A More Conservative San Jose

This week’s inauguration of Republican Johnny Khamis to the San Jose City Council is a bittersweet moment for yours truly. On one hand, I’m disappointed to have worked on the losing end of the District 10 campaign last fall, and as a lifelong Democrat, I’m frustrated that my hometown’s leadership has shifted further to the right. On the other hand, we were already there, and at least this gives me something to write about.

The present council is nominally made up of nine Democrats (including Mayor Reed), and two Republicans (including Mr. Khamis). Yet an unbiased observer looking only at voting records and rhetoric would likely put the breakdown at 6 Democrats, 4 Republicans and a Libertarian. I’ll leave the peanut gallery to guess who’s who, but it doesn’t take rocket science to explain this discrepancy.

Because of the sizeable voter registration advantage built by local Democrats over the past two decades, it’s politically expedient to register as a Democrat in San Jose, regardless of one’s political or social views. This is more critical for “career” politicians thinking about higher office, but it makes little difference in local races, where a candidate’s party preference doesn’t appear on the ballot.

Contemporary San Jose elections aren’t about D vs. R. With the city’s labor-management feud at a fever pitch, union politics have come to trump partisan loyalty. In other words, it’s about L vs. C — or Labor vs. Chamber for the uninitiated. And whatever your positions on the issues or your interpretation of the electoral tea leaves, it’s clear the Ls have had a difficult time explaining their relevance to average voters over the past few cycles. Which brings us to District 10.

For those unfamiliar with the geography, District 10 is made up of Almaden and Blossom Valley as well as Vista Park and other neighborhoods of southwest San Jose. While it is considered to be one of the city’s most conservative districts, Democrats make up 42 percent of an electorate that is 27 percent Republican and 20 percent Decline to State (i.e. no political party). The district was most recently represented by Nancy Pyle, a two-term moderate Democrat.

Mr. Khamis’ opponent in the November runoff, Robert Braunstein, is also a moderate Democrat. But despite their differences in party allegiance, both were fiscal conservatives who supported the pension reform of Measure B and opposed the Measure D minimum wage hike.

The critical contrast in the race came down to L vs. C. Mr. Braunstein had the endorsement of the San Jose Police Officers Association, which Mr. Khamis did not. And while both candidates enjoyed the endorsement of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, the police union support was enough to tattoo a big, red “L” on Mr. Braunstein’s forehead, casting doubt on his otherwise sound candidacy in a district firmly planted in the “C” camp. Mr. Khamis eventually prevailed by 1,745 votes.

If the candidates had to list their party preference on the ballot, would the result have been any different? Perhaps. Barack Obama took home 63 percent of the vote in District 10, winning 9,324 more votes than Mr. Braunstein, his Democratic counterpart. On the flip side, Mr. Khamis topped fellow conservative Republican Mitt Romney by 4,133 votes. But there’s something even more disturbing in the numbers.

As I pointed out last month, 6,028 voters in District 10 cast a vote for President and DID NOT VOTE for city council. That’s 15 percent of the turnout, and it speaks to a lack of interest among San Jose residents when it comes to who is representing us on the 18th floor of our local ivory tower.

If you think the culprit is a brighter media spotlight on national politics, consider this: Measure D was even further down the multi-page ballot than the District 10 race, yet 3,530 voters took sides on a higher minimum wage for San Jose without voting for city council.*

With seven councilmembers and our Mayor terming out over the next four years, now is the time for those of us “in the know” and any locally elected official who cares about San Jose’s future to educate our friends and neighbors about the decisions being made for them on Tuesday afternoons, and the people making those decisions.

Peter Allen is an independent communications consultant and a native of San Jose. He is proud to be a Democrat on both the dotted line and in practice.

* Interestingly, Measure D passed by a little more than 200 votes in District 10 while winning handily citywide (59 percent — 41 percent). But as has been noted, District 10 is traditionally more conservative.

26 replies on “A More Conservative San Jose”

  1. I don’t think it’s as simple as you make it.

    You are Rich Robinson.  I’m sure you see differences between yourself and Rich Robinson, but I don’t.  That’s probably because I’m two dimensional.  Like every other voter in San Jose.

