Exterior of the Santa Clara Police Department building.
The Santa Clara Police Department is located at 601 El Camino Real. File photo.

It looks like two measures to change how Santa Clara officials are chosen will remain in the hands of voters, as early results come in on election night.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Measure B — which aims to make the elected police chief an appointed position — is failing, with 72.4% of voters not supporting it. Measure A, which aims to change the city clerk to an appointed position as well, is also failing with 67.6% of voters going against it.

The early results include a voter turnout of about 37.3%, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. The registrar’s office is expecting turnout for this primary election to land at about 35% to 45%, officials said on Election Day. There are approximately 1,025 unprocessed ballots remaining.

The Santa Clara city clerk and police chief have been elected positions for decades, and Measure A and Measure B respectively would change the city charter if both positions shift to appointments by the city manager.

Measure B has been divisive in Santa Clara — the last city in California to elect its police chief. In 2020, residents elected Pat Nikolai as police chief in an uncontested special election. Voters elected City Clerk Hosam Haggag that same election, and both serve until 2024.

The current requirements to run for police chief is that the candidate must be a Santa Clara voter and at minimum hold an advanced certificate from the state’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. The latter comes from a 2000 amendment to the city charter which added that police chief requirements should match the state’s requirements for county sheriffs.

Opponents have said electing the police chief makes them more accountable to residents, and that they support having more power in the hands of voters. Nikolai said he feels “vindicated” seeing the results come in.

“It’s what I’ve said all along,” Nikolai told San José Spotlight. “The voters of Santa Clara like electing their police chief and history has shown they don’t want to give up that right.”

He added he is waiting to see results change as more votes get counted in the coming days, but said those supporting the measure will have to catch up to the stark lead that opponents have grown.

Those who support making the police chief position appointed have said it would make the pool of applicants more educated and better equipped for the job, citing the education background for surrounding cities for comparison.

Supporters for Measure B did not respond to requests for comment.

This story will be updated.

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

Leave a Reply