By: Maggie Angst
San Jose councilmember Matt Mahan announced Saturday that he is officially jumping into the race to become the city’s next mayor, running on a platform that he described as “a revolution of common sense.”
In announcing his campaign, Mahan — a rookie politician who joined the council at the beginning of the year — said he plans to use his experience working in the tech industry to bring more accountability and results to San Jose’s top elected office.
“I think if there is a theme to my campaign it’s a revolution of common sense that moves us from managing dysfunction to solving problems,” he said in an interview. “… Part of what I’m trying to do is bring a focus back on the basics.”
Mahan joins councilmembers Dev Davis and Raul Peralez, who both announced their candidacy in April, in the race to succeed Mayor Sam Liccardo after two terms in office. Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez also appears to be running but has not yet made any official proclamation. The primary election will take place on June 7, 2022.
Mahan said he feels the city is “going in the wrong direction” with its growing population of unhoused residents, worsening blight and deteriorating conditions of city parks and roadways. He wants San Jose’s top officials to be held accountable for getting things back on track.
In his pitch for the mayoral seat, Mahan is proposing that the city create a data dashboard to track key performance goals — from moving more unhoused residents into stable housing to better maintaining city park and roadways to reducing wait times for building permit requests and inspections.
If those annual performance goals are not met, Mahan believes that city council members and top officials within City Hall, including the city manager and department heads, should not get a raise.
“I don’t know how an organization that does not have clear public goals and does not regularly report out on progress can be a good steward of taxpayer dollars,” he said.
In terms of the city’s homelessness crisis, Mahan would like the city to identify suitable public land where modular prefabricated housing can be constructed more quickly and cost-effectively than larger permanent supportive housing projects currently getting built with county bond funds. He also wants to see the city put more pressure on the county to expand its mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.
Mahan is opposed to eliminating single-family zoning across the city and is instead calling on city officials to solely focus on bringing higher-density development to public transit corridors and retail areas.
During his first race for elected office, Mahan proved to be a formidable candidate when he overwhelmingly won the three-candidate contest for the District 10 seat in March 2020. He not only raised the largest amount of money of any candidate across all five San Jose district races held at that time but he also nabbed the most high-profile endorsements. Mahan received the backing of Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and the Silicon Valley Organization PAC, the now-defunct political arm of the region’s largest chamber of commerce.
Although he has spent the least amount of time in public office of the proclaimed mayoral candidates, Mahan sees that as his benefit.
“Anyone else whose running that has been in local government for 5-20 years is going to have to answer what they’re going to do differently from what they’ve been doing for years,” he said.
“I’m a problem solver more than a politician, and I don’t think I need another year at City Hall to understand what the problems are or how we might start to solve them.”
Mahan grew up in Watsonville, attended high school at San Jose’s Bellarmine Prep and later graduated from Harvard University. Prior to joining the city council, he served as the co-founder and CEO of Brigade, a technology company that provides tools to promote civic engagement and political transparency.
Ann Ravel, former chair of the Federal Election Commission and former Santa Clara County counsel, said that she felt Mahan was the best candidate to lead San Jose, describing him as “exceptionally smart”, “incredibly thoughtful” and someone who would be doing the job “truly as a public service.”
“He’s not going to be one of those people just seeking elected office because he needs the next job or because he may be beholden to some of his donors,” Ravel said. “He’s doing it because he has a lot of great, creative ideas on how to address important issues in the city and he’s committed to the public.”
Mahan, who was largely endorsed by business organizations and other business-backed politicians during his council campaign, will be vying against Davis for the support of the city’s business faction. Davis — one of the most conservative members currently on the city council — represents District 6, which includes the neighborhoods of Willow Glen and the Rose Garden. She was elected to the council in 2016 and won re-election to keep her seat last year.
Peralez, who represents the city’s downtown area, was first elected to the council in 2014 and previously was employed as a San Jose police officer. He has historically received strong support from the city’s organized labor base, but it is unclear who the city’s most prominent labor groups would endorse after Chavez — a longtime South Bay labor leader — makes her candidacy official.
A poll commissioned by the San Jose Police Officers’ Association in late June found that 23% of likely voters supported Chavez, while 7% were leaning toward Peralez, 5% for Mahan and 4% for Davis. Nearly three in five — of 59% — of those polled were still undecided.
This article originally appeared in the Mercury News