  2. > I’m disappointed to have worked on the losing end of the District 10 campaign last fall, and as a lifelong Democrat, I’m frustrated that my hometown’s leadership has shifted further to the right.

    Some day, you and the similarly self-referential Rich Robinson will have to tell us what is so wonderful about being a Democrat.

    All I get when someone boasts about being a Democrat is that they are convinced that:

    A.) They are the smartest person in the room;

    B.) It should be obvious to all that they’re the smartest person in the room; and

    C.) The fact that someone doesn’t grasp that a “proud Democrat” is the smartest person in the room identifies the non-grasper as a hopeless cretin, sub-moron, hater of all things holy, and a stooge of the oil companies.

    So, Peter, Rich, Jerry, DiFi, Babs, Barack, whomever, . . . . here’s your invitation:

    tell is what’s so wonderful about being a Democrat.

  3. Really,

    “the police union support was enough to tattoo a big, red “L” on Mr. Braunstein’s forehead, casting doubt on his otherwise sound candidacy”

    You are right on one front it is not about “Contemporary San Jose elections aren’t about D vs. R.  The problem with San Jose voters is they are hand fed false information by this mayor and then only aBOUT 25% even bother to vote.

    These are the most misinformed voters I have ever seen.  And D vs. R is exactly why nothing gets done in our country on all levels of government.

    You and Rich and so far out of touch that you would never vote on anything, even it would help all of us if it went against your party line.

    In my eyes that makes the two of you the ones with the big red tattoo of LOSERS ON YOUR FOREHEAD. 

    HOW THE TWO OF YOU ARE EVEN ALLOWED TO POST IS BEYOUND ME. WELCOME TO THE PO BLOG CLUB AS THE LOCAL IDIOTS.

  4. “Blah blah blah blah…..“As I pointed out last month, 6,028 voters in District 10 cast a vote for President and DID NOT VOTE for city council. That’s 15 percent of the turnout, and it speaks to a lack of interest among San Jose residents when it comes to who is representing us on the 18th floor of our local ivory tower.

    Heyyyyyyyy, there’s something we ALL agree with!
    Baa ram ewe, sheep be true.

  5. I have observed two different types of liberal democrats. First the political types, those that cry and rant about so called injustice in the world (or their district) and then vow once (re)- elected to remedy that severe wrong. Kids – schools/health/nutrition are one category.  Environmental issues (pick oneof dozens) and then the “Poor” – underserved, voiceless, hungry/homeless, pension less, shoeless, jobless, etc etc.
    These political types appeals to a large majority of voters because they “care.”  But this is a plucked heartstring vote and one almost always bereft of common sense.  These issues always come with a price tag and money and power are interchangeable.  And that’s what this amounts to is an easy means for so called “public servants” to get at the trough and feed there indiffentately.  They are essentially selling out the well being of their district/state/country for a lifetime of gravy boating.  Can you imagine how hard it must be for Nancy P to not have the plum privilege of flying her own Air Force transport bi-coastal every week?
    The people who vote for these politicians are doing so because they A. don’t have a horse in the race (I rent, let the old people next door pay increased property taxes for schools) or B. public union reps unable to cope in the real workplace or C. just soft hearted liberals whose thinking processes were warped back in the ‘60’s and have never re-booted or upgraded their operating systems to new, real world realities still worried about paradise being replaced with a parking lot and convinced Che was a noble figure.
    Ultimately all of them think that “progress” will be made by throwing more (of other peoples) money at the problems.  California is a prime example of everything that is in this world with the highest taxes, strictest business and environmental regulations, monster size public unions (that have the Gov in THEIR back pocket) and now a Super majority in place that will very soon kill what’s left of California leaving us a bigger ash heap than Greece.
    Is there any doubt about this?

  6. There’s a mixed message.  Progressives, which is now a code word for democrats (rather than the machine politics busting movement of the 1920’s) say they believe in democracy and the will of the people, but then complain when “the people” don’t vote the way they are supposed to.

