San Jose’s decision to create stronger tenant protections—not in the manner preferred by Mayor Sam Liccardo—has led to questions about whether the city’s top elected official is losing control of the council. Liccardo already enraged District 10 Councilman Johnny Khamis, a longstanding conservative ally, by picking Magdalena Carrasco as his vice mayor, and the renters vote showed that the mayor’s veep isn’t afraid to vote her conscience. For this reason, Liccardo could be eyeballing two important 2018 races. In District 9, Councilman Don Rocha terms out after years of supporting working-class policies like minimum wage hikes and subsidized housing. Kalen Gallagher, a 34-year-old former charter school teacher, startup founder and Campbell Union High School District trustee, was the first to throw his name in the ring, and his allegiances appear to be fluid. Other names being floated include ex-hospital tech Sabuhi Siddique, San Jose Unified School District Board President Pam Foley, AARP deputy state director Fred Buzo, cybersecurity pro Doron Aronson and state Assembly aide Shay Franco-Clausen. In District 7, first-term Councilman Tam Nguyen has generally supported labor but he’s also alienated parts of the Vietnamese community by suing a pair of bloggers who branded him a “communist.” Nguyen’s recent votes to strengthen renter protections also prompted landlords to hiss and repeat the political pejorative. It’s unclear how that will affect Nguyen’s shot at reelection, but a few folks are already lining up. One opponent is Chris Le, an Oakland tax auditor who’s already waging a public battle with the incumbent. Le launched the first volley by accusing Nguyen of illegally “wiretapping” his mobile phone by having someone zoom a camera in on his text messages in a public meeting. Another possibility is Thanh Tran, a green yet up-and-coming member of the Franklin-McKinley School District board. It seems unlikely Liccardo will receive a credible challenge in the mayor’s race, but he may need big victories in 2018 to reclaim his majority.
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