Expensive mayoral race in San Jose heats up as Election Day nears

Candidates in San Jose’s mayoral race are working to get out the vote this long holiday weekend.

If any candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary election on June 7 that person is immediately elected and does not have to run again in November’s general election.

At the Willow Glen campaign headquarters of Cindy Chavez, volunteer Star Iverson was busy working on Friday to get out of the vote.

"I am just going to go over a few of Cindy’s many accomplishments," Iverson said to one voter.

Getting out the vote is a key goal of all the candidates.

"It feels like it is going great," said candidate Cindy Chavez.

Chavez, a current member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and a former city council member, is currently the top spender in a race that has already topped $2 million dollars between all the candidates. She has spent $782,000, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

"As a candidate people will tell you their hopes and their aspirations not just for their city but for their families," Chavez said.

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Chavez said she is noticing some changes in this year’s campaign cycle. With COVID-related shifts at work and at home, engagement on social media, and through virtual forums, is now just as widely accepted as the old-fashioned campaign rally.

"But there is a balance," Chavez said. "And the balance is that, as a candidate for a city of a million people, you want to be able to talk to as many people as possible and the one benefit to Zoom is that you are able to have a 30-minute conversation with someone – just like as if it was face to face – but you have many, many of them in a day," Chavez said.

All the way across town in the city’s Evergreen neighborhood city council member Raul Peralez was out canvassing with his wife and his parents.

He says going to door-to-door can initially startle some voters.

"But I would say it is a very warm response as soon as we tell them – ‘Hey, I am running for mayor,’" Peralez said.

Peralez says hearing directly from voters is a huge benefit.

"The reality is coming out and canvassing going to door-to-door you get a sense of the community that you do not get at city hall," Peralez said.

"Not every voter is going to call their council member or the mayor and tell them about the challenges that they are having, so we come out here and have these one-on-one conversations you absolutely learn about the needs of the entire community," he said.

The top candidates are all current elected officeholders, including city councilman Matt Mahan who checks in at number two on the expenditures list at more than $712,000, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Council member Dev Davis has spent about $219,000 so far.

In a city as large and diverse as San Jose, all the candidates know they have a lot of work in front of them and voters are paying attention to the issues.

"We are running third place on fundraising, meaning we are not going to be able to run as many TV ads or mail pieces so where we can make up the difference is what we are doing today," Peralez said.

Peralez has spent about $327,000, according to his most recent campaign finance report.

Chavez says voters are very in tune with the issues.

"People are engaged in that they know there are specific problems they want to deal with, they have thought about the solutions, they want to talk to you not just about the problem but their ideas about how to solve them," Chavez said.

One thing the next mayor of San Jose does not know is how long the term will last. If voters also pass Measure B, that would align the mayoral elections with presidential elections, and the winner this year will have to run again in 2024.