Green Party candidate Jake Tonkel has jumped into the San Jose City Council race in District 6, forcing incumbent Dev Davis to fend off two challengers in her re-election bid next fall.
“I want to ensure our city is moving forward in a way that addresses income inequality,” Tonkel, 28, told San José Spotlight. “My generation is being eaten up by it and it’s not just me. Our seniors are being pushed out of their homes. It’s hard to see that happen in a city that I love.”
Tonkel, a biomedical engineer, has never run for political office before and taking on a prominent incumbent like Davis is an uphill battle. His strategy? “Work hard and listen to people,” he said. “The hope is that by working hard and showing people I’m willing to work hard as a candidate that they’ll support me in March.”
Davis, who eked out seven other heavy-hitters in a crowded 2016 primary election, said her path to re-election will be “very similar to my first campaign.” Davis, a first-term councilwoman, last year left the Republican party over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and now identifies as no-party preference.
“I took it very seriously and I worked very hard and I plan to make sure people know about the things we’ve accomplished in our first term,” Davis said, pointing to improvements in city parks, streets, libraries and plans to break ground on a new, long-awaited fire station.
“I respect the Democratic process,” she added. “Everyone has a right to run.”
Tonkel joins transportation activist Andrew Boone, 40, who declared his intent to run for the Willow Glen district, in April. Tonkel says he’ll focus his campaign on environmental justice, sustainable housing and transportation. He’s also been a vocal supporter of creating public banking policies.
“The burden of climate destruction and pollution historically falls on low-income communities and they’re the ones we need to empower to make a difference,” Tonkel said. “You walk into wealthy communities and they have Teslas and solar panels. If we don’t address that we won’t hit the goals regardless of how pretty the (climate action) plan is.”
San Jose voters next year will elect representatives for the city’s even-numbered districts — 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. District 10 is the only open seat after Councilmember Johnny Khamis terms out and no candidates have yet declared their intention to challenge District 8 Councilmember Sylvia Arenas.
In addition to Boone and Tonkel, other names floated as possible candidates in the District 6 race included housing Commissioner Alex Shoor.
But Shoor told San José Spotlight he will not challenge Davis next year. Instead, Shoor said he’ll focus on building up the organization he co-founded, Catalyze SV, to help cities “improve the community engagement process around development so we can get more housing and better development built here.”
“As a San Jose community advocate, I always start from the place of asking ‘How can I best help people?'” Shoor said. “Someday, the answer could be through serving as a public official, maybe on City Council. But that day is not now. I appreciate the folks who have talked with me about running for San Jose City Council in 2020. But I believe I can best serve my community right now in other ways.”
The San Jose City Council elections are less than a year away — March 2020 — because of the state’s earlier presidential primary. District 6 spans Willow Glen, The Alameda and the Rose Garden.
Contact Ramona Giwargis at [email protected] or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.