San Jose Inside published its annual Year in Review list last week. Now we give you our prognostications of what’s to come in 2017.
Dems Work Through Their Identity Crisis
Democrats have been doing a lot of soul searching since this past election. That means many more heated policy discussions and seismic leadership shifts from the top down this year. Santa Clara County’s Democratic Party this week will say goodbye to longtime chapter president Steve Preminger and elect a successor to take the helm in 2017. Some names in the running to chair the local party: public housing analyst and county planning commissioner Aimée Escobar, former county policy aide Jeffrey Cardenas and attorney Bill James. Party insiders frustrated with the stubborn divide between business and labor are hoping to unify over key issues in 2017—like immigration, for example. Members who want the chapter to get a better handle on its finances say they’ll also demand greater transparency this year. The hope is that with a better accounting of its own resources, the local party may be able to hire a full-time salaried director—something its counterparts in other counties have—to whip it into fighting shape.
Will Khanna Work with Trump over Tax Policy?
It will be interesting to see how freshman legislator Ro Khanna leverages his Silicon Valley clout in the halls of Congress. Throughout his campaign for the 17th Congressional District seat held for eight terms by Mike Honda, Khanna touted his tech industry savvy and vowed to bolster the region’s national influence. It works to Khanna’s advantage that he shares some of President-elect Donald Trump’s allies and policy ideas. Like Trump, Khanna has garnered support from uber-libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel and a number of other Big Tech donors. Like Trump, Khanna opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Also like Trump, he has said he wants to give corporations a tax break for repatriating offshore earnings—as long as they invest that money in expanding factories and creating a net number of new jobs. While a fine idea in theory, both men would do well to learn from the failed “tax holiday” of 13 years ago. When George W. Bush lured $312 billion back by slashing corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 5 percent, he had the same caveat: invest in R&D, hire more U.S. workers. Instead, according to a nonpartisan Senate investigation, companies went about laying people off, buying back stocks and bumping up executive pay. If Khanna backs a repatriation deal in 2017, let’s hope it’s not a throwback to 2004.
(UPDATE: Congressman Khanna reached out to note that he opposed the 2004 repatriation in his book, Entrepreneurial Nation: Why manufacturing Is Still Key to America’s Future. He also vowed to oppose Trump’s plan for repatriation.)
Immigration Invigorates Local Activism
Trump’s vows to crackdown on undocumented immigrants have already prompted local governments to take action. Santa Clara County, San Jose and even Morgan Hill have all passed resolutions promising to protect immigrant families from being torn apart by deportations. Last month, the county agreed to pay for legal services for immigrants at risk. That level of protection will likely require more funding in the coming year. If Trump makes good on his threats, it may also prompt California’s lawyers and lawmakers to come up with new ways to make it harder for federal immigration officials to carry out the president’s mandate. It should be noted that South Bay governments already have a policy of refusing to cooperate with ICE. In 2017, however, that same policy could cost local jurisdictions if the federal administration withholds funding for that kind of conscientious objection.
Contenders Emerge for 2018 Mayoral, County Elections
San Jose’s next mayoral election takes place in 2018, which means potential candidates will start to come out of the woodwork over the next several months. Downtown Councilman Raul Peralez will emerge as a top contender to succeed Mayor Sam Liccardo, who will almost certainly run for re-election. Five other council spots will be on the 2018 ballot, including an open seat in District 9 when Don Rocha terms out. Rocha will likely set his sights to the regional level and start campaigning to succeed county Supervisor Ken Yeager, who terms out in ‘18. Sheriff Laurie Smith, whose latest term has been beset by one scandal after another, will no doubt face a new challenger in her next re-election bid that same year.
South Bay Renews Focus on Gender Parity in Local Politics
While San Jose gained two female council members in this past election, three women who have held important positions in South Bay politics will have to adjust to civilian life for the first time in several years after stepping down from elected office. San Jose’s former Vice Mayor Rose Herrera termed out of her District 8 seat last month. Madison Nguyen, who preceded Herrera as vice mayor, finds herself back where she started after losing to former colleague Ash Kalra in the 17th Assembly District. And Nora Campos, who held the seat now filled by Kalra, will have to plot her next political move or transition back into bureaucracy. With only three women on San Jose’s council and only one on the county Board of Supervisors, there’s going to be a big push to prepare more female candidates to vie for some of those spots in 2018. Santa Clara County used to be known as the “Feminist Capital of the Nation” because of the considerable number of women in elected office. That was in the 1980s. The region has since struggled with gender parity in local politics. A contingent of new young leaders in the local Dem party plan to renew their focus on female leadership in the year ahead.