A crowd looks at a man standing at a podium
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan speaks at his March 5 primary election night party. Photo courtesy of Michael Lomio.

To no one’s surprise, San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan has secured another four years in office.

Mahan decisively won his bid for reelection with a commanding lead Tuesday — securing more than 87% of the vote. He beat Tyrone Wade, a retired marriage and family crisis counselor, who unsuccessfully challenged former Mayor Sam Liccardo in 2018. Mahan’s election night party was filled with supporters.

“It’s incredible to see immense community support for getting back to basics,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “I’m honored to continue representing our residents for the next four years.”

Mahan was elected to serve a two-year term in 2022, after residents voted to move the mayoral election to align with the presidential election to increase voter turnout. His term ends in December 2028 and he’ll be eligible to serve another four-year term.

Mahan, a business-backed moderate, faced no opposition from labor interests this election cycle and coasted to victory. He’s sticking to the message that got him elected before: back to basics.

“Our residents are overwhelmingly telling us to focus on a few core challenges: homelessness, the high cost of housing, crime and blight — and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing,” Mahan said.

Attendees of Mayor Matt Mahan’s election night watch party at Blanco Urban Venue in downtown San Jose on March 5, 2024. Photo courtesy of Tasha Dean.

In the last two years, Mahan successfully paved the way for temporary housing projects to come online, allocated $2.9 million toward creating 31 new staff positions and $1.3 million in hiring bonuses and strategies to add and retain officers. He also helped the city avoid a budget deficit by saving last year’s surplus for a rainy day.

However, his efforts have not gone unchallenged. Since becoming mayor, he’s faced a labor majority on the San Jose City Council that’s outvoted him on some key issues. The city’s largest unions almost walked off the job last year, and Mahan was the lone dissenter to the 14.5% pay raises granted. The council’s labor majority also thwarted Mahan’s biggest idea — a plan to reallocate revenue from a voter-approved measure from long-term housing to homeless shelters.

Next year may bring in more allies for Mahan. District 8 candidate Tam Truong, a moderate business-backed candidate, looks to be heading into a runoff with incumbent Domingo Candelas. District 2 Councilmember Sergio Jimenez is terming out, and business candidate Joe Lopez secured the most votes in Tuesday’s primary election. Those two races could reshape the power dynamic on council in November.

Labor leaders said their strategy is to win as many seats on the council as possible. At the end of the day, Mahan’s vote is the same as any councilmember on the dias. But if two more pro-business candidates win their races, labor could lose some of its clout. 

Jean Cohen, executive director of the South Bay Labor Council, said she is looking forward to collaborating with Mahan, but shared criticism amid his victory.

“Big city mayors need to be able to bring people together and solve problems and we haven’t seen that yet from Mayor Mahan,” Cohen told San José Spotlight. “We are hoping to see him bring people together to address our biggest challenges: resources for delivering public safety and basic services, the need for good family supporting jobs and preventing homelessness.”

Mahan will face additional challenges in the next few years as the city forecasts budget shortfalls. Programs funded by one-time infusions of federal dollars dispersed during the pandemic have been winding down over the last year. This includes partnerships with nonprofits to provide meals for people who are food insecure, rental assistance programs and early education programs. Letting these programs end will not be met without pushback.

Mahan said city officials are trying to find other ways to save dollars, including cutting long-time vacant positions. The mantra is that being leaner and focused in the next few years will pay off in the future.

“Tackling the few foundational issues our city is facing will unlock the investment potential we need to propel San Jose to be the safe, clean, housing and investment friendly city we all want to live and work in,” Mahan told San José Spotlight.

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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