The sense of disappointment was palpable as we walked into Dave Cortese's Election Night party. This was not supposed to happen.
Most political prognosticators, including this blogger, believed San Jose’s electorate would move in a new direction based on valid polling information known before the election. But in a low-turnout race, the winning candidate is the individual who gets their supporters to the polls, not the one who looks the best on paper. Sam Liccardo got his supporters to vote, opinion polls be damned.
Now the new mayor of San Jose faces huge challenges. The most striking problem is not simply putting more cops on the street, though it is an important goal. The real work will be bringing a divided city together. The vote total reflects the intense divisions that currently exist in San Jose, as Liccardo will likely win with 51 percent of the vote.
The causes and blame for the deep political divisions are well chronicled, but now they must become irrelevant. As a city we can continue to fight the old battles, entrench ourselves in anger and wage wars of attrition that only hurt our community. A move in that direction—business vs. labor, moderates vs. progressives—or we can come together for the good of the city.
Disagreements will not disappear and pension reform will continue to move through the courts. We need to make an effort to look at issues where common ground can be found. Good will from both sides is needed to engage in an honest dialogue.
Liccardo has been a leader on affordable housing, transportation and smart growth principles. He will find willing partners who supported his opponent but are open to working with him on these issues.
But labor needs to be invited to the table. Unions are not the enemy; they are made up of good people who care deeply about this city. Likewise, the Chamber of Commerce is not simply a group of rightwing, heartless Tea Party nuts; they care about San Jose as well. In the past, these two groups worked together on issues of common interest for the good of the city. That collaboration must take place again.
Mayor Liccardo has the ability to bridge the divide and his speech after the campaign has indicated he will try. But it will take cooperation from many who are bitterly disappointed. They must meet him half way. In the current grief that accompanies all campaign losses, this may seem like a huge request.
As the victor, Liccardo will get to choose his team and agenda—those decisions can be inclusive or exclusive. He will need to rebuild trust. Already some of Liccardo’s most ardent supporters have expressed sentiments less than gracious regarding the vanquished. Those statements and editorials are not helpful in bridging the divide. It is important to note Liccardo has not been among this group.
The late John Vasconcellos was a fan of Liccardo. He also liked and supported Cortese. San Jose, he said, would be in good hands with either candidate. He had hoped to be in a position to help bring the two sides together in the spirit of the Politics of Trust after the election. Unfortunately, he passed before he got the opportunity.
But both men knew and understood the late state senator’s philosophy. It will be Mayor Liccardo who gets the opportunity to implement it, if he chooses.
In the final analysis, the goals of the city of San Jose are bigger than any single election. The city has been fighting with itself for too long. It is time to work together; this is not Washington DC.
So congratulations to our new mayor. This is the same blog I had intended to write regardless of a winner.