Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez faces new challenger
Community leader Jennifer Celaya is running against Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Celaya.

Community leader and social activist Jennifer Celaya is running against Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, giving the popular incumbent a run for her money next year.

Celaya, 38, is new to the world of politics and but she said she’s here to make a change.

“With the variety of different crisis that our county is facing, I feel like the leadership is ignoring some important things that need to take place and the decisions that they’re making right now are not the best for people in the community,” Celaya said.

Although Celaya does not have political experience, she said her approach for beating an incumbent like Chavez will focus on developing personal connections throughout different communities. She said “a large underserved population in our community is not being heard” and she hopes to find solutions that help voice their concerns.

Chavez told San José Spotlight in a recent interview she’s not threatened by her new challenger. The longtime lawmaker said her experience in government is her biggest strength.

“I have a long record of accomplishment and I don’t know as much about Jennifer as I’m sure I’ll get to know. But I’m not running against her, I’m running for change,” Chavez said. “We’re in the middle of a lot of different really important initiatives that I would like to see through. So I’m running for one last term.”

Chavez, 55, represents 400,000 residents in District 2, which encompasses downtown, the southeast and east side of San Jose. Chavez’s political history includes serving on the San Jose City Council for eight years, two of which were as vice mayor. She also served on the Valley Transportation Authority, worked in the labor movement and ran a nonprofit.

Celaya holds a degree in paralegal studies and works as a health service representative for the county.

Celaya said she wants to tackle the crisis with foster youth in the county. As children are often revictimized in the system, Celaya said, she wants to focus on “getting these children housed appropriately.”

She also wants to work on alleviating the homelessness crisis and called for independent audits on county departments to ensure “the departments are being run efficiently and effectively” and that taxpayer money is being spent appropriately.

“I’m going to make sure that whatever concerns come across to me, I’m going to address them right away,” Celaya added. “I think that (county) leadership could’ve been a lot better.”

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez proposed a plan to use county-owned vacant lots as future sites for affordable housing. It was unanimously approved Tuesday. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Like Celaya, Chavez acknowledged that there’s more work to do on homelessness, domestic violence, sexual assault, foster care and human trafficking in Santa Clara County.

In Nov. 2016, Chavez spearheaded an effort to place a $950 million dollar bond on the ballot for affordable housing. Now, the county is in the process of building 1,500 units for homeless and low-income residents.

“We’re doing a lot,” Chavez said. “We want to take big ideas, make sure that we’re trying them at a local level, showing that they work, and then sharing that across the country.”

Voters will decide whether to give Chavez four more years or opt for a political newcomer, Celaya, in the March 2020 primary election.

Contact San José Spotlight intern Arianna Ramirez at ramirez.arianna20@gmail.com or follow @ariaram98 on Twitter.

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