The fight for Santa Clara County’s first district seat is expected to be one of the most competitive races of the election season.
Superintendent Mike Wasserman, who has held the seat since 2010, will resign at the end of the year – and five candidates are vying to replace him.
District 1’s new boundaries have been expanded to include several San Jose neighborhoods like Evergreen and Silver Creek. The province no longer has the conservative stronghold areas of the Alameda Valley and Los Gatos within its boundaries. Local politics sees this as an opportunity for progressive candidates to take over a seat held by conservative lawmakers since 1997.
The new borders, adopted in the redistribution process, disqualified some candidates and opened doors for others. At least one candidate moved on to stay in the race. District 1 still encircles the Coyote Valley and the cities of Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy.
The redesigned area also transfers voting power to San Jose – two out of every three residents of the county live in the city.
Below are the five candidates running for District 1 in alphabetical order.
San Jose Councilwoman Sylvia Arens, a Democratic candidate serving in District 8, wants to continue her work for families, children and colored communities at the district level.
Arins, 49, jumped into the race after the county redistribution process moved the Evergreen area to District 1. Arins has represented the area since 2016. She served on the Evergreen Elementary School Board of Trustees prior to her time at City Hall.
As a councilor, Arenas has headed a myriad of social services and policies, including the San Jose Family-Friendly Initiative. The program helps increase access to early education, after-school programs, safe housing and paid family vacations. Arens also presents her work on reforming the city’s response to rising rates of sexual assault and improving public safety.
“I have been a tireless champion for the needs of children, families and those who stumble,” Arens told the San José Spotlight. “I want to ensure that working families have the opportunity to succeed in Silicon Valley.”
Arens wants more safety net systems for young children and families by setting up universal pre-K programs and creating a district office dedicated to family policy. It wants to create more government work plans and fight wage theft to protect workers. She also calls for more mental health programs and housing-focused solutions to address the homeless.
Arenas has garnered support from San Jose Council members, Magdalena Crasco, Maya Asperza, Raoul Prales and former Assemblyman Kansen Cho. Arinas has double approval for a South Bay Council Labor seat with Education Leader Claudia Rossi. She has not reported any contributions to the campaign since January.
“As a first-generation American woman, fighting for vulnerable people and families is at the core of my values,” Arens said. “I was never afraid to fight.”
Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine, 58, wants to address pressing issues in the Southern District.
Constantine, a Democrat, has served on Morgan Hill City Council since 2010 and as mayor since 2018. He has also been a firefighter in the San Jose Fire Department and volunteered in the U.S. Air Force Civilian Reconnaissance and Reconnaissance Unit. Constantine also served on the Santa Clara Valley Water Committee, the Santa Clara Crop Conservation Agency and the VTA Board.
Constantine plans to expand joint work between the county and cities in the South Bay to address priorities such as protecting open spaces, expanding access to health services, building more affordable housing, saving water and increasing fire prevention.
“The 15 cities in the county and the county itself have the same concerns,” Constantine told the San José Spotlight. “We need to pool our resources and work together similar to how we did during COVID.”
As mayor, Constantine increased the number of affordable homes in Morgan Hill. The city now has more affordable housing than any other city in Northern California, Constantine said.
Constantine has devoted many years to further investment in water recycling to deal with the ongoing drought crisis. He also wants to expand the health safety nets.
The District 1 nominee has the support of Superintendent Cindy Chavez, Congresswoman Zoe Lopgren and former Congressman Mike Honda. Constantine raised about $ 61,000 in 2021, according to the fulfillment of his campaign.
“24 years and 10 months as a firefighter have given me insights into how health and empathy systems work for people and their distress,” Constantine said. “I treat everyone – like all my firefighters – as if they were the most important person in the world.”
Denel Fedor, a district resident with a long history of political faculty, is the only Republican candidate in the race.
Fedor, 52, works as a portfolio manager at San Jose’s LifeSTEPS, which provides affordable and supportive housing assistance. She also volunteered as a rape crisis counselor. For the past two decades, Fedor has served as the chief of staff of former San Jose councilor and current planning commissioner, Pierluigi Oliverio, and as an assistant to former council members Pat Dando, Ken Jaeger and Johnny Khamis.
Fedor wants to give priority to homeless solutions, mental health programs, public safety, transportation and agricultural land conservation. She supports the construction of a new prison that includes mental health services and opposes early release. Fedor supports CARE court, an initiative proposed by Governor Gavin Newsum to allow district courts to order a 12-month customized plan for the unruly population, and wants to redesign the old town hall on North First Street for additional mental health services.
It offers a routine audit of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and setting boundaries for the sheriff’s office.
Fedor also wants to see more assistance to farmers, farmers and winemakers in the Southern District. It supports the renovation of the VTA Board to include members with transportation experience.
“I’m the only Republican and I bring a fiscal responsibility voice,” Fedor told San Jose Spotlight. “They also called me a budget hawk because of my attention to detail regarding finances.”
As a late in the race, Fedor did not report any contribution to her campaign. She has the support of the East Side Union Van Le High School Trustee and Evergreen Elementary School Trustee Jim Zito.
“I have 15 years of experience working in a political environment for California’s third largest city,” Fedor said. “I had to work with people who might not agree with the issues I raised on my chosen name, but I was able to convey things.”
Former San Jose Council member Johnny Khamis, 53, wants to bring new ideas to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
Khamis left his council chair in 2020, where he noted a record of liability and fiscal responsibility. His priorities as a supervisor include caring for the homeless, crime and budget issues.
“We need to delve into the real statistics and the root causes of some of the problems,” Khamis told San Jose Spotlight. “We can not continue to do the same thing and expect different results.”
To care for the homeless, Khamis wants to expand mental health and drug use programs, such as the Foreign Care Assistance Program under the Laura’s Law Order, build additional rehabilitation facilities, send non-residents out of the country back to their towns and require inmates to take work training to qualify. For early release. Khamis also supports the construction of the new prison and wants to return the funding to the sheriff’s office.
Khamis also wants to see more oversight and scrutiny of how Santa Clara County spends its budget, especially with contracts for homeless services and mental health programs.
Khamis, who spoke out against the province’s new political boundaries last year and threatened to sue because the new map disqualified him for the race, was forced to move to continue the campaign. He currently works as a consultant for Benefit Experts.
One of the more conservative candidates in the race, Khamis raised nearly $ 200,000 in 2021, according to his campaign documents. He is not affiliated with the party. Khamis has won the support of San Jose Mayor Sam Licardo, former Santa Clara Don Gage County Superintendent, Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association and several district police chiefs.
“I have a long list of law enforcement support that I am very proud of,” Khamis said. “They know I’m trying to work on new ideas.”
South Bay’s veteran education leader and practicing nurse Claudia Rossi hopes to bring advanced views to District 1.
Rossi, 54, is a lifelong Democrat with plans to address equity and increase safety nets in the South Bay. She has served as a trustee on the Santa Clara County Board of Education since 2014.
Rossi wants to invest in more health care contraception to prevent families and residents from falling homeless. She also wants to find ways to preserve agricultural land in the Southern District.
“No other candidate in this race is as proficient in the complex systems of the county as I am,” Rossi told San José Spotlight. “I am someone who is willing to serve on the first day because I have been serving at this level for almost a decade.”
During the COVID-19 epidemic, Rossi joined 19 other education leaders across the province in signing a letter sharply criticizing Lycardo for politicizing the reopening of schools before the full distribution of vaccines. She also assisted in bringing mental health services to school sites during her tenure as trustee.
Rossi said early prevention of chronic diseases would preserve the health of the population and save money for the county in the long run. She also wants to see more scholarships and mentoring programs for young people – especially colored youth – to help them stay in the area. To address climate change, Russia wants to step up incentives to preserve land for agriculture.
It has received approvals from Supervisors Susan Allenberg and Otto Lee, former Superintendent of State Senator Dave Cortese and former State Senator Jim Bill. Rossi raised about $ 76,000 in 2021, according to her latest campaign words.
“The credentials of those who have served with honors on the county board are the most significant because they know which candidate understands the actual job of district superintendent,” Rossi said.
The primaries are set for June 7. Hear from the District 1 Candidates The Superintendent of the Santa Clara County during the San Jose Spotlight Candidates Forum on April 13th.
Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] Or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.
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