One month after the June primary election, the San Jose mayoral race is already heating up, with candidates taking jabs at each other.
This week, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez sent a campaign email to supporters with a video accusing her opponent, San Jose Councilmember Matt Mahan, of being inconsistent in his support for women’s rights. The one-minute video crafted by her campaign says while Mahan has voiced support for a women’s right to abortion during his campaign, he remained neutral a few years earlier while CEO of Causes and Brigade in 2014.
But Mahan says the video is intentionally misleading and dirty politics. He sent a letter to Chavez on Friday asking her to redact the statement and inviting her to debate.
“I was really disappointed,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “I just think San Jose deserves better than more toxic politics that attempt to mislead voters.”
He said he’s always supported a woman’s right to choose, and it was his company that remained neutral.
“I ran a technology company that sought to bring people together to discuss and debate issues openly, to form their own opinions. To then organize with like-minded people around the policies and candidates they support,” Mahan said. “I think it would have been incredibly inappropriate and undermining of our democracy for us, as a communications platform, to censor views we don’t agree with.”
But Chavez said there is nothing dirty or misleading about shedding light on a candidate’s past.
“How one comports themselves in their business environment, that’s part of your history,” Chavez told San José Spotlight. “Councilmember Mahan says over and over again he is so suited to be the mayor of San Jose because he’s got this tremendous business background. And because of that, I think it’s worth taking a look at that business background.”
She said for issues as pressing as abortion, it is essential to stand firm and many companies have—pointing to Uber, Lyft and Levi Strauss. Chavez herself has led recent efforts to fund abortion services in Santa Clara County related to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that guaranteed the right to abortions for close to 50 years. The Supreme Court overturned the law on June 24.
Running for mayor
Though both are democrats, Mahan and Chavez will face off in the November election to replace San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who terms out this year.
Mahan has won endorsements and support from the business community, including the Silicon Valley Biz PAC and billionaire real estate developer John Sobrato. He has also been endorsed by former Federal Election Commission chair Ann Ravel. While Liccardo has not endorsed a successor, his political action committee has poured a considerable amount of money into supporting Mahan.
Chavez has won major endorsements from the South Bay Labor Council, the San Jose Police Officers’ Association and Bloom Energy executive Carl Guardino—a close friend of Liccardo. She has also received a staggering amount of support from San Francisco 49ers football team executives, who endorsed her campaign and plugged $300,000 into an independent expenditure committee.
Chavez’s campaign has captured the lion’s share of money raised by political action committees, raking in $1.1 million. Mahan has received more than $295,000 as of the June 7 election. Special interest groups spent $2.3 million on Silicon Valley candidates this primary, making it one of the most expensive elections in recent history.
Chavez said there are already more than 20 debates lined up between her and Mahan in the next few months, and is looking forward to those events.
However, she does not have any intention to respond to Mahan’s letter or redact her statements.
“It’s a stunt and I am not going to respond to the stunt,” Chavez said. “If he’s ashamed of that record, really only he can answer to that, but this is his record.”
Mahan said Chavez is using the abortion topic to distract from her own record.
“I get it, it’s hard to defend 20 years in office when she can’t say that crime is down on her watch or homelessness has gotten better or housing is more affordable,” Mahan said. “So I think what she’s doing here is resorting to false attacks.”
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.