UPDATE: San Jose mayor selects newcomer as vice mayor
Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee fist bumps Rosemary Kamei at her June 7, 2022 election watch party. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan has announced his choice for vice mayor is first-term Councilmember Rosemary Kamei, in hopes of bringing together a divided governing body.

    “San Jose residents don’t care about labels, they care about results,” Mahan said Friday. “Rosemary Kamei is collaborative, thoughtful, independent, has a ton of common sense and is a great listener. She is excited about assuming more leadership responsibilities than vice mayors traditionally have in San Jose and is committed, as I am, to putting unnecessary conflicts behind us, as we focus on driving results on homelessness, community safety and blight.”

    San Jose politics are often split between a labor-leaning, progressive faction and one that’s more business focused, which leans toward loosening rules on development and business taxes. Mahan, who typically aligns with business interests, starts his two-year term with a labor majority on the council that may hinder his ability to pass policies.

    Kamei, 63, who won her District 1 election outright in June, fills the West San Jose seat of termed-out Vice Mayor Chappie Jones.

    “I would be honored to serve as vice mayor to the San Jose community and be able to have the opportunity to bring my expertise in governance and leadership to the San Jose City Council,” Kamei said.

    Kamei considers herself a more moderate politician, who does not lean heavily on the labor or business side of the council. While she had support from Jones and the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, the rest of her endorsements in the campaign, like the South Bay Labor Council and Congressman Ro Khanna, suggest she may be more sympathetic to progressive policies.

    Her campaign was financially supported by independent expenditures from the South Bay Labor Council—the same organization that spent more than $5 million to ensure Mahan did not win the mayoral seat. But because of Kamei’s wide range of endorsements and whopping win in the primary election, she has the ability to be more independent, political observer Terry Christensen said.

    For that reason, Christensen believes it’s an unusual, but smart move to pick Kamei.

    “The vice mayor pick is always a political decision. Mayors may use their nomination to win friends, allies or maybe to promote an ally,” Christensen told San José Spotlight. “Winning an ally seems to be more the case here.”

    The mayor can choose the vice mayor, along with who chairs and sits on various city committees like the Rules and Open Government Committee, which sets the city council’s agendas. But the full council needs to vote to approve the committee appointments on Tuesday and the vice mayor nomination on Jan. 24.

    Mahan has picked only returning councilmembers to chair different committees. The rules committee—which is the most powerful committee in City Hall—will also be filled with incumbents.

    Mahan’s office said his appointments are intended to bring together the progressive faction supported by labor unions and the moderate and conservative councilmembers who are sympathetic to businesses.

    For example, District 4 Councilmember David Cohen, who is a labor-elected official who sometimes swings to the right, is his pick to chair the Rules and Open Government Committee and the Transportation and Environmental Committee.

    Key committee appointments in San Jose City Hall. Image courtesy of San Jose.

    “Returning Councilmembers Sergio Jimenez, Dev Davis, Pam Foley and David Cohen have invaluable experience that’s essential for making the progress we all want,” Mahan added. “I know that each of them is committed to moving our city forward and identifying new approaches to our greatest challenges, from homelessness to public safety.”

    Mahan enters his two-year term facing an uphill battle, where nearly all his council colleagues supported his opponent in the mayor’s race. Many of the councilmembers did not vote alongside him to hold a special election and instead chose to fill the two council seats by appointment—highlighting the challenges Mahan may have moving his policies forward.

    Mahan left five committee positions open so those who are appointed at the end of the month to fill the vacant District 8 and 10 seats can also serve on a committee.

    Christensen said the committee appointments appear to be an “olive branch” to councilmembers who did not support his mayoral bid.

    “Committee appointments are a really crucial way to build relationships, so this is a gesture in that direction,” Christensen said. “I think this is a good gesture.”

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

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