San Jose spotlight: Election 2020: Early endorsements from Silicon Valley business and labor

by Ramona Giwargis
July 16, 2019

With eight months until the March primary, San Jose City Council candidates are snatching early endorsements from powerful business and labor groups in an effort to stake out a path to victory.

The two powerful and competing interests in San Jose politics — the silicon valley organization and South Bay Labor Council — are picking their candidates earlier than ever. Both groups have released a few early endorsements, with more races to follow.

The former chamber of commerce has backed incumbents District 4 Councilmember Lan Diep and District 6 Councilmember Dev Davis, a rumored mayoral candidate in 2022. The labor council has chosen anyone but Diep — handing down a dual endorsement to his two challengers, Huy Tran and David Cohen, in the race for the North San Jose council seat.

Labor leaders have also endorsed Jenny Higgins Bradanini in the open District 10 race to replace Councilmember Johnny Khamis, an ally to business interests. The business lobby has not yet endorsed in that race, though tech leader Matt Mahan appears to be the obvious frontrunner.

Eddie Truong, director of government and community relations at the SVO, said endorsements for three remaining City Council races will be released next month.

‘It’s always a challenge to do endorsement timelines because you never know who’s going to jump into the race who is credible,” Truong told San José Spotlight. “We are aware that the South Bay Labor Council has initiated very early endorsement proceedings and it’s something we’re keeping an eye on, but we want to give every candidate a chance to continue and give them a shot at an endorsement.”

Next year, five of the 11 City Council seats are up for grabs — districts 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. Incumbents are seeking re-election in all the races, except District 10 where Khamis is termed out.

District 2 Councilmember Sergio Jimenez faces opponent Jonathan Fleming; District 4 Councilmember Lan Diep will square off against Tran and Cohen; District 6 Councilmember Dev Davis is being challenged by Jake Tonkel and Andrew Boone while Bradanini and Mahan face off in District 10.

District 8 Councilmember Sylvia Arenas faces no challengers — yet.

The district 4 and 10 seats are critical for labor leaders wrestling for control of the City Council, which favors Mayor Sam Liccardo and his business-friendly agenda by a narrow 6-5 majority. Their path to take back the council majority depends on either unseating Diep in District 4 or flipping the soon-to-be-vacant seat in District 10 held by Khamis.

That affluent district, however, has traditionally been a business stronghold and some political insiders say Diep appears to be vulnerable based on polling.

More endorsements are coming

Neither the business nor labor groups have yet publicly endorsed in a crowded 2020 race to replace Supervisor Dave Cortese, a labor ally, on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. There’s also no word yet on the Assembly race for Kansen Chu’s seat and a heated Senate contest for Jim Beall’s seat.

The SVO expects to release more endorsements in August, Truong said. The labor council made endorsements in D2, D8 and Senate District 15 on Monday night. The endorsements will be released as early as Wednesday, according to South Bay Labor Council Executive Director Ben Field.

Both Silicon Valley groups have a fairly extensive, multi-step endorsement process.

The SVO’s large political action committee conducts multiple interviews, including panel and individual interviews, and requires candidates to complete a questionnaire. The labor council also requires candidates to complete a questionnaire then interview with its Committee on Political Education, which makes an endorsement recommendation. The Labor Council Executive Board makes its own recommendation and the delegates, who represent more than 100 union affiliates, make the final decision.

“Our endorsement process is designed to involve as much of our activist base as possible,” Field said. “We ask candidates to complete a lengthy questionnaire, which is the product of many activist authors.”

Contact Ramona Giwargis at [email protected] or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.