    There’s been research and literature and at the end of the day, voters are actually smarter and wiser than most political consultants and pundits and make wise choices repeatedly in issues and on candidates where they are allowed to weigh in.  Sometimes the BS on initiatives get’s so thick, it makes sense to just vote no on everything.  And sometimes the candidates all sound pretty much the same, so why vote for any of them?  Really…you don’t get ahead by talking to voters like they are dumb and telling them they are stupid for not voting the way you told them to.

    1. I appreciate your thoughts, and I hope I don’t come off as complaining about losing a race. That happens. What worries me more is the lack of interest. Whether they voted for my candidate or not, I wish those 6,028 San Joseans had voted for someone. Whatever the reasons, that’s a tragic number.

      Trust me, I have a great reverence for the wisdom of voters, and I’ll readily admit that I’m so deeply entrenched in this system that I don’t know what the “average voter” thinks of any of it. But I know it’s not where we need to be as a society.

      Campaigns should be about good people and big ideas, not pandering and empty promises. We need a new kind of politics based on trust, honesty, and mutual respect. When people believe in their government, they’re more likely to take an active interest in how it’s run.

      Cheers,
      PA

  7. Peter,

    Good post.  Your analysis of local trends has merit, and I appreciate your willingness to dig into the numbers and point out the disconnect between those who vote nationally only vs. those who vote locally.

    I would suggest however that the POA union affiliation may have not been the difference in the race, but rather Reed’s endorsement.  As you state, it is a more conservative district, and the average voter (emphasis on average) better remembers whom the mayor endorsed vs. where the candidates align on the Labor-Chamber meter. 

    Just my two cents.

    1. Good point. I think the Mayor’s endorsement carried some weight in this race, but it hasn’t exactly been a game changer in recent council races. It’s obvious that the battle over Measure B is still taking casualties. Key among them the willingness of our friends and neighbors to forgive, forget, and collaborate.

      Mayor Reed’s tough stance with the public employee unions resonates with a broad spectrum of voters across the city. It’s labor’s burden to move that needle if they hope to have a good night on November 4, 2014.

      Cheers,
      PA

      1. P.A. I would hope that you are aware that Police and Fire offered to roll their pension plans into the state PERS system – the same one that Reed and the rest of the Council enjoy. It would have saved the city $500 million over 5 years, far more than the ACTUAL anticipated shortfall (vs. the flagrantly BS number of $650 million Reed used when he lied, repeatedly, about the pension shortfall). Reed stated – when the council rejected this offer – that it would have taken too long to effect the change and realize the savings.

        But, how long is it going to take for Measure B to make its way through the courts, and at what cost? Tens of millions in training dollars pissed away as scores of officers leave SJPD for other agencies. A WPCP that is on the verge of collapse because of lack of staffing and the city hiring outside private contractors at exorbitant cost. Police/Fire dispatchers and call takers leaving in droves as well. Other employees leaving in droves in virtually every department.

        While Mayor Reed’s tough stance may resonate, there are consequences for having taken that stance, for lying repeatedly and egregiously, for illegally diverting money to Rose Herrera’s campaign, for basically being the epitome of a shady, deceitful, dictatorial politician. (Am I being redundant here?) The public is feeling those consequences, and the situation – regardless of the platitudes and lies Reed tells – is only going to get worse.

  8. So how does a San Jose resident become one who is “in the know” regarding council candidates?

    The local media provides very little coverage of council races.  Candidate forums in many districts don’t exist.  The candidates’ web sites rarely contain anything but boilerplate about the issues such as the economy, public safety, etc… 

    We have to consider that the 6,028 residents who did not vote for a council candidate were acting more rationally than those who did vote with so little information available about the candidates.

    1. Even if the Media did cover district races , IT HAS NEVER BEEN UNBIASED REPORTING!!!Everything that the Merc prints is in line with the REED Regime , even thou it has been proven time and time again, That He has lied , stolen and cheated, and helped his comrades do the same . nothing ever changes , it only gets worse here In San Jose . people need to wake up and start doing their own research and stop blindly following politians

  9. I agree, a non-voter is better than an ignorant voter. Again, I’m not demonizing voters. I’m condemning a system that keeps them out of the loop. I’ll take up the answer to your initial question in a future column. Thanks for reading.

