as the Silicon Valley Organization PAC and Business San Jose Chamber PAC.
Mace on Sunday pointed to Zito’s leadership with the district budget, improving student performance, passing several bonds and parcel taxes, hiring a new superintendent and finding solutions to the district’s declining enrollment.
“He has been a reliable, stable and courageous voice of advocacy in our community, willing to stand up to special interests and do the right thing for our families and residents,” she said. “I have found him to be a good listener and always willing to spend the hours needed to make good decisions for our community.”
Arenas, also a former Evergreen School District trustee, has secured endorsements from her council colleagues, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilmembers Raul Peralez, Maya Esparza, Sergio Jimenez and Magdalena Carrasco, along with California Sen. Jim Beall, Assemblyman Ash Kalra and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese.
“I’m honored by the groundswell of support that my campaign has received from Evergreen families and San Jose community leaders,” Arenas said in September when announcing her re-election bid.
Evergreen School District Board Trustee Christopher Corpus has endorsed both Arenas and Zito.