By MAGGIE ANGST | [email protected] | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: December 6, 2019 at 1:32 pm | UPDATED: December 7, 2019 at 5:55 am
In just a few short months, San Jose voters will have the opportunity to reshape the city council — a diverse group of representatives increasingly split between business and labor interests.
By the filing deadline on Friday, 17 candidates had filed for one of the five even-numbered districts that are up for grabs in the March 2020 election.
Although its too early to predict any possible winners, all of the races provide an opportunity for a power shift on the council during a time of big changes in San Jose.
Over the next few years, the council members will be making historic decisions that could have long-lasting impacts on the city — from reaching a development agreement on Google’s transit village project to signing off on designs for a new Diridon Station to finding new ways to address the city’s ongoing housing and homeless crisis.
The current council is pretty evenly divided between members who are favored by the two traditional strongholds of influence in the city — the labor unions and the Silicon Valley Organization PAC, the political action arm of the area’s largest chamber of commerce.
Four of the current councilmembers are running for re-election, including District 2’s Sergio Jimenez, District 4’s Lan Diep, District 6’s Dev Davis and District 8’s Sylvia Arenas.
Johnny Khamis, who currently represents District 10, has termed out and is instead running as a candidate for State Senate District 15.
Matt Mahan, a tech entrepreneur who founded the nonpartisan voter network Brigade, has garnered the most big-name support among the four candidates who have stepped forward to try to claim Khamis’s open District 10 seat to represent the Almaden Valley area.
Mahan — who has served on the Almaden Valley Community Association, the District 10 Leadership Coalition and the city’s Clean Energy Community Advisory Commission — has been endorsed by the Silicon Valley Organization PAC, and almost all of the current business-backed city leaders, including Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and councilmember Pam Foley and Lan Diep.
Also vying for the open District 10 seat is Jenny Higgins Bradanini, president of Women’s March Bay Area, director of development for the Women’s March Foundation and a member of the county’s Women’s Equality Leadership Council. Higgins Bradanini, who previously served as a policy aide for former Councilmember Donald Rocha, has won the endorsement of the South Bay Labor Council, the Santa Clara County Democratic Party and San Jose Teacher Association.
Rounding out the District 10 field is Helen Wang, a recently retired managing partner of a San Jose urgent care clinic; and Financial advisor Vinh Do.
Labor-friendly Jimenez, who represents the areas of Santa Teresa, Edenvale and Coyote Valley, and Arenas, who represents parts of East San José and Evergreen, will each need to fend off one business-backed contender in order to keep their seats. Both councilmembers have been endorsed by the South Bay Labor Council.
The lone opponent against Jimenez is Jonathan Fleming, a former government engineer contractor who strongly opposes adding more taxes for residents and wants to ensure that rent control does not fall below the city’s current rate, according to his campaign site.
Hoping to unseat Arenas is Jim Zito, a member of the Evergreen Elementary School District Board who spent most of his career in the tech realm before becoming a long-term substitute teacher in 2017. The Silicon Valley Organization PAC endorsed Zito.
The other races have more contenders.
The race to unseat District 6 Councilmember Davis, who represents the areas of Willow Glen, Rose Garden, Santana Row and The Alameda, is the most crowded field with five candidates. Davis, who won her seat soundly in 2016, has been endorsed by the Silicon Valley Organization PAC.
The field includes Jake Tonkel, a biomedical engineer who spent two years in the Peace Corps and is running as a green party candidate; Andrew Boone, a transit advocate and mechanical engineer; and Ruben Navarro, a tech salesman who finished fourth in a crowded, eight-candidate race for the District 6 seat in 2016.
The most unusual candidacy of the race, though, goes to Marshall Woodmansee, a 19-year-old engineering student at De Anza College. As the youngest candidate by far, Woodmansee says his top priority is climate action and wants to focus on developing cyclist and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, sustainable housing for all income levels and clean air initiatives, according to his campaign site.
In the District 4 race to represent Alviso, Berryessa and North San Jose, Councilmember Diep is hoping to fend off three contenders in March — including Huy Tran, who volunteered on his previous campaign.
Diep won his District 4 seat in 2016 after a months-long, drawn-out fight in which a judge finally deemed that Diep beat the incumbent candidate by just 12 votes. The Silicon Valley Organization PAC endorsed him in his race for re-election.
Tran, a co-founder of an employment law firm and a son of Vietnamese refugees who escaped communism, has garnered a lot of support in the district’s Vietnamese community. Tran is a member of the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition and a board member and past-president of the Vietnamese American Roundtable. He also has served as a member of the city’s Housing and Community Development Commission.
Rounding out the field for District 4 is David Cohen, a longtime North San Jose resident and chemical engineer who has spent the past 13 years serving on the Berryessa Union School District Board; and Jamal Hossain Khan, a Harvard Law School graduate and San Jose-based attorney.
Both Tran and Cohen have been endorsed by the South Bay Labor Council for the District 4 race.
The primary election is March 3. If one of the candidates in a race does not receive a majority of the votes, the top two candidates will run against each other in a runoff election on November 3.