With less than two weeks to go, a dozen people have applied to become the next councilmember in San Jose’s Districts 8 and 10.
As of Wednesday, the latest list of candidates includes 11 people interested in the District 10 seat: Gabriel Gomez, Sandeep Chaparala, Nooran Bayzaie, Greg Holsen, Maylyne Ho, Mike Wilson, Forrest Williams, Ann Chung, Jean D’innocenti, Robert Braunstein and Rhonda Hruby.
One person applied for the District 8 seat: Matthew Giordono.
Applications for the seats are due on Jan. 2. Candidates who receive support from at least four San Jose councilmembers will be interviewed on Jan. 24 before councilmembers vote to appoint two people. The appointees must get two-thirds of the vote.
In one of the most controversial decisions in recent city history, the San Jose City Council voted this month to appoint successors to the two open seats—despite hundreds of outspoken residents demanding a special election. District 10 is open after Councilmember Matt Mahan won his race for mayor, and District 8 is vacant after voters elected Councilmember Sylvia Arenas as county supervisor.
Arenas told San José Spotlight that two of her allies are planning to apply—Evergreen School District Board President Patti Andrade and Sikh community leader Sukhdev Bainiwal.
Andrade said she already knows the inner workings of government and is a longtime District 8 resident. She currently works for Arenas on community relations.
“I’m out in the field a lot working closely with our neighborhood associations, with our school districts. I get to see the work (and ensure) resources actually get to the people,” Andrade told San José Spotlight. “Right now we need to continue this work and make sure that no time is wasted. So with my experience, there’s no learning curve, and that work can continue.”
Giordono, a 78-year-old U.S. Army veteran, said he wants to ensure District 8 gets equitable funding and help with combatting blight and homelessness.
“I’m just interested in doing my civic duty, being a part of the process,” Giordono told San José Spotlight. “I want to see that the council is taking actions to represent the voters, the residents and is working together with staff to make the city an attractive place for current and future residents.”
Although Giordono is the only person who’s applied, another District 8 leader is eyeing the seat: Stanford University Director of Local Government Affairs Domingo Candelas.
“I want to ensure there are resources allocated to District 8 to help tackle different challenges, whether it’s housing affordability, folks dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues without the proper services, solving traffic congestion issues (or) focusing on public safety,” Candelas told San José Spotlight. “These are just some of the top issues that I’ve heard and something that I intend to focus on.”
Dr. Kulwant “Kalvin” Gill, who represents Evergreen on the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, says he too will be applying for the opening in District 8
“I am committed to working with my fellow council members to ensure that our district is a safe, vibrant, and prosperous place to live,” Gill said. “District 8 often forgotten by our city government. I will strive to change that and to ensure that our district is a place where all residents can thrive and have access to the resources they need to succeed.”
The lack of applications for District 8—at least so far—may have to do with demographics.
While the two districts have roughly 100,000 residents each and a similar number of registered voters, their demographic make up is different. District 10, which encompasses Blossom and Almaden valleys, is a wealthier, older and whiter population. District 8, which encompasses the southeastern parts of San Jose including the Evergreen area, is more diverse with a 30% higher Asian population.
Historically, older and wealthier populations tend to be more civically involved.
Of the 11 people who’ve applied for the District 10 seat, some notable names stand out. At least two applicants previously worked on Mahan’s campaign: Ho and Bayzaie.
Braunstein, who worked as a sportscaster, previously ran for District 10 against Mahan’s predecessor, Johnny Khamis. Williams is a former councilmember who served from 2001 to 2008. He also unsuccessfully ran for county supervisor.
Ho, an insurance agent, previously told San José Spotlight she was inspired to seek political office after volunteering with Mahan’s mayoral campaign.
Bayzaie, 21, is a San Jose parks and recreation commissioner who also worked on Mahan’s campaign. He started his own nonprofit, Youth Care Initiative, in August to provide medical and educational services to vulnerable youth. He wants to create more funding for the city—especially for the Almaden area.
“Everybody loves District 10, our crime rates are low. But we definitely need to increase our district’s tax revenue. We don’t have much development here,” Bayzaie told San José Spotlight. “I think people want to have a little bit more of a budget for District 10. That way, we can have more money for different events, community engagement.”
The application process comes after a contentious vote two weeks ago to appoint councilmembers to the two seats. Mahan, along with Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilmember Pam Foley, argued voters should pick their next councilmember.
Arenas, joined by a coalition of labor-leaning councilmembers and more conservative Councilmember Dev Davis, argued a special election would cost up to $10 million and leave the district without representation for too long. Liccardo called the decision to appoint instead of elect “shameful” and a break from precedence.
The debate highlights the stark political divide in San Jose and what Mayor-elect Mahan might grapple with in his first year. The two seats will determine whether labor keeps its current majority on the city council or if Mahan can build a more moderate business-backed alliance to advance his agenda.
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.