If she wins San Jose’s mayoral race, Councilmember Dev Davis pledges a more fiscally responsible administration that focuses on the core services.
Since 2017, Davis has represented San Jose’s District 6, which includes Willow Glen, the Rose Garden and Santana Row. In this technically nonpartisan race, out of the front runners, Davis is the only independent candidate against three Democrats. Cindy Chavez, Matt Mahan and Raul Peralez all belong to the Democratic Party. Outside this group are two other candidates: conservative Republican Jim Spence and Marshall Woodmansee. who is unaffiliated with any party.
Davis became a homeowner in San Jose during the 2008 recession and, like many at the time, faced financial struggles that would later inspire her to run for office. She received her bachelor of science degree in economics from Oakland University and joint master’s degrees in public policy and education studies from Stanford University.
Before her current position as a councilmember, Davis worked as an education researcher at Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. At CREDO, Davis and her team used qualitative analysis to compare charter schools and their district school counterparts.
In 2016 Davis ran against Helen Chapman for the District 6 council seat, taking 53% of the vote. Unlike the other candidates, Davis was a registered Republican—that is, until 2017, when the party moved farther right and supporting President Trump became a litmus test in the GOP. When families were separated at the border, Davis, a mother of two, had enough.
“It just didn’t make sense to me that the party of family values was tearing families apart,” Davis says.
Incumbent Davis retained her seat against opponent Jake Tonkel in 2020, once again winning 53% of the vote. This race became heated when Tonkel attended “defund the police” rallies—including one that made its way outside Davis’s house because she was the only councilmember in favor of letting the police decide when to end San Jose’s curfew. Davis was not home, but her children were.
“It is not a good reason to freak out your children.”
Her platform has remained consistent from her council races to her run for mayor. Davis believes city leaders should focus on the city’s five core services—fire, police, roads, libraries and parks—in a fiscally responsible way.
“This has been my sixth year in office and again I want to keep our eye on providing those core services that residents deserve and ensure we are as fiscally responsible as possible because the best way to provide our services is by spending our money wisely and to not get distracted by issues that are not in our purview,” she asserts.
Out of the five core services, Davis’s proudest achievement while in office has been her role in supporting San Jose’s firefighters. After attending a fire training day, Davis was amazed by the Lund University Cardiopulmonary Assist System (LUCAS). She learned that firefighters responding to medical emergencies face difficulties when transporting patients, especially in narrow walkways like stairwells. If a patient requires CPR or chest compressions, they may be paused in those conditions. When placed on a patient, the LUCAS device can maintain those life-saving chest compressions while the patient is transported.
“It just blew my mind that this device existed … this is such cool tech and we have this? And they said, well, we have a few. I was like, what do you mean we had a few?” she recalls. Due to budget constraints, not all engines were equipped with the device. “At the time, they only had three or four on engines that had the most medical calls.”
For the next five years after that initial fire training day, Davis campaigned for a larger budget for the San Jose Fire Department—until 2020, when LUCAS devices were on every fire engine in the city.
“It was really about asking and asking and asking until we were gonna get to the end. Once we had a tipping point that every firefighter knew about it, they were clamoring for them.”
Every candidate running for mayor has agreed that San Jose’s biggest issues are the shrinking police department and the rising homeless population. How the candidates go about solving those problems is where they differ.
Like the other candidates, Davis acknowledges the need to improve police training, beef up hiring and strengthen the partnership between officers and community service officers, who are trained specifically to handle mental health issues. Davis emphasizes the need to devote more attention to traffic enforcement officers to curb the rising number of traffic fatalities.
“We have had over 30 fatalities in the first four months of this year. That is on pace to outstrip the record of 2019 and 2021 of 60 fatalities each year. We absolutely need more traffic enforcement officers.”
For San Jose’s houseless, she says, we must focus on safety, sanitation and services. While candidate Matt Mahan advocates for a complete swing into modular housing, Davis is unsure.
“I know that for some of my colleges, we have to go to all-in modular housing. Modular housing is a solution and it’s great because we can do it quickly and cheaply. We got it in my district; I can say with some experience behind me that it remains to be seen if quick and cheap will mean durable. That is why I support permanent supportive housing and have supported every affordable housing project, not only in my district but citywide, because we want to have a mix of incomes in our neighborhoods, and also we need to ensure that we have housing that will last.”
It is important to Davis that the city is fiscally responsible when it comes to evaluating what it is capable of providing in services to the houseless. For what the city cannot do, it should leverage the relationship with the county.
“The city does not have the capability to provide drug and alcohol mental health services. I am in support of the governor’s CARE court proposal. I support the implementation and better use of Laura’s Law because we do need to bring people in from outside. What we need to do is make sure the city is spending its dollars in the areas of housing and homeless that we are capable of doing.”
On housing for other city residents, Davis has stood firm in support of single-family homes versus the more vertical apartment-style housing that other candidates support.
“The thing that is probably different about my campaign is the single-family home issue. That is not one any of my colleges have made a cornerstone of their campaigns. I think it is really important that we ensure that people get to live in the neighborhoods that they choose,” she says.
No matter what the problem the city faces, Davis says she will deliver on her promises.
“I am not the person who will make promises I know I can’t keep, and I will not be the person who tries to do everything. Because if you try to do everything, you can’t do anything well.”