SJ mayoral race running under-the-radar ahead of Tuesday's primary

San Jose’s mayor is up for re-election just two years after being elected to the top job in 2022 when the city switched its mayoral election to coincide with the presidential election cycle.

Mayor Matt Mahan, D-San Jose, was engaging in his version of stumping for votes Thursday morning. An empty lot in North San Jose is an unusual but picturesque setting for him to showcase his accomplishments in securing a safe RV parking site for some unhoused residents.

"I think the best way to campaign is to solve the problems facing our city. I’m focused on getting San Jose back to basics. Getting people indoors and out of these tent encampments that are across the city," Mahan said.

The familiar rhetoric is a holdover from Mahan’s campaign of 2022 when he won the general election over Cindy Chavez.

The city then moved its mayoral election to coincide with the presidential election cycle, to increase voter turnout.

"You’re going to have some variation from election cycle to election cycle. But you’re gonna create a more diverse and electorate. That’s the idea behind the change," said Dr. Garrick Percival, chairman of the San Jose State University Department of Political Science.

This year, Mahan’s opponent is a little-known political journeyman, named Tyron Wade. His website doesn’t list campaign appearances but touts campaign themes of human rights, religious freedom, and limited government.

"Just raising issues that are important to him. It’s another way certainly to get involved in civic life is to run for office. And I would hope more people would run for office. I think generally it’s a good thing," said Percival.

While Wade’s impact may be muted by Mahan’s sizable lead, the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters office said adjusting the mayoral election cycle has had an impact. This year, participation in the primary election is running between 5-10% ahead of 2022.

"Right now we are a little over 10 percent in return ballots. With an estimated voter turnout of between 45-55%," said Steve Goltiao, a registrar spokesman.

Experts said that percentage increase could grow to 35% in the coming years.

As for Mahan, a sizable lead and no other options indicate he’s focused on delivering results, not making promises to appease voters.

"I wanna push us to be more focused. To be more efficient. Biased toward action," he said.

If Mahan secures more than 50% +1 of the votes on Tuesday, he’ll win a four-year term in office, because there’s no other challenger. He could run and be elected for his second four-year term after that, putting him in office for most of this decade.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv