Matt Mahan elected mayor of San Jose, Lisa Gillmor in Santa Clara

South Bay candidates had the backing of real estate interests

From left: Santa Clara's Mayor Lisa Gillmor and San Jose's Mayor Matt Mahan
From left: Santa Clara's Mayor Lisa Gillmor and San Jose's Mayor Matt Mahan (Mahan for San Jose, Santa Clara, Getty)

Two South Bay candidates backed by real estate interests have won their races to become the next mayors of San Jose and Santa Clara.

Matt Mahan, a rookie San Jose councilman, will become mayor of the Bay Area’s largest city while Lisa Gillmor has won her third term as mayor of Santa Clara, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Mahan led labor-backed Cindy Chavez, a Santa Clara County supervisor and San Jose’s former vice mayor, who conceded after trailing by nearly 3 percentage points, with 90 percent of the vote counted.

Gillmor led by Councilman Anthony Becker, who conceded after trailing by 687 votes with 91 percent of the vote counted.

Both races were hard fought, with campaign expenditures running into the millions.

In San Jose, the tense campaign between Mahan and Chavez turned on violent crime and rising homeless encampments.

Mahan, the District 10 City Council member since 2020 and former social media entrepreneur and schoolteacher, argued homeless encampments had proliferated while Chavez focused on expensive and time-consuming long-term affordable housing projects.

He said budgets approved when Chavez last served had limited police expenditures, while her bail reforms at the county had put too many criminals back on the streets.
Mahan will become the city’s first new mayor in eight years, replacing Mayor Sam Liccardo, who joined the city’s business and real estate interests in endorsing Mahan.

Though Mahan had the edge in personal campaign funds, for which donors are limited to $1,400 each per election, Chavez had more funding from independent political committees representing labor and business interests, according to the Mercury News.

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Combined with her own campaign funds, she had $5 million behind her effort to Mahan’s $3 million.

He takes the helm at a pivotal time for the nation’s 10th largest city as Google moves forward with a major campus and housing project downtown and BART is set to make its long-planned push into the central city.

In nearby Santa Clara, Gillmor won despite millions of dollars in contributions from the San Francisco 49ers. The NFL team spent more than $4.5 million on local races and more than $1.4 million to back Becker.

The 49ers manage the 68,500-seat Levi’s Stadium approved by voters in 2010 and built four years later. Much of the race turned on its role in Santa Clara and its shower of campaign cash.

In a statement, Gillmor thanked her supporters for showing that “our city is not for sale.”

Gillmor and her supporters had criticized the team for not delivering on its promises to bring in revenue with non-49ers events, as well as for a lack of transparency in the stadium’s management and accounting.

The mayor, a full-time real estate broker, had $250,000 poured into her campaign from Related Santa Clara and Related California Residential, which will soon break ground on an $8 billion, 9.2 million-square-foot project near Levi’s Stadium.

Becker and his council allies, accused by a grand jury of an unethical relationship with the 49ers and prioritizing the team’s interests, said they want the city to have a more productive relationship with the team.

Dana Bartholomew

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