Rose Garden Resident

San Jose City Council selects Candelas for District 8 seat

- By Gabriel Greschler ggreschler@ bayareanew­

After weeks of contentiou­s debate on how to fill two vacant San Jose City Council seats, a Stanford University administra­tor was appointed without the mayor's support to represent the East Side of the nation's 10th largest city.

Domingo Candelas was selected Jan. 24 for the District 8 seat, marking the first time since 1994 that a vacant council spot was filled through appointmen­t rather than a special election.

“There's a lot of work to do,” Candelas, 33, said. “From keeping our community safe to homelessne­ss to environmen­tal issues.”

Candelas — who works as Stanford's director of Local Government Affairs, but has said he will resign from that job — was interviewe­d by councilmem­bers in the afternoon and then selected through a vote among a pool of five candidates. The district covers the city's Evergreen neighborho­od, from Lake Cunningham Park in the north to Evergreen Valley Community College to the east all the way down south to the Silver Creek Valley Country Club.

Councilmem­bers approved the selection in a 7-2 vote, with Bien Doan joining Mayor Matt Mahan in voting against Candelas. As a result, Mahan, who won his position with few allies, could face major stumbling blocks in building a coalition to push forward his own policy proposals. The entire council supported his opponent in the November race for mayor.

The new councilmem­ber's term began Monday

and last until the next general election in 2024 — and Candelas has said he will run for reelection, at that point with an edge incumbents often enjoy.

A former staffer of state Sen. Jim Beall and the Santa Clara Valley Water District, Candelas says he wants to focus on housing affordabil­ity, stronger social services and cleaner public spaces. He also has served on the state's Democratic Central Committee since 2015.

“I'm excited,” Candelas said in an interview. “My top priority is to make sure the residents of District 8 have a voice at City Hall. An office that is responsive, accountabl­e and engaged with people.”

Campaign disclosure forms show that Candelas gave money to San Jose's labor-backed council candidates during the November election, including $1,850 to District 5's Peter Ortiz and $500 to Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, Mahan's opponent in the mayoral race.

During the appointmen­t

battle, Candelas faced off against Evergreen School District Board Trustee President Patricia Andrade, city analyst Salvador Alvarez, Sikh community leader and software manager Sukhdev Bainiwal and police Sgt. Tam Truong. Unlike the other four candidates, Candelas did not list any endorsemen­ts on his applicatio­n for the seat.

The District 8 seat became vacant in November after former Councilmem­ber Sylvia Arenas was elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor­s. Almaden Valley's District 10 seat — previously held by Mahan — was also left vacant and was filled Jan. 26 through a similar process.

Efforts to fill the seat started just weeks after November's election when Mahan came out with a proposal to hold a special election for the two vacant council spots. Along with former Mayor Sam Liccardo, Mahan argued that despite the costs of the elections — estimated to rise up to $11 million — residents

should have a voice in who represents them.

But progressiv­e councilmem­bers rejected the mayor's suggestion, arguing that a special election would be costly and that low voter turnout would produce a candidate that didn't accurately reflect the community.

At stake was the council's ideologica­l makeup. A special election would have increased the likelihood of Mahan nabbing a moderate ally on the council, while an appointmen­t could allow for the council's majority-progressiv­e members to vote in one of their own.

Councilmem­bers in December voted 7-4 for appointmen­ts — with moderate Councilmem­ber Dev Davis voting along with her progressiv­e colleagues — a stunning rebuke of the city's top leadership and Mahan's first political swing at bat as mayor.

The drama continued on Jan. 24 after councilmem­bers abruptly entered an emergency closed session halfway through public comment. City Attorney

Nora Frimann later explained that concerns were brought to the city clerk's attention about the “legitimacy” of the night's appointmen­t process.

Shortly after, Truong, Bainiwal and Alvarez said during public comment that they had told the city clerk that their opponent Candelas had unfairly prepared for his interview questions while waiting outside the council's chambers. The three candidates all said that they saw Candelas using his phone and laptop before he was called to the council chamber for his interview. During his interview, Candelas appeared to be referring to notes and had prepared responses, as opposed to the other four candidates.

Addressing councilmem­bers, Candelas denied the allegation­s.

“I've been preparing for this for weeks,” he said. “I got to know what issues are important to the city. I did my own homework.” Later, in an interview, Candelas said that any effort to delegitimi­ze the process was “political theater.”

“We've done appointmen­ts throughout the city of San Jose's history,” he said.

In a statement, Frimann said she was unable to expand upon what happened during the emergency closed session because of attorney-client privileges, but said it was “important that Council was made aware of the informatio­n.”

For the mayor — who has supported special elections from the beginning — the allegation­s were a one-two punch.

“I am disappoint­ed,” Mahan said. “I think we would have been served well with an election. But I understand it is the will of the council to move forward. I'm also disappoint­ed that the integrity of the process has been called into question this evening. And I expect us to do better on Thursday.”

But the dust-up didn't spoil the moment for the new councilmem­ber's family. Roughly a dozen gave Candelas hugs and cheered for him as soon as councilmem­bers finished their vote.

“I personally feel super excited,” said Candelas' sister, Claudia Candelashe­rnandez. “I've seen my brother prepare so hard for this. We are products of District 8. And I know he's going to do a good job.”

On Jan. 26, councilmem­bers voted on the appointmen­t for Almaden Valley's district. The six candidates included former deputy district attorney and county judge Ron Del Pozzo, retired Intel employee Arjun Batra, corporate attorney George Casey, education and child care consultant Wendi Mahaney-gurahoo, former city and county employee Dennis Hawkins and gym owner J. David Heindel.

 ?? PHOTOS BY JOSIE LEPE ?? San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan listens during appointmen­t interviews session at City Hall in San Jose on Jan. 24.
PHOTOS BY JOSIE LEPE San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan listens during appointmen­t interviews session at City Hall in San Jose on Jan. 24.
 ?? ?? Domingo Candelas became the first appointee for a vacant City Council spot since 1994.
Domingo Candelas became the first appointee for a vacant City Council spot since 1994.

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