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Incumbency Wins Big in City Elections

Incumbency Wins Big in City Elections

The face of Santa Clara’s City Council didn’t change much in Tuesday’s elections, except that women now hold a five-two majority. All incumbents held their seats.

In the one vacant seat, 4, former mayor Patricia Mahan won with 34 percent of the vote (7,503) in a four-way race; beating Parks and Recreation Commissioner Tino Silva, Planning Commissioner Raj Chahal, and newcomer Marcus Bracamante. “I look forward to working with our councilmembers,” said Mahan. “It’s time to get back to the business of making Santa Clara a great city.

In Council Seat 3, incumbent Debi Davis captured the largest win of the night, 65 percent of the vote (14,054), over former Council Member John McLemore.

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Council Seat 7 incumbent Teresa O’Neill captured 59 percent of the vote against two challengers, with engineer Kevin Park and community organizer Ahmad Rafah in third place. “My heartfelt congratulations [go] to Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill,” said Rafah, “whom I’d like to thank for running an ethical and issue-based campaign that focused on delivering new ideas to residents.”

Kathy Watanabe, appointed to the Council last March, won election to Seat 6 with 49 percent of the vote (10,741) in a five-way race, against Civil Service Commissioner Mohammad Nadeem, Planning Commissioner Suds Jain, San José State student Anthony Becker and business man Mario Bouza

City Clerk Rod Diridon Jr. won a third term with 69 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Deborah Bress.

With 51 percent of the vote, Chief Mike Sellers defeated challenger Patrick Nikolai.

In the Santa Clara Unified three-candidate race for two seats in Area 2, incumbent and board president Albert Gonzalez was relected and newcomer Sunnyvale resident Mark Richardson will take the seat vacated by Christopher Stampolis. Ashish Mangla made his best showing ever, with 20 percent of the vote.

Santa Clara Unified incumbent trustee Michele Ryan held her seat in trustee Area 3 against challenger Anna Welsh, carrying 52 percent of the vote. “We need to become focused on student engagement and achievement,” said Ryan, “and we need to ensure that our schools and programs are responsive to the demands of our community.”

Bob Owens easily kept his seat in Trustee Area 2 of the West Valley-Mission Community College Governing Board with 59 percent of the vote. Owens was challenged by outgoing SCUSD trustee Stampolis, who got 41 percent of the vote despite having a permanent restraining order against him for threatening a middle school principal, and a lawsuit charging him with concealing a conflict of interest.

Rosemary Kamei was elected to a seat on the County Board of Education for Trustee Area 3. Kamei was appointed to the board earlier this year after Leon Beauchman resigned.

Four changes to the Santa Clara Charter passed: raising council and mayor salaries (Measure O); requiring appointees in the first half of an elected term to run for election in the next general election, and a 4/5 majority vote to approve mid-term appointments (Measure P); lifetime term limits for all Council Members and Mayors starting Nov. 8, 2016 (Q); and requiring a voter referendum on developments on city owned parkland (R).

Facilities bonds measures AA and CC in the Campbell Union school districts passed (Santa Clara west of Pruneridge Ave. is in Campbell school districts).

Some observations about the 2016 vote:

Of registered city and school district voters, slightly over 50 percent cast ballots in the election. Of the 26,214 city voters who cast ballots, 22,000 – 24,000 voted for the city races. Put another way, between 8 and 15 percent of the city residents who came to the polls chose not to vote for the public offices that have the most immediate impact on their own lives. In close races, those 2,000 to 4,000 votes could change outcomes.

If this election were conducted using a simple at-large system Davis (14,054), O’Neill (12,809), and Watanabe (10,741) would still have won. However, the fourth winner would have been John McLemore (7,719) instead of Patricia Mahan (7,503).

In general, winning candidates won across all precincts. Only three races showed exceptions.

In SCUSD Trustee Area 3, losing candidate Anna Welsh carried precincts on the southern borders of Santa Clara. In the City Council race, third place candidate Raj Chahal carried precincts on the West San Jose and Sunnyvale borders as well as one downtown and two Northside precincts. In the race for police chief, Pat Nikolai carried precincts on the city’s northern Sunnyvale and West San Jose borders.

And, finally, Santa Clara City Council’s diversity record remained unchanged. “While there were five minorities running,” Suds Jain wrote to his supporters, “none won and Santa Clara council is left without any racial diversity.”

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