Jenny Higgins Bradanini snagged the Silicon Valley Democratic Club’s endorsement in her bid to replace soon-to-term out San Jose Councilman Johnny Khamis.
Higgins Bradanini, who serves as president of the Bay Area Women’s March before her foray into local politics, faces ex-Brigade CEO Matt Mahan, businesswoman Helen Wang and financial advisor Vinh Do in the race to represent the Almaden Valley City Council district. As the only two democrats in the race, Higgins Bradanini and Mahan faced off at the club’s Monday night meeting in a debate over the city’s Ellis Act law and cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
At the end of the night, members voted to endorse Higgins Bradanini by a 46-17 margin.
“I think it just validates all the work [in my] track record,” Higgins Bradanini told San Jose Inside after the forum. “I think people count on the Democratic party and clubs like the Silicon Valley Democratic Club to support candidates that uphold the Democratic values and I think that they did that tonight.”
Two weeks ago, the San Jose City Council voted 6-5 to amend the Ellis Act law, which deals with preserving rent-controlled units when a developer decides to demolish and rebuild property. Under a previous iteration of the ordinance, developers had to put at least half of the new units or the number of old units taken off the market—whichever number was greater—back under rent control.
But a majority of the council voiced concern that the rule was stalling new housing development. Now, the number of units developers are required to place back under the 5 percent annual rent limit is capped at seven times the number of units demolished. The move was criticized by labor and affordable housing advocates as a weakening of tenant protections, and on Monday night, the two D10 candidates were asked what they would do about the new law.
Higgins Bradanini said she was “very disappointed” in the recent decision by the council and that, if elected, she would hold a roundtable with D10 residents to hear their thoughts. “The second would be to put a memo that would strengthen and protect the residents so that we don’t have any more of these Ellis Act weakenings,” she added. “That was heartbreaking. These are people’s lives.”
Mahan said that he agreed with his opponent, but didn’t necessarily fancy the “compromise” that the council reached. “If you take a parcel that has four units and two are affordable and two are not, to apply that 50 percent rule to a building that might have 200 units actually won’t work, which means you’re going to get less density,” he said. “If we are too rigid in our policies we often get unintended consequences.”
Cooperation with ICE
The candidates received a number of questions relating to ICE raids, including how they’d make sure undocumented immigrants felt safe enough to be counted in the 2020 census. During an audience question segment, Stanford University law professor Michele Dauber criticized Mahan over his answer to a question about ICE cooperation on a Santa Clara County Democratic Party questionnaire.
“There is a moral message … and an ethical message that that collaboration sends in a time in which we’re living,” Dauber said. “I heard you say during this question, ‘I’m a Democrat but,’ and I think that was really the problem that I had with your candidacy was that there were a lot of ‘buts.’”
Mahan restated his connection with the undocumented community, referencing his childhood in Watsonville and the two years he taught in East San Jose schools. “The idea that I’m not interacting with the community or asking people questions or under[stand] I think is really unfair,” Mahan replied.
He also pointed to a list of individuals and local jurisdictions that agree with his viewpoints, including San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and the policies in Alameda, Monterey and San Mateo counties.
“Very few people in our community commit crimes, very few commit violent crimes,” Mahan explained. “But there are extreme cases where there are bad people and when we say we’re not going to cooperate when we have someone who has committed violent crimes … we’re actually giving licenses to the federal government to raid a community to find those people.”
Higgins Bradanini said she believes there should be no federal ICE facilities in Morgan Hill and that the county and its jails shouldn’t collaborate with the agency at all.
“ICE has access to the databases,” Higgins Bradanini said. “They want us to do the work, they can do the work. … It’s not like we’re opening the doors and we’re letting murderers loose. We have to be careful with that narrative.”
The California primary election takes place on March 3, 2020. For more information about local races, campaign fundraising, how to register to vote and more, visit the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters website at sccvote.org.