Nora Campos Accuses Magdalena Carrasco of Selling Out to L.A.

A $250 campaign contribution from a Los Angeles lawyer to San Jose City Council candidate Magdalena Carrasco is drawing fire from District 5 Councilmember Nora Campos. Campos, whose brother Xavier Campos is running against Carrasco to represent San Jose’s East Side, suggests the money is evidence that Carrasco is somehow in cahoots with politicians from L.A.

“I truly believe that there is no reason that someone like Francisco Leal would donate to a candidate in San Jose if he didn’t smell some type of opportunity,” Campos says. “What promises has [Carrasco] been making down in Southern California that would lead people like Leal to want to contribute to her campaign?”

Carrasco is a San Jose native who lived in Santa Barbara from 1986 to 1991, when she was married to now-Assemblymember Kevin de León. After she and de León were divorced, she returned to San Jose, where she has worked as a child advocate for the First 5. During the June primary, a series of anonymous negative mailers claimed her campaign was an effort by “L.A. politicians” to subvert San Jose politics.

Leal, an attorney who has lobbied on behalf of a handful of scandal-plagued L.A.-area cities, found himself in hot water in the wake of a recent controversy over bloated salaries in the city of Bell. On Aug. 13, a Los Angeles Times news blog reported that the city of Huntington Park, located next to Bell, paid $500,000 to Leal last year for his lobbying and legal services. Leal’s law firm partner William Trejo also gave $250 to Carrasco’s campaign.

Although she is not leveling any specific charges against her brother’s political rival, Campos is calling into question Leal’s relationship with Carrasco and de León.

Carrasco acknowledges receiving the campaign donation from Leal last April, and says that the L.A. lawyer and her ex-husband are friends. She says she was not aware of Leal’s history in L.A., and has never met him.

“He’s been a supporter of Kevin in the past, but that’s the extent of it, from my understanding,” she says.

Campos points to what she says is Leal’s pattern of using political contributions to work his way into cities. Over the years Leal has gained a reputation for what the Long Beach Press Telegram called “shady political dealings.” He’s been repeatedly hired and fired from cities including Commerce, Cudahy, Bell Gardens and Lynwood.

Campos says that once he has hooked politicians in and gotten them into office, Leal then uses his connections to line up lucrative deals for himself that ultimately suck city budgets dry. She fears that’s what will happen to District 5.

“His history has shown that he invests in candidates to get into cities where he’ll hopefully be accepted to receive a contract, which then means money will go his way,” Campos says. “Obviously he’s playing a bigger role in her campaign, which leads me to [think], What incentive did he have? What would draw someone like him to want to play a financial role in local politics in a San Jose council race?

“There is no telling what favors she may owe people in this campaign.”

Political Hardball, Part II

These latest charges come in the wake of a primary election marked by push-polling and a slew of illegal campaign mailers. Several local political consultants have said that the fight for east San Jose is one of the dirtiest local city races they’ve seen in years.

Carrasco sees Nora Campos’ concerns as just the latest move by Camp Campos to discredit her in the eyes of District 5 voters. 

“In the primary I was a Vietnamese communist sympathizer,” Carrasco says. “Then two days later I was a Los Angeles gangster, and now I’m with the L.A. mafia? I mean, what’s next? That my children are not my children? That they are campaign props?

“I don’t know what else they want to address, but the fact that I was born and raised in San Jose, and that I have lived here my entire life, cannot be disputed.”

Carrasco says she can understand Nora Campos’ close involvement with her brother’s City Council race.

“Her interest in this race is beyond political, it’s family,” Carrasco says. “I’m sure that’s where this is coming from. But I don’t understand what her tactics are. It just baffles me that our honorable district representative would behave in such a manner.”

De León, who holds a powerful position in the state Assembly as Assistant Majority Floor Leader, admits that he has helped his ex-wife out with campaign fundraising in SoCal. However, he says his relationship with Leal is purely a social one, and he insists that they have never worked on any local or state policy together “ever. Period.”

“Right hand on the Bible, this is just bizarre,” de León said last Friday after stepping out of a Joint Legislative Budget Committee meeting. “Magdalena doesn’t even know Francisco Leal. They’ve never even had a conversation. She wouldn’t even know how to pick him out in a crowd if he was standing five inches in front of her.”

In fact, de León says Nora Campos herself has been harassing him and his friends in Sacramento in recent weeks.

“It feels like I have my own personal stalker,” de León says.

“She’s going through all of my friends and colleagues and calling them on the phone and threatening them,” he says. “It’s very strange stuff. And while politics has its share of bullies, it’s never, never acceptable for elected officials to make threatening phone calls to campaign contributors.

“She may not have intended to have threatened my friends, but that’s certainly how every one of them has interpreted their conversation with her.”

De León says that he’s baffled as to why Campos, who is running for Joe Coto’s 23rd state Assembly District seat this fall, even thinks she has a right to weigh in on who he chooses to support.

“They say, ‘You can’t support her,’ and I’m like ‘She’s my daughter’s mother, what am I supposed to do?’” says de León. “Listen, the bottom line is that anyone who relies on threats to raise money, and not work hard with the good of the public in mind, will have a very short carrier in this business, at least at the state level.”

