San Jose, Calif., mayoral race hangs in balance

With a poll earlier this month showing the candidates neck-and-neck, San Jose’s nonpartisan mayoral contest between City Councilmembers Cindy Chavez and Chuck Reed has become a real cliff-hanger.

A poll Oct. 3-5 by the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University found Chavez at 40 percent, Reed at 42 percent and 17 percent undecided.

Chavez, a former South Bay Labor Council staff director, was elected to the City Council in 1998 and currently serves as vice mayor. Besides the Labor Council and many labor, community, environmental and political organizations, she is endorsed by U.S. Representatives Anna Eshoo, Mike Honda and Zoe Lofgren; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; several former San Jose mayors; and seven current city councilmembers.

Though she is backed by labor and opposed by the Chamber of Commerce, Chavez emphasizes bringing all segments of the community together to solve problems. As an example, she cites her leadership role on the council for the Children’s Health Initiative, which brings together public and private funding to provide health coverage to most uninsured children in Santa Clara County.

Though the Chamber of Commerce is “literally spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat her,” said Chavez campaign manager Justin Schall, “at the same time, they are doing their ‘report-card’ and give her an A-minus.”

Chavez lists among her accomplishments the significant expansion of parks, neighborhood development that has helped both residents and businesses, and the promotion of “green” building and energy policies.

If elected, Chavez plans major efforts to improve public schools, including not only increased emphasis on math and science, but also bringing back arts programs. She also pledges to increase the city’s use of clean energy and to attract green energy and clean technology businesses “with a goal of making San Jose the hub for the clean economy.”

Her opponent, attorney Chuck Reed, an Air Force Academy graduate, has served on the City Council for six years.

Opponents’ attempts to link Chavez to a garbage contract scandal in which Mayor Ron Gonzales has been involved lost steam after Reed was forced to acknowledge having donated $39,000 of taxpayers’ money to nonprofit community, political and religious groups during his six years in office. Reed has repaid the funds and apologized for his actions.

mbechtel@pww.org