The amount of funds flooding into San Jose’s mayoral race is breaking the record books—with almost $2.4 million spent in special interest money to date.
With a little over a month before San Jose elects its next mayor, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and San Jose Councilmember Matt Mahan are locked in a hotly contested—and expensive—race. The two candidates have collectively raised $1.78 million since June to fuel their campaigns, with Mayor Sam Liccardo terming out at the end of the year.
Six political action committees (PACs) are pouring money into Chavez’s fight to be the mayor of the nation’s 10th largest city. The PACs—including those backed by labor and police unions, the San Francisco 49ers football team and former Bloom Energy executive Carl Guardino—show Chavez outpacing Mahan. Collectively, they have spent more than $563,000 in the last three months for Chavez—and more than $1.6 million since December.
“I have a really strong cross section of the community. I have support from the environmental community, the labor community, nonprofit leaders from the business sector,” Chavez told San José Spotlight. “The reason that I’m working so hard to have all of that varied support is because the best way that a mayor can lead San Jose is with deep and meaningful relationships across all spectrums.”
Mahan has the backing of two PACs—Common Good Silicon Valley, a PAC formed by outgoing Mayor Sam Liccardo, and the Silicon Valley Biz PAC. Both have spent $358,000 to boost his campaign in the last three months. In total, Mahan’s campaign has received more than $718,000 since December.
Despite being outspent by special interests, Mahan, for the first time in this election cycle, has out-fundraised Chavez by almost $150,000. He has raised $969,000 and spent more than $592,000 as of Sept. 30. Chavez has raised close to $820,000 and spent more than $541,000 on her campaign.
Mahan has criticized Chavez for the big dollars supporting her campaign—especially from the 49ers and developer DeBartolo Corporation who have funneled $420,000 into a PAC. He also sent an email to residents arguing the DeBartolo Corporation is backed by former President Donald Trump because one member of the DeBartolo family, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the 49ers, was pardoned by Trump for a bribery scandal.
“What concerns me is the last minute flood of special interest money going to my opponent. I think it distorts the democratic process,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “I don’t think that billion dollar companies write $400,000 checks just because they feel like it. I think they think they’re getting something in return. That’s the kind of pay-to-play politics that erodes public trust in our system.”
Chavez responded that Mahan is making this claim to distract voters from the right-wing support his campaign has received, noting his endorsement from the Silicon Valley Association of Republican Women. Mahan said he never sought out the endorsement, so it’s not a fair comparison.
Chavez supported by 49ers, labor and mystery PACs
There is no denying Chavez’s campaign has received the lion’s share of PAC spending. In the primary season alone, $1.1 million went toward supporting Chavez. That has only gone up since June.
The heavy hitter is the PAC backed by the 49ers football team and developer DeBartolo Corporation, which hashed out $420,000 in TV ads to support Chavez—and spent it all on Thursday.
“We’re proud to continue our support of Supervisor Chavez, and are confident in her unwavering leadership on pressing issues like housing affordability and public safety that will put San Jose, and the greater South Bay, in a position to succeed for years to come,” Rahul Chandhok, spokesman for the team, told San José Spotlight.
The South Bay Labor Council also doled out a notable amount to support Chavez’s campaign. It has spent more than $48,000 on mailers, phonebanking and field expenses since December.
“A Better Way San Jose, sponsored by San Jose Police Officers’ Association” PAC has spent more than $24,500 on mailers and polling to support Chavez. The PAC, formed in May, is funded by San Jose’s police union, the Santa Clara County Government Attorneys’ Association and the Association of Retired San Jose Police Officers and Firefighters PAC.
In the last three months, a new PAC has formed to support her campaign called “Neighbors for a Diverse Community Supporting Cindy Chavez for San Jose Mayor 2022.” It’s unclear who is behind the PAC which has only one contribution—a $50,000 donation from Assemblymember Evan Low. He told San José Spotlight he is not involved with the PAC, nor does he know who formed it. He was simply asked to donate and so he did. He declined to say who asked him to donate.
“(I supported because) it’s been 24 years since we’ve had a female mayor in the city of San Jose,” Low told San José Spotlight. “Cindy has always been a champion in ensuring that the city has an opportunity to uplift voices for all people from Asian Pacific Islanders, Latinos and the Chinese community, the Black community, every single community.”
Low also donated $25,000 to another PAC, called “San Jose Together, Supporting Cindy Chavez for Mayor 2022,” which doled out a little more than $38,000 in total.
It’s also unclear who runs the PAC called “Neighbors Together Supporting Cindy Chavez for Mayor 2022,” though it lists the same officer as the South Bay Labor Council PAC. It spent $32,000 in support of Chavez’s campaign.
Mahan backed by developers, tech execs and investors
The two PACs supporting Mahan’s campaign have taken a different approach than the ones behind Chavez. They have spent more than $358,000 collectively to conduct opposition research and polls against Chavez.
The Silicon Valley Biz PAC, which did not spend money in the primary election, dished out $108,000 this year. About $2,000 was spent to create a website filled with information about Chavez’s campaign filings, voting record, personal history and more. The PAC also spent $20,000 on digital ads to oppose Chavez.
“We’re gonna continue that,” Silicon Valley Biz PAC’s Victor Gomez told San José Spotlight. “This is a critical race for the city of San Jose. You have a choice between someone new with fresh new ideas, and then you have somebody that essentially you’re living her results right now.”
The Silicon Valley Biz PAC also received a $70,000 in-kind donation from Common Good Silicon Valley with polling and opposition information.
“Our policy is to generally share resources with partners who have common goals, and that’s what we shared—polling and research (not cash) that we were going to pay for ourselves anyway,” said Jim Reed, Liccardo’s chief of staff who manages the Common Good Silicon Valley PAC. “With this approach, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
Common Good Silicon Valley, formed last year, has also been racing to spend the money Liccardo helped raise. The PAC has spent $550,000 as of Sept. 30.
“Matt Mahan had a fantastic showing in June despite an avalanche of special interest money against him,” Reed told San José Spotlight. “We expect the same efforts from the status quo in November as well, and will be doing our best to ensure a level playing field.”
Contributors to the PAC include real estate billionaire George Marcus, venture capitalist Ron Conway’s family trust, former tech executive turned investor Michael Stoppelman, entrepreneur Joseph Green, Meta executives Monika Bickert and David Wehner and Lyft executive Tali Rapaport. Each has donated at least $20,000, campaign filings show.
To follow the money in all the major Silicon Valley races, click here.
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter. Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.
Editor’s Note: Victor Gomez with the Silicon Valley Biz PAC sits on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.
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