    Cheers,
    PA

  10. Good post. I would tend to believe that many voters are tired of divisive politics either at the local level or federal level.  They just want to see the person elected do the job that they were elected to do.  It seems that daily we are reminded that is Democrats vs Republicans, Labor vs Chamber and that we must pick a side.  Well I bet that over 95% of the public rather see the job done.  How about stop the game playing and name calling and work on solving problems?

    1. Just what are the “jobs” to be “done”?
      What are the “problems” that need to be “solved”?

      Despite your “can’t we all just get along?” attitude, people have, and should have, genuine differences of opinion regarding the role of the government.

    2. > How about stop the game playing and name calling and work on solving problems?

      Sounds to me like you’ve just divided the world into two groups:

      1) those who play games and engage and name calling, and

      2) those who work on solving problems.

      Which group are you in?

      Isn’t dividing people into groups “divisive”?

      I would imagine that those working on solving problems wouldn’t be engaging in divisiveness.

  11. “Mayor Reed’s tough stance with the public employee unions resonates with a broad spectrum of voters across the city. It’s labor’s burden to move that needle if they hope to have a good night on November 4, 2014”

      Yeah, right on peter……..all 17,000 of ‘em.  LOL

  12. “And that’s what this amounts to is an easy means for so called “public servants” to get at the trough and feed there indiffentately.  They are essentially selling out the well being of their district/state/country for a lifetime of gravy boating”

    As usual, Hugh, you are severely handicapped with your inability to filter the lies and half-truths spun out of City Hall.  Your undisguised hatred and contempt for Fire and Police is apparent for all to see. Unfortunately for you, the court system will rule in favor of the Unions, they will get their back-pay (with interest), and they will receive compensation for the pay cut they took believing the $650 million lie.  Too bad for the citizens, your kind of hatred does no one any good.

    1. I seldom listen to anything that comes out of CH.  It is all observations of 40 years of how this city has come under the sway of public unions.
      I have nothing but respect for our fire/police and appreciate the jobs they do.  Ditto teachers, I used to be one.
      Where the spinning starts in this dialong is when you cite my hated and contempt for the fire/police personnel – WHICH IS NOT WHAT I SAID. 
      I was going after the crony union officials that make a living out of holding the public hostage to collective bargining.  that’s what is being discussed.
      If you are all for the individual police/fire/educators as I am then maybe you would support making California a Right To Work state.
      what say you?

  13. Well now that Johnny khamis is refusing to negotiate with the POA because his feelings got hurt.

    Before this SJ mercury article came out over the weekend, he went on a ride-o-long with FOP president Bobby Lopez, who would not allow little Johnny to answer any question during our briefing. In his little speech he said he wants more police officers and more funding for the police department, nothing about giving the officers some of there 10% back. Sounds like Rufus and Vic Alijouny have already been pulling the puppet strings on the new councilman.

    Hey Pete, Maybe you can answer this question for me. Is Vic Alijouny the uncle of Johnny Khamis?

    1. It wasn’t that long ago that law enforcement/public safety organizations tended to endorse Republican candidates. The “tough on crime” Republicans vs. the bleeding heart, “soft on crime” Democrats.

      Now they endorse the “soft on crime” Democrats, because the Democrats are also the “tax and spend” Democrats, that support the public safety unions.

      Others have touched on this.  Labels don’t mean as much now, because it’s all about labels and image.  That’s why I’d vote for anything that earmarks money for whatever I really want.  That’s the way I feel, because I don’t seem to get what I want now.

      1. Are you saying that Reed, Licardo, Herrera, Oliverio,Nguyen are closet republicans? Don’t tell the democrats that, their might be a lynching at St. James park later this month.

        Plus, these transparent politicians are like crack heads at St. James park, when that developer shows up, the all foam at the mouth.

        Mayor Reed voted for the pension contacts. I guess he should read the fine print next time, it’s called vested right’s and the California state constitution.

        I have never liked one politician! All are scum, on the take, and corrupt. They sell their soul, that all have their, “Daddy’s” to deal with.

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