Former labor group leader Cindy Chavez outspends rival Matt Mahan by double in San Jose mayor's race

Former labor group leader Cindy Chavez outspends rival Matt Mahan by double in San Jose mayor's race
Photos via Cindy Chavez for Mayor and Matt Mahan/Instagram
By Jay Barmann - Published on November 04, 2022.

San Jose is one of several big cities in California — including Oakland and Los Angeles — voting for brand new mayors on Tuesday, with their incumbents termed out. And spending in the San Jose mayor's race is reaching record levels for the two top candidates seeking to replace Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Cindy Chavez, a current Santa Clara County supervisor and a former head of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, and San Jose City Councilmember Matt Mahan are the top candidates going into the final few days of the race. And as the Mercury News reports, fundraising for their campaigns has nearly reached a combined $8 million, with Mahan's personal campaign having raised slightly more. But in terms of PACs and independent fundraising, supporters of Chavez have about twice as much money to spend on last-minute ads and canvassing as Mahan, largely thanks to Chavez's labor support.

"Mahan’s independent backers include a California Real Estate committee, Silicon Valley Biz PAC, representing local business interests, and Common Good Silicon Valley," the Mercury News explains, with the latter group being something that Liccardo set up to promote multiple causes.

Chavez meanwhile has funding from the San Francisco 49ers ownership, as well as police and firefighters' unions.

To date, Chavez's mayoral campaign has raised $1.5 million, but PACs supporting her, which have looser limits on contributions, have raised over $4.8 million. Mahan's campaign coffers total $1.8 million so far, per the Mercury News, and independent fundraising for him totals $1.95 million, with another $700,000 coming from groups opposing Chavez.

South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council Committee on Political Education has put nearly a half million dollars toward opposing Mahan.

That's a lot of money to spend on both sides, and there are still campaign events all weekend.

"I’m expecting a close race — I’ve heard from people that it’s well within the margin of error — so both campaigns are feeling like it’s theirs to win," says San Jose State political science professor Garrick Percival said to the Merc. “There’s clearly an effort to reach voters who haven’t cast their ballots, which is a lot of voters."

The group Common Good has, as residents may be aware, been hammering at Chavez as being soft on crime, saying she supported "catch and release" policies by law enforcement. 

"Sam and Matt have not addressed public safety in San Jose in a robust way, period," Chaves tells the Mercury News. "The number one way to address public safety is to have police officers present."

Chavez argues that her support for pretrial release programs have allowed non-violent offenders to continue work and school, and not lose their jobs pending trial.

"We can't continue to have this revolving door at the county jail, where our thinly staffed police department is arresting the same people over and over again-largely for lack of intervention around addiction and mental illness," Mahan says in comments to ABC 7 News. Mahan also said that during the pandemic, he saw "that not all parts of our city have equal access to city services, or equal opportunity. And that has to be a focus of our government."

Chavez also told ABC 7 that she would not be running for mayor had it not been for her experience as a county supervisor during the pandemic. "You could see business, labor, nonprofits, government, working together to save lives," she said, and that inspired her to pursue more civil service.

This weekend, Chavez has campaign events planned with local firefighters, as well as with state Sen. Dave Cortese and House Rep. Zoe Lofgren. Mahan, meanwhile, will be doing outreach in the Ethiopian community, and attending an event in the tony Shasta Hanchett neighborhood.