Rose Garden Resident
San Jose City Council selects Candelas for District 8 seat
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.