The race to become Santa Clara’s next mayor is still tight, with Mayor Lisa Gillmor holding a slim lead over her opponent, Councilmember Anthony Becker, in early results.
Gillmor is leading the race with 51% of the vote, with Becker close behind at nearly 49%. Gillmor has led in the race since the initial results were published. There are 687 votes are between the two candidates, a gap that has been widening with nearly each update from election officials. Gillmor has 14,376 votes, and Becker has 13,689 votes. About 91% of expected ballots across Santa Clara County have been counted so far, according to the Registrar of Voter’s office.
Becker said the close race shows the city is divided over its future direction.
“I’d say this is pretty epic,” Becker told San José Spotlight on Tuesday night. “Half of the city wants change and half of the city likes the current leadership.”
Becker said he and his supporters have been “pounding the pavement” right up until election day, hoping to tip the scales in his favor.
“I’m hoping that we can come back and those votes we really worked hard for in these past couple weeks, I’m hoping those will come out and bring us ahead,” Becker said.
Gillmor did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, two other Santa Clara councilmembers appear to be winning reelection handily with strong leads over their challengers.
In District 2, Councilmember Raj Chahal is leading challenger Larry McColloch by about 25 points, holding about 62.5% of the vote. Chahal is the co-founder of an internet hardware company in Santa Clara, and McColloch is a retired engineer.
In District 3, Councilmember Karen Hardy, a teacher, is leading challenger Christian Pellecchia by about 28 points, holding 64% of the vote. Pellecchia is the vice president of operations at Santa Cruz-based Slatter Construction and a former chair of the Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce board. Both incumbents are backed by the San Francisco 49ers.
The battle between Gillmor, a real estate broker who owns a property management company, and Becker, a content moderator for a tech company, is among the most contentious and highly anticipated races this season. It was defined by a divided stance on the 49ers who rent Levi’s Stadium from the city and manage it.
Gillmor has sharply opposed the NFL team, spearheading costly legal battles over everything from its day-to-day management of the stadium, to concert curfews at Levi’s Stadium and the team’s rent. The team spent more than $2.5 million against Gillmor.
Becker, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2018 against Gillmor, was elected to the council in 2020 with significant support from the 49ers. Gillmor says Becker is a lackey for the 49ers while Becker says the mayor’s irresponsible and divisive leadership has dug the city into a major financial hole.
Becker said Tuesday the millions the 49ers spent to support him weren’t a factor in the race. “I don’t think it helped at all. The mayor’s record speaks for itself and I think that’s what people are noticing,” he said.
Becker and Gillmor have feuded over settling a lawsuit with the 49ers over the management of Levi’s Stadium. Gillmor claims Becker made an obscene gesture during closed-door talks about the settlement while Becker claimed the mayor bullied him. Becker has also accused Gillmor of tolerating anti-LGBTQ slurs and death threats aimed at him. Equality California, the largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights group, and BAYMEC called on Gillmor to denounce the comments and issue an apology.
Gillmor came under fire this year after San José Spotlight revealed she wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for a favor for Related Companies, the developer behind a massive $8 billion mixed-use development and major campaign donor of hers. That move could lead to the council censuring Gillmor. The development company spent $250,000 to reelect Gillmor as of Oct. 28.
A recent Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury report criticized five members of the Santa Clara City Council, including Becker, Hardy and Chahal, raising questions about their relationship with the 49ers and the team’s political influence in the city. The councilmembers named in the report and the 49ers sharply refuted the report, calling it a biased “hatchet job” based on inaccurate information.
This story will be updated.