With one election over, San Jose politicos look to the next
The San Jose City Council chambers are pictured in this file photo.

    It’s deja vu in San Jose politics.

    As elected leaders on Monday settled a political fight over filling two upcoming vacancies on the San Jose City Council, some former politicos are eyeing a return to their old posts. The council voted just before midnight to appoint successors to two soon-to-be-vacant seats in Districts 8 and 10. The seats are opening because District 8 Councilmember Sylvia Arenas won her election for county supervisor and District 10 Councilmember Matt Mahan was elected mayor.

    While there won’t be a special election, former District 10 Councilmember Johnny Khamis is interested in serving again. He lost his bid for Santa Clara County supervisor to Arenas in November. 

    Khamis, who represented District 10 from 2013 to 2020, said he’s entertaining the idea of returning to his old council seat. He said his decision to throw his name into the ring hinges on whether he’ll garner support from Mahan. According to City Clerk Toni Taber, the soonest Khamis could run or be appointed to the seat is 2024 after he’s been out of office for at least four years.

    “A lot of people have been asking me to run for my old seat,” he told San José Spotlight. “I’m not going to do anything without the explicit support of our incoming mayor.”

    Mahan said he appreciates Khamis’ years of service, but isn’t backing anyone to replace him—at least not yet.

    “Johnny did a great job representing District 10,” Mahan told San José Spotlight on Friday.

    After the vote to go with an appointment, Mahan on Tuesday said his district’s residents will demand accountability in the process.

    “If the new council decides to stick with this misguided approach, D8 and D10 residents will rightly demand the highest levels of transparency and public participation, and I will stand with them in that fight,” Mahan said.

    Balancing council power

    Khamis wants the city council to maintain a balance of power. Now that the council’s labor-leaning majority decided to appoint successors, there is a high likelihood they’ll appoint progressive candidates to those two seats. Khamis, like his successor Mahan, is a moderate with business backing. Mahan’s inability to secure a council majority will hamper his ability to advance his agenda as a new mayor—especially since he’s got two years to prove himself before facing reelection in 2024 due to a measure that moved mayoral elections in San Jose to presidential years.

    “I don’t think it’s healthy to have only one group in complete control… completely silencing a pro-business philosophy is wrong,” Khamis told San José Spotlight. “Business actually gets things done faster, better and cheaper than government does.” 

    Khamis has run previously failed campaigns for county supervisor and state Senate. He typically runs on an agenda of fiscal responsibility and accountability, demanding stronger government resources for mental health and homelessness services.

    Losing the supervisor’s race was frustrating for Khamis, who blamed redistricting in District 10 for eliminating about 44,000 votes from his Almaden Valley voter base.

    “Redistricting had a lot to do with my reasons for losing,” he said, adding his opponent’s lies calling him a MAGA Republican also cost him votes. “I’m not a Republican and I’ve never supported Trump. The combination of losing Almaden Valley and some of my old district, along with the lies that were spread about my support for Trump, definitely hurt my campaign.”

    Former District 6 Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio is also eyeing a potential return to San Jose City Hall. He served as a councilmember from 2007 to 2016, and now sits on the San Jose Planning Commission. The soonest he could run for the District 6 seat is in 2024 when Councilmember Dev Davis terms out.

    “I’m more inclined to say yes than no,” Oliverio said, “but it’s very, very premature.”

    Oliverio said he remained involved in civic life after he left office.

    “Whether it’s the Friends of the San Jose Rose Garden, the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association or serving as a city commissioner,” he told San José Spotlight. “Those all bring me great satisfaction. I’ve always been a ‘Go San Jose’ or make San Jose the best place it can be.”

    But while Khamis and Oliverio wait for 2024, others are eyeing an appointment for the open Districts 8 and 10 seats which could happen as early as January.

    Kalvin Gill, who sits on the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, previously said he’s eyeing a District 8 appointment.

    Maylyne Ho, an insurance agent at Farmers Insurance, expressed interest in the District 10 seat. Ho was inspired to run after meeting with residents across San Jose while campaigning for Mahan’s mayoral run. She says her top priorities in office would be to focus on public safety, homelessness and accountability at City Hall.

    “We just need a better San Jose. We’ve lived here for 45 years, there was only 200,000 people here and it’s grown to 1.1 million and it’s absolute chaos,” Ho told San José Spotlight. “It has just gone downhill and we don’t have accountability.”

    Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected] Contact Jana Kadah at  or @Jana Kadah on Twitter.

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