Dave Cortese's campaign for mayor of San Jose suffered its first major setbacks this past week, and the Santa Clara County supervisor would prefer if we don’t talk about it. So, let’s talk about it.
On Wednesday of last week, San Jose Inside reported that Cortese’s spokesman, Jay Reed, had a history of sending out sexist Tweets that joked about his daughter’s “hot teacher” and women being “prudes” if they object to men masturbating on buses. Apparently, Cortese’s employee background check doesn’t include The Google. Reed was removed from the campaign the same day of the report, and Cortese declined further comment.
San Jose Inside then learned on that same Wednesday that Cortese had won a lawsuit, filed by the city, to opt out of the voluntary spending cap for the mayor’s race to November, similar to his opponent, San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo.
This wouldn’t have been much of a deal but for three reasons: 1. Cortese attacked Liccardo for doing the exact same thing, just a few weeks earlier; 2. An ethics complaint was filed against Cortese, and it appears he may have to return some campaign contributions; and 3. Cortese refuses to conduct any interviews on the above-mentioned topics, aside from a couple of stilted text messages.
None of Cortese’s follies fall into the category of campaign killers, but they are worth monitoring. Who a candidate hires is generally a good indicator of who they’ll bring along if elected. What’s more troubling is Cortese’s lack of accountability and unwillingness to discuss such issues. For the above-mentioned issues he was given the option to get out in front of the story. He chose instead to evade or ignore requests for an interview.
This matters because Cortese isn’t running to be a behind-the-scenes commissioner, or even one of five overpaid county supervisors. He’s not even running for another go as a San Jose councilman, where he would have to represent close to 100,000 district residents.
Cortese wants to be the face of the 10th largest city in the country. When tough choices need to be made—and there will be many—the mayor can’t avoid tough choices. He or she must be out in front, leading and shaping the discussion.
What does it say then, if a candidate for mayor hides behind the veil of “no comment,” or simply begins to ignore requests for comment when the questions can’t be answered with canned soundbites? What does it say when a candidate refuses to acknowledge mistakes? And what does it say when a candidate refuses to pick up the phone when the second option—his spokesman—is popping off dick jokes from the unemployment line?
Cortese has branded himself as the best person to restore San Jose to the city it once was and should be. In order to do that, he has to prove he can be present.