.Candidates Race To Represent San Jose’s Most Populated Districts

Seats in San Jose's Districts 3,5, and 7 are up for grabs

The outcome of the current San Jose City Council races will have a lasting impact on three of the most populous districts in the city.

Residents in Districts 3, 5, and 7 will elect new representatives on Nov. 8.

District 3 encompasses the downtown San Jose area. San Jose City Councilmember Raul Peralez is terming out after eight years. In contention to succeed him are Evergreen Community College District Governing Board Member Omar Torres and business owner Irene Smith.

Torres is running on a progressive platform. On homelessness, Torres advocates for the city’s continued pursuit of permanent housing solutions to alleviate homelessness. He supports the expansion of California’s homeless relief programs, Project Roomkey and Homekey, in San Jose and District 3.

Project Homekey develops a broad range of housing options, including single-family homes and multifamily apartments, while Project Roomkey converts underutilized motels and hotels into temporary housing for residents struggling with homelessness.

Torres is endorsed by established federal, state, county and city officials, including congressional representatives Zoe Lofgren, Ro Khanna and Anna Eshoo. Locally, Torres is supported by Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, former San Jose mayors Ron Gonzales, and Tom McEnery, and four members of the San Jose City Council (Sergio Jimenez, Raul Peralez, Magdalena Carrasco and Sylvia Arenas).

Irene Smith owns a small business—Yoga in Union, in downtown—and is a political newcomer. She is running on a platform that favors a decentralized form of government and is critical of the current model of centrally focused governance that she believes doesn’t fully represent individual neighborhoods in San Jose. According to her campaign website, she wants to reduce regulations for small-business owners and home builders looking to invest in downtown San Jose. She is endorsed by Councilmember Dev Davis and former councilmember Johnny Khamis.

In District 5, which encompasses the Alum Rock neighborhood, former District 5 councilmember Nora Campos is facing off against Santa Clara County Board of Education Governing Board member Peter Ortiz.

Both candidates grew up in East San Jose, believe in bettering public safety in their neighborhood, and are endorsed by Democratic San Jose representatives, Campos by Congresswoman Lofgren, Ortiz by Senator Dave Cortese.

Campos represented District 5 in 2001-2010 and served in the California Assembly in 2010-2016, representing District 27, encompassing Seven Trees, Evergreen, Silver Creek, Alum Rock and downtown San Jose.

In a Sept. 7 candidate forum hosted by San Jose State University political science professor emeritus Terry Christensen, Campos said she helped secure funding for COVID-19 testing at the Mexican Heritage Plaza.

During Campos’ tenure as councilmember in the 2000s, District 5 saw openings of major East San Jose community projects, such as the Plaza de San Jose business center at Story and King roads, the Dr. Roberto Cruz Alum Rock and Hillview branch libraries, and the Alum Rock Youth Center on North White Road.

Ortiz has a history of being a neighborhood leader. According to his campaign website, Ortiz has “advocated for the creation of a jobs program to provide at-risk youth with the job skills needed to obtain meaningful employment, the expansion of ethnic studies for East San Jose Schools, the development of the California Latino School Boards Association to provide resources to local leaders, advocating to close the school to prison pipeline and working toward a just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that focuses on the most impacted and the most vulnerable.”

He is campaigning as a vocal supporter of affordable housing and small-business owners.

District 7, encompassing the primarily Vietnamese and Latino neighborhoods of Tully, Story and Monterey roads, is being contested by incumbent Maya Esparza and retired San Jose fire captain Bien Doan.

In an Oct. 15 forum hosted by the League of Women’s Voters (which can be watched on YouTube), Esparza said she added homework programs in the Franklin-Mckinley School District and helped residents displaced by the 2017 Coyote Creek flood.

She is looking to add more police enforcement and affordable housing units to address the crime and homelessness issues in her district.

Esparza is endorsed by all eight members of the San Jose City Council, San Jose Firefighters, Local 230, Santa Clara County Firefighters IAFF Local 1165, the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, and Congresswoman Lofgren.

Doan has been on the San Jose Firefighter Department since 2000 and was the first Vietnamese fire captain to serve on the San Jose Fire Department. He is running as a voice for District 7 residents who believe their district is crime- and trash-ridden, due to a growing homelessness and mental health crisis.

“If you’re happy with the city as is, vote for the incumbent, but if you’re not, I ask humbly for your votes,” said Doan on the same Oct. 15 League of Women Voters forum.

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