Santa Clara’s 2020 election just got hotter with a new independent expenditure PAC, Citizens for Efficient Government and Full Voting Rights, armed with $250,000 donated by 49ers owner Jed York. Former Congressman Mike Honda, retired Santa Clara Police Chief Mike Sellers and former Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan are the PAC’s officers.
It could be a game-changer for grass-roots candidates that in the past have been at a disadvantage because of police union PAC independent expenditures.
Although no spending has been reported as of this writing, the PAC has made it clear that its objective is fighting Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s and City Hall’s efforts to overturn the 2018 ruling that Santa Clara violated voting rights laws.
“Mike Honda requested our support in bringing fair, balanced, and diverse representation to Santa Clara,” said Rahul Chandhok, 49ers VP Public Affairs and Strategic Communications, “and to ensure we continue to protect the civil and voting rights of all Santa Clarans. We are proud to answer his call.”
Chandhok’s view is that the central issue in this election isn’t candidates so much as it is about fundamental questions of voting rights.
“Mayor Gillmor’s allies continue to disenfranchise minority communities and strip them of equal representation in our local government through their support of Measure C while simultaneously ignoring court orders. Our civic duty is to take steps towards equity and equality by supporting those who defend voting rights.”
Measure C — widely opposed by civil and voting rights groups — proposed multi-member districts, which are considered, in voting rights law, a version of the City’s at-large election system that was found to suppress minority votes in 2018. The measure was soundly defeated, 60-40 last June. York donated about $600,000 to the campaign against it.
The Yorks and 49ers entities have made few political donations in Santa Clara in the past. The biggest contribution they ever made — about $4 million — was to pass Measure J, the ballot initiative spearheaded by Mayor Gillmor that paved the way to building Levi’s Stadium.
“After seeing the reports of Mayor Gillmor’s developer allies funneling money through the Police union PAC,” he continued, “and the outcry from civic institutions like the NAACP and the Asian Law Alliance, we felt it necessary to make our support swift, open, and transparent.
Unlike the police union-fronted developer POA PAC, the Citizens PAC states prominently that York and the 49ers entities are its sponsors.
The irony is that three of the candidates opposing the Gillmor slate voted against Measure J.
The police union PAC has never responded to The Weekly’s requests for comment, nor have any of its developer donors.