Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager’s impending departure from the District 4 seat has drawn a crowded field of would-be successors. Last week, five people in line to replace him made their case for an endorsement from the Bay Area Municipal Election Committee, an LGBTQ advocacy group founded by Yeager and known as BAYMEC.
It was a well-attended forum that gave voters a chance to hear directly from the D4 hopefuls, including San Jose Councilman Don Rocha, his former council colleague Pierluigi Oliverio, Santa Clara Councilman Dominic Caserta, ex-Campbell Mayor Jason Baker and San Jose Unified trustee Susan Ellenberg.
But, in his closing remarks, Oliverio potentially lost his shot at BAYMEC backing by pointing out that BAYMEC conspicuously didn’t invite two candidates: Mike Alvarado and Maria Hernandez. Though Alvarado and Hernandez were relative latecomers in a race that’s already drawn more than $1 million in donations among five established contenders, the optics of excluding the only Latinos raised some eyebrows.
Alvarado, a 57-year-old tech veteran, says he got the same treatment when he ran as a protest candidate in the 2014 San Jose mayor’s race.
“This time, I’m really putting an earnest effort and I see the pattern repeating,” he tells Fly. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m a no-money candidate, but it smacks of either cronyism or insider politics.”
Hernandez, a 40-year-old PR pro, says she registered her candidacy on Feb. 27—plenty of time for BAYMEC to know she was in the running.
“But I don’t feel any less than any of those people and I don’t feel intimidated,” she says.
BAYMEC’s second-in-command, however, says nobody was willfully excluded.
“Only candidates that applied for a BAYMEC endorsement and returned a questionnaire were eligible for the candidate forum,” BAYMEC Vice President Paul Escobar says. “Not only did the two recent candidates not fill out a BAYMEC questionnaire they have not contacted BAYMEC either before or after the forum.”
Alvarado commended Oliverio—who boasts institutional backing from the Silicon Valley Organization and more than a quarter-million bucks in his war chest—for standing up for two grass-roots opponents. “I didn’t expect that,” Alvarado says.
BAYMEC has yet to announce its D4 endorsement.