Matt Mahan finally confirmed what we all saw coming. The 36-year-old founder of civic engagement network Brigade Media reached out to Fly Tuesday to say that he sold his startup and is now officially campaigning for San Jose City Council.
“My motivation to run is really rooted in my personal experience with San Jose,” he tells Fly. “San Jose’s given me a lot. For me, it’s been a place of opportunity, and I would like to see it be a growing, vibrant city with upward mobility for everyone.”
The Blossom Valley resident is up against former Bay Area Women’s March President Jenny Higgins Bradanini in the District 10 contest to replace conservative Councilman Johnny Khamis, who in turn is eyeing state Sen. Jim Beall’s seat. While Higgins Bradanini has positioned herself as the organized labor candidate, Mahan is lining up support from the business community and tapped fellow Silicon Valley Leadership Group board member Matthew Quevedo as campaign manager.
Mahan traces his passion for the “Capital of Silicon Valley” back to his high school years, when his teacher mom and letter-carrier dad encouraged him commute from Watsonville to Bellarmine College Prep, which he attended on a work-study scholarship.
“This was in the ’90s,” he says. “I took the Highway 17 Express to Diridon Station every day, which took about two hours. It was a long journey, but one of those inflection points in one’s life where I had the foresight, I guess, of thinking that this is going to be hard but it’s going to be worth it.”
That resolve paid off, Mahan says.
Bellarmine became a launching pad, but the ties he forged with the community as a student there ultimately brought him back. After earning a bachelor’s in social studies from Harvard, he returned to teach in San Jose’s socioeconomically disadvantaged Alum Rock School District before his eventual foray into civic tech.
While Brigade required Mahan to focus on big-picture issues and building tools for millions of people, the self-described “joiner and volunteer” involved himself in local issues by signing up to serve on various local community boards, neighborhood groups and commissions. “There’s something incredibly fulfilling about the interpersonal side of local government and being face to face with people and getting to know them really personally, which is something you kind of miss in the tech sector,” he says.
With Brigade’s acquisition, Mahan’s hitting the pavement for his 2020 bid.
So far he’s wrangled endorsements from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, former Mayor Chuck Reed and ex-FEC Chair Ann Ravel.
“My wife Silvia and I are raising our daughter Nina here,” Mahan says, “so we’re really invested in making San Jose a great city for other people to start a family and have a fulfilling life through all of its stages.”