Silicon Valley labor leaders endorse some, snub others
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez is pictured in this file photo.

Silicon Valley’s powerful labor lobby has unveiled its 2022 endorsements—and there are a few surprises and notable snubs.

The South Bay Labor Council, which comprises more than 100 unions across the valley, announced a sole endorsement Tuesday for Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez in the San Jose mayor’s race. The group didn’t back Councilmember Raul Peralez, despite his loyalty to the labor movement.

“As one of the strongest advocates for working families on the City Council over the last seven years, I’m disappointed that the South Bay Labor Council didn’t choose to dual endorse,” Peralez told San José Spotlight.

Political observers speculated Peralez would at least snag a dual or open endorsement. An open endorsement allows labor unions to individually support and fundraise for candidates. Chavez also won a recent endorsement from the Silicon Valley Democratic Club.

The news came as Peralez’s campaign announced a new poll that showed him with a slight edge over Chavez.

“Our endorsed candidates are the most qualified and have values aligned with the labor movement,” said Jean Cohen, the labor council’s executive officer. “Over 100 unions participated in a rigorous process to identify a slate of candidates who are unapologetic in their support for working families.”

Photo courtesy of South Bay Labor Council.

The other big surprise? Planning Commissioner Rolando Bonilla—also a longtime friend to labor—got the cold shoulder in his race for the open District 5 council seat in East San Jose. In that contest, labor leaders gave a dual endorsement to Santa Clara County Board of Education President Peter Ortiz and former Assemblywoman Nora Campos, who was once Bonilla’s boss.

They also gave an open endorsement to Alum Rock Union School District trustee Andres Quintero. That means every frontrunner candidate in the East San Jose race except Bonilla got a nod of approval.

Bonilla chalks it up to politics.

“Rather than endorse a candidate who has the actual skill and experience to support East San Jose, the SBLC decided to get behind the architects of the failed policies that my community continues to suffer from on a daily basis,” he told San José Spotlight.

Other endorsements

Farther down the ticket, the South Bay Labor Council endorsed some expected candidates in San Jose City Council races: Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee Rosemary Kamei in District 1, San Jose-Evergreen Community College District trustee Omar Torres in District 3 and incumbent Councilmember Maya Esparza in the District 7 race. Esparza is fending off two formidable challengers, including San Jose firefighter Bien Doan and East Side Union High School District Board President Van Le.

The labor group also gave its blessing to Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg who faces no challengers in her re-election bid, and split a dual endorsement for Councilmember Sylvia Arenas and Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee Claudia Rossi, who are vying for the open District 1 seat on the county Board of Supervisors.

Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine got an open endorsement in that race.

The group took no action in the Santa Clara County assessor race after labor-friendly Gary Kremen dropped out hours after San José Spotlight reported on allegations of inappropriate behavior from a former campaign staffer.

It gave open endorsements to District Attorney Jeff Rosen and public defender Sajid Khan in the county’s district attorney race. Retired Capt. Kevin Jensen won an open endorsement in the Santa Clara County sheriff race.

What about business?

The other influential faction in Silicon Valley politics is the business lobby. The San Jose Chamber of Commerce, formerly known as the Silicon Valley Organization or SVO, previously endorsed and spent millions for business-friendly candidates until a racist campaign ad unraveled its embattled PAC.

The Silicon Valley Biz PAC is one of the only groups backing business candidates. It announced its endorsements in January.

It remains to be seen how Mayor Sam Liccardo’s newly-established PAC, which reportedly raised more than $400,000 in a day, will influence the South Bay’s biggest races this year. The PAC is poised to replace the SVO’s PAC, and insiders speculate Liccardo will use it to back business-friendly candidates and his favored mayoral candidate, Councilmember Matt Mahan.

The primary election is June 7.

Editor’s Note: Rolando Bonilla is married to Perla Rodriguez, who serves on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.

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