San Jose mayor’s race: Attack ad goes after NRA support
San Jose mayoral candidate Matt Mahan talks to supporters during an election party on June 7. Photo by Eli Wolfe.

With three months left to Election Day, the San Jose mayor’s race is taking an ugly turn.

The top two candidates, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and San Jose Councilmember Matt Mahan, have taken jabs at each other all year. Chavez questioned the political newcomer’s stance on abortion and women’s rights. Mahan challenged the veteran politician’s record and invited a debate.

Now the latest salvo comes from Chavez’s camp. Her campaign released a 30-second digital ad today calling Mahan out for pitching his tech company’s services to the National Rifle Association (NRA)—less than a year after a gunman killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. Mahan at the time served as the CEO of Causes, an online campaigning platform for people who support a common cause.

When asked on Twitter in 2013 about pitching Causes’ services to the NRA, Mahan replied, “Absolutely. We want all sides of the conversation.”

“The NRA has continuously wounded our communities by opposing common-sense safety laws, child gun locks, background checks on gun sales, secure gun storage and more,” said Brian Parvizshahi, Chavez’s campaign manager. “The revelation that Matt Mahan invited the NRA to use his tech platform is an absolute travesty.”

Parvizshahi would not disclose how much the ad cost. It will be shared digitally across the feeds of San Jose residents.

The ad begins by naming companies that cut ties with the NRA after the gun lobby killed legislation related to gun control, including Delta, United and Hertz. Then it delves into Mahan’s tweet.

Parvizshahi said Chavez has made neighborhoods safer by working with District Attorney Jeff Rosen to get ghost guns off the streets and to provide mental health services. That’s why Chavez has been endorsed by the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, he added.

But Matthew Quevedo, Mahan’s campaign manager, said the attacks are criticizing the councilmember for not embracing censorship and that other large platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, have the same policies that cater to users with a wide range of views.

“Matt ran a technology platform that did not censor based on political views and that forms the rationale of the supervisor’s attacks,” Quevedo told San José Spotlight. “It is worth noting that Supervisor Chavez uses technology platforms that do not censor to launch her attacks. Voters see through this—and we ask, once again, for the supervisor to agree to structured debates on key issues such as housing, crime, homelessness, mental health and other important topics.”

Mahan’s camp added that Causes worked with the Sandy Hook Promise and Everytown to build their platforms and advocacy for gun safety measures.

When asked whether she supports censoring certain viewpoints on social media platforms, Chavez said it’s about corporate responsibility. She cited examples of Uber and Lyft protecting drivers in Texas who could be liable for providing rides to women seeking an abortion.

“Matt Mahan made a series of very different business decisions as the CEO of two companies,” Chavez told San José Spotlight. “I disagree with Matt’s decisions. Soliciting business with the NRA nine months after the children were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary is wrong. Period.”

Mahan also caught heat in June from labor unions—who widely support Chavez—and the county’s Democratic Party for not renouncing an endorsement he received from the Silicon Valley Association of Republican Women, a conservative group with controversial stances.

The two politicos will face off in November to replace termed-out Mayor Sam Liccardo—the first time the city will see a new mayor in nearly a decade. Chavez emerged a frontrunner in a crowded June primary, beating out six other candidates to secure 39.1% of the vote. Mahan trailed with 32.3%.

While Liccardo has not officially endorsed a successor, he launched a political action committee that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Mahan, a business-backed candidate.

In total, political action committees (PAC) spent nearly $1.2 million supporting Chavez in the June election. Mahan received about $360,000 from the Common Good Silicon Valley PAC. Since last December, Chavez has raised $916,000, and Mahan has raised roughly $900,000.

Chavez, a progressive labor candidate, is cutting into Mahan’s base of moderate voters. A recent data analysis by San José Spotlight found Chavez won support in the city’s west side, flipping precincts that other progressives lost in the mostly white, affluent parts of the city.

The election is Nov. 8.

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