Just as we predicted in March 2012, a Sicilian American, Bellarmine-educated attorney was elected mayor of San Jose this week. Which one, we didn’t really think it was worth staying up until daylight to find out, just like the 60-plus percent of San Jose registered voters who didn’t bother to cast ballots.
We’ve been through these cliffhangers before, in the Hammer-Fiscalini nail-biter in 1997 and the Gonzales-Dando contest in 1998. This time around it was Sam Liccardo holding a thin 2-percentage point edge over Dave Cortese. (UPDATE: Liccardo declared victory Wednesday morning. See below for more details.)
Liccardo—donning a navy blue suit, white shirt, red tie and his signature guffaw—delivered what for all intents and purposes was a victory speech about a quarter after 10 at the Gordon Biersch brewery in Japantown. Only 58 of 495 precincts had reported, but mayor gon’ do what a mayor gon’ do.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, but that’s what they all say,” said Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, 73, who claims to have spent 20 hours over the past few weekends knocking on doors for the downtown councilman. “If you endorse someone, you better goddamn well work for them.”
About 500 people packed into the warehouse, surrounded by massive fermenting tanks and conveyor belts. Guests dined on tacos and stood in a long, meandering lines to re-up on pints. Copies of Liccardo’s self-published tome were fanned out on tables like party favors.
Mayor Chuck Reed and Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen dipped out early, but Liccardo’s City Council colleagues Pete Constant, Johnny Khamis and erstwhile opponent in the mayoral contest, Rose Herrera, stuck around for the later round of returns. Also milling about, no surprise, was former mayor Tom McEnery and San Jose-Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Matt Mahood, who later told Fly that he stopped by Cortese’s bash to the surprise of many. “Why do you think I might be here?” he told them “[Cortese] could be mayor.”
The mood in the downtown Marriott ballroom was festive as well, until the Santa Clara County registrar of Voters ran an hour later on the crucial 10 o’clock return. Cortese admitted, “It’s probably going to be hard to sleep,” but that he’d be staying up as late as 4am—the time county ROV Shannon Bushey told Fly would be the best time to get clear results.
Cortese didn’t let on that he was disappointed in the early returns—well he didn’t have much of chance. While he was answering Fly’s question a woman asked, “Is the evil Metro guy giving you a hard time?” One of Cortese’s three bodymen for the night (he had two security guards), Scott Strickland, a chief of staff for Cortese’s county supervisor colleague Cindy Chavez, deadpanned, “Not for long.” It turned out the shade thrower was Sheriff Laurie Smith having a little fun at Fly’s expense.
UPDATE: Sam Liccardo held a press conference Wednesday morning to declare himself the winner of the San Jose mayor’s race. The announcement was made despite the fact that tens of thousands of ballots have yet to be counted by the Registrar of Voters. Dave Cortese has yet to concede, and his spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Below is Liccardo’s statement:
“This morning I am so grateful to the people of San José. Although some late ballots are still being counted, my lead has held steady, and I want to thank the thousands of voters who believed that we can make our city safer and stronger through smarter government.
“After several difficult years, I believe San José can come together, put aside old arguments and old divisions and work for a brighter future. Today I will begin reaching out to community leaders across the city – no matter who they supported in this race – to start working on solutions. I might not always agree with everyone, but I promise this – to anyone who wants to make this city better for everyone, I will listen to you and I will try hard to work with you to meet our common goals and build a safer, stronger city.
“I am ready to lead San Jose through the challenges ahead to improve public safety, restore services, grow our economy and provide more opportunities for our children and all residents of this great city.
“I want to thank Supervisor Cortese for his leadership and work. And I thank Mayor Chuck Reed, former Mayors Susan Hammer, Tom McEnery and Ron James and so many others for their help and advice over the last several months. In particular, I am so grateful to my wife, Jessica Garcia-Kohl, for her love, patience and support.
“Thank you to everyone who worked to hard to get us here. Now it’s time to get to work!”
UPDATE, 1:43pm: Cortese sent out a press release saying that with tens of thousands of votes yet to be counted and only about 2,000 separating the two candidates, the race remains “officially too close to call.” Below is Cortese’s statement:
“So far in this election about 109,106 ballots have been counted in San José and we know tens of thousands more are yet to be counted. Out of respect to our supporters and the voters in general, I want to let all votes be counted before making a conclusive statement. Although I congratulated Sam Liccardo this morning on running a great campaign, this race is still too close to call. I’m confident in the democratic process and want everyone to understand that every vote does indeed count.”