Susan Ellenberg advances to the runoff in Santa Clara County’s District 4 supervisor race with a commanding lead over her six primary opponents, including her yet-undetermined general election challenger. But while ex-San Jose council-mates Don Rocha and Pieruigi Oliverio jockey for the coveted No. 2 spot in the county race, candidates have already lined up to fill Ellenberg’s Area 2 San Jose Unified board seat.
One is a relative newcomer to local politics: Jose Magaña, a K-8 instructional coach, San Jose Library and Early Education commissioner and the only Latino in the running so far. Born to a teen mom and a jailed dad, his compelling personal history inspired his career path and drive to create a more equitable school system.
The other contenders—Helen Chapman and Peter Allen—have a lot in common, not least an ambition that’s pitted them against one other in past elections. Allen ran against Chapman in the 2016 primary for Oliverio’s council seat and endorsed her in the runoff, which she lost in the general to Councilwoman Dev Davis.
Both aspiring trustees have worked for SJUSD. Chapman spent 16 years researching test scores for the district before becoming D2 Councilman Sergio Jimenez’s policy aide, while Allen—until the end of this month, at least—handles SJUSD’s communications.
Both have deep roots in Area 2, which stretches from Willow Glen through Japantown and up to the 13th Street corridor. Allen grew up in SJUSD schools, and Chapman raised her kids in the same district.
Both espouse admiration for the woman they want to replace. Chapman knocked on doors for Ellenberg’s 2014 campaign. And though Allen endorsed her opponent that year, he says he’s since come around after seeing how effective she’s been on the board. That respect, he says, has only deepened after spending so much time with Ellenberg as his wife, Angelica Ramos-Allen, manages her supervisor campaign.
Finally, Chapman and Allen are neighbors with each other and with Ellenberg.
“I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of each other,” Chapman says with a laugh.