San Jose mayor meets opponent over dinner
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan and Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez at a candidate forum hosted by San José Spotlight in September 2022. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    Two Silicon Valley political opponents met for dinner last week without staff or any public agenda.

    San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan and Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, his former opponent for the seat, dined for more than an hour at downtown eatery Original Joe’s on Jan. 30. Mahan ate ravioli and Chavez had a salad, but the main course was what they discussed.

    “We don’t have the luxury of bickering or continuing the campaign,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “I think Supervisor Chavez and I both realized that we’ve got to work together now because our community needs us to work together and deliver results.”

    Entry from San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan’s public calendar showing a dinner meeting with Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

    Mahan said they talked about homelessness, as well as the jail, behavioral health and foster care systems. Chavez said the conversation also focused on transportation because the state is making cutbacks on some investments in public projects. San Jose and the county should be prepared to apply for more state and federal funding because there will be more agencies competing for that money, she said. Both sit on the VTA board of directors and Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

    “There was some urgency on the transportation (issue) because there’s some decisions that are going to be made over the next six months to a year that are going to be very important in terms of positioning San Jose, Santa Clara County and VTA to receive resources to complete all of our transit projects,” Chavez told San José Spotlight.

    Mahan said he asked the supervisor to join one of his transition committees, but she declined due to scheduling conflicts. The committees are filled with residents, local leaders and community stakeholders who will discuss and set measurable goals to solve the city’s top problems. Chavez reached out to Mahan for the dinner in lieu of his offer, the mayor said.

    Sources speculate Chavez may have met with Mahan to give him a heads up on a potential run for the mayor’s seat in 2024. Several insiders told San José Spotlight Chavez has been meeting with donors to ask for money ahead of another campaign.

    Chavez said it was not campaign related. When asked if she plans to run for mayor again in 2024, she said she’s “not prepared to answer that question.”

    Mahan and Chavez competed in an expensive and close election, with the count taking an additional week to determine a winner. Despite her more than 20 years of experience, name recognition, support from local, state and federal leaders and millions of dollars to propel her campaign, Chavez conceded defeat to Mahan eight days after the election, short by roughly 6,000 votes.

    The race was fueled by more than $5 million in outside spending from special interests and record campaign donations—making it the most expensive competition in San Jose’s history. Chavez captured the lion’s share of special interest spending, with $3.4 million from the San Francisco 49ers, police union and other political action committees. Mahan’s campaign received roughly $1.7 million from groups like Common Good Silicon Valley and the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors.

    An analysis of voter data by San José Spotlight found Mahan secured a path to victory by mobilizing his base and reaching into areas on both sides of Highway 101 that Chavez won in the June primary. Low voter turnout in areas supporting Chavez also helped Mahan’s campaign, whose supporters showed up to polls on Election Day in larger numbers.

    Chavez has a better chance of winning the mayor’s race in 2024 because voter turnout is higher in general elections, political analysts previously told San José Spotlight.

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

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