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Final City Council Candidate Debate Gets Heated

On Monday, Oct. 17, City Council candidates took part in an intense debate at Santa Clara University (SCU).

SCU’s Associated Student Government hosted the candidates at the Locatelli Student Activity Center. Twelve of the 14 candidates running for City Council seats took part. The moderators, Neil Datar and Areany Tolentino, had their hands full with some fiery moments from the candidates.

Recent reports about the candidates have shadowed this election in unflattering light and put a strain on Santa Clara’s political climate. During the debate, many of the candidates used up all of their challenge cards to argue with other candidates and accuse.


“What you are witnessing in this election is political theatre,” said candidate John McLemore.

The debate covered seven topics and a few of them sparked arguments amongst the candidates. The most disputed topic was about candidates who allegedly accepted anonymous contributions from 49ers through the mysterious website called BLUPAC.

The Weekly recently published an article naming San Francisco Police Officers Association Issues PAC as an organization that donated $10,000 to BLUPAC. It also stated “Records show BLUPAC paid an organization called Citizens for Economic Council $49,249 for a slate-mailer endorsing candidates for the Nov. 8 election.” BLUPAC reported the mailers as independent expenditures for candidates Patricia Mahan, McLemore, Mohammed Nadeem and Ahmad Rafah.

Read the full article here:

On the site, some of the candidates are divided in to two lists: “People to Watch” versus “Good for Santa Clara.” Mahan, McLemore, Nadeem and Rafah are featured on the latter.

Incumbents Teresa O’Neil and Kathy Watanabe stated there is “dark money” involved in this election. The argument got quite heated as candidates denied affiliation with BLUPAC.

Mahan clarified that she hasn’t accepted money from the 49ers in any of her elections but she did accept one ticket in 2011 to a breast cancer awareness event. In response, candidate Tino Silva said that 49ers money could still be coming into BLUPAC in indirect ways.

“I fundamentally disagree with Miss Mahan when we talk about 49er money because money from the 49ers never comes from them; it gets laundered,” said Silva. “The reality is that you’re never going to see something with 49er money on it because they, as a policy, never discuss their political affiliations or positions.”

In response, McLemore emphasized that BLUPAC is an independent expenditure group and those that are allegedly connected to it aren’t actually associated with it.

Nadeem stated that he has never accepted money from any political action committee (PAC).

“In the second city forum I clearly denounced BLUPAC,” said Nadeem. “I have no association with Green PAC, BLUEPAC, Gold PAC, I don’t know how many there are. I have nothing to do with them.”

“What I find compelling is that four people’s names are still on that website being endorsed by this PAC,” said Silva. “If you’re so opposed to this PAC then why is your name still on the PAC and why haven’t you demanded that your name be taken off?” Silva asked Mahan, McLemore and Nadeem.

“I’m sorry we don’t run everything by you, Tino,” replied McLemore. He continued to say that he’s requested to have his name removed from the website but that since BLUPAC is an independent expenditure group, they don’t have to listen. Silva and McLemore argued over each other until the moderators interrupted.

Watanabe defended her endorsement by Mayor Lisa Gillmor against candidate Anthony Becker. Becker prides himself on not having any endorsements and being an independent voice. He claimed that candidates who have endorsements are puppets of an agenda.

Another topic that ruffled feathers was whether general fund tax money was used for the Levi’s Stadium and about how City Council serves on the Board of Directors for the Stadium Authority. The candidates differed on their views of whether tax money was used for the stadium and how complicated the contacts are.

“Yes, I do believe that our general fund money has been used for the stadium and I believe that City Council and the Stadium Authority should be completely separate entities,” said Candidate Markus Bracamonte.

Candidate Kevin Park added, “We need people who know about stadiums, not people who are elected to City Council to dabble in things they have no background in.”

“Looks like the root cause of this stadium issue and other stuff are the contracts we signed,” said Candidate Raj Chahal. “The contracts we signed are so intricate even City Councilmembers do not understand them.”

Mahan stated that no tax money was used on the stadium and sited that a recent audit didn’t find any proof that the tax money was used. She also stated that the contracts between the 49ers and Santa Clara are “pretty clear.”

O’Neil, who is currently on the Stadium Authority, said, “I had comments made to me, as to other members of the Council, that made me question as to whether the book keeping practices were what they should have been.”

Read more about this topic here:

Several other topics were debated, including topics about Measure B and neighborhood/university relations.

In response to a question about racial issues in Santa Clara, Mahan and McLemore pulled out a mailer that was paid for by the Santa Clara Police Officer Association PAC. Mahan said that the only minority candidates were depicted on the black side and the other candidates on the white side. She said it was not-so-subtle racism. In response, Silva said the claim was far reaching.

In reply to the same question, Becker stated, “All lives matter” and members of the crowd cried out.

Candidates also disagreed what is the best way to develop the city. They argued on what to focus on–housing or retail and entertainment–and on where these developments should be. Challenges bounced between candidates until some candidates used up all of their four challenge cards.

Just a few days later at the S.E.S. Portuguese Hall of Santa Clara forum there was another hot episode when Watanabe accused all the other candidates of accepting money from attorney John MInarik.

“I’d like to point out that Mr. MInarik has made donations to each of our opponents,” said Watanabe. “I think that is very telling.”

In response, many of the candidates shook their heads in disagreement.

The election is coming up on Nov. 8. Learn more about the candidates and the election at


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