“How they’re trying to frame this, I’m just, like, what are they thinking? That L.A. is going to annex San Jose? I don’t get it. It’s very immature stuff.”

Rolando Bonilla, Campos’ media director, says Campos is simply raising these questions in effort to look out for the well-being of her district.

“This is about protecting the district that she built up for the last 10 years,” Bonilla says. “Miss Carrasco, frankly, owes the voters of this district an explanation as to whether or not she truly has their best interest. And it’s hard to say that you have people’s best interest when you are being backed by folks who have a history of using council candidates in races only to infiltrate councils and then make a profit.”

De León, who had a recent run in with South Bay Labor Council head Cindy Chavez, says that even compared to L.A. politics, the blatant use of political pressure in San Jose is shocking.

“Folks are, like, afraid. This is like a cabal or mafia you guys have there,” he says. “It’s like Chicago-style politics on the East Side of San Jose. There’s a real dark side.”



    • Biff, by “drunk guy,” are you referring to the guy in the dark coat standing behind Nora Campos?  If so, I believe that is her husband, Neil Struthers, leader of a certain construction trades association, a group with lots of interest in what gets approved or not for development in the City of San Jose.  If Nora is attacking Carrasco for an unspectacular $250 contribution, I hope the media turns around fast and looks more at what Neil is into.  Now, Neil would not have an interest in Nora’s brother getting elected to Nora’s old San Jose City Council district seat, nor Nora herself moving on to the State Assembly and representing an area where many of Neil’s association members live and work, would he?

  1. Why would anyone give to a campaign if they don’t know the candidate? They’ve never even met? Then who is really behind her campaign?

  2. No surprise here. Typical Campos MO. As if there weren’t enough reasons not to elect Xavier, this just adds more incentive to make sure he is defeated.
    When you can’t run on your record you attack and defame your opponent. Nora should be ashamed but I don’t think she is capable of that emotion.
    Hopefully her career at the State level will be short lived. She might be able to get away with her bullying tactics in her council district but when she pulls this crap with the big boys (and girls) in Sacto it will likely blow-up in her face.
    Good riddance!

  3. Amazing things have been done in Campos district during her time as councilmember.  The entire King and Story area wasn’t a place you’d ever want to be walking through 10-15 years ago.  Now it’s gotten a vibrant facelift, and between the Campos efforts of getting RDA money to that area, as well as the Vietnamese community fixing up the area on the other side of 101, we’ve seen a complete transformation. 

    I got interested in her politics after watching her be the lone voter on one item brought before council a few months back.  The proposal was to let companies with less than 30 employees, but make more than $150k a year to not have to pay business tax.

    Well.. $150k @ year doesn’t really fit the model of many of the small business’s in Campos district, especially around the white road area (which is zoned dual use) Lots of people operate retail business out of their houses along white, everything from Chiropractors to Hairstylist.  The majority though is people making less than [email protected] 

    Another vote I like to bring up regarding Campos was her no vote against giving McEnery $6m to “Do with as he saw fit” 

    While I have no doubts Tom has done many wonderful things for our city, and deserves recognition, I feel that the wording was grossly irresponsible on the part of the council at the time. 

    Maybe better wording would have been, “Tom must use this money to create some new downtown development”  or “We’re giving Tom this money because we know he’s going to spend it on San Jose” but instead we get “to do with as he saw fit” 

    I’m going into the “rant” zone.

    Anyways.. Campos has done good things as councilmember, and I have no doubt her brother will carry on the same legacy.

    • “Another vote I like to bring up regarding Campos was her no vote against giving McEnery $6m to ‘Do with as he saw fit’”

      You’re applauding a “no vote”?  Now that’s just sad.

      Nora Campos is a union pawn who uses dirty politics to destroy the reputations of her opponents.  Her actions are despicable.  And Xavier is just an extension of Nora.

    • Gee, you left out her politically motivated attack on McEnery that was found to have almost zero merit. The “secret” complaint that was filed had her fingerprints all over it. Just another example of her thuggish antics.
      And I doubt the legal language for the $6M you reference said “to do with as he saw fit.” That might be how Nora simplified it so she could better understand, but that’s not what the agreement said.
      She goes after her perceived enemies and will stop at nothing to try and bring them down—even though she has had spotty success at doing so.
      Her staff carries out these attacks and tries to spin them as doing what is good for her district. I think her district is much smarter than she or her staff give them credit for.
      This race will only get uglier as the days go on. Expect even nastier stuff from the Camposnistas. It really is a shame though. The district and the city deserve so much better.

    • For any Campos to take credit for the improvements in the East Side is ridiculous.  Nora Campos inherited a vibrant and revitalized community which she has done nothing with, nothing.  Has anyone here seen her speak publicly?  She is disingenous at best, good riddins when that Camps leave.

      • Fiver:

        Here’s the “Do with as he saw fit”

        I got that from SJI, not Campos. 

        I’m a pretty reasonable guy.  If you can point me to any solid evidence that the Campos family is the Illuminati (not just conjecture) I’m more than happy to discuss it.

        And yes, I applaud people when they vote no, especially when it’s sticking up for your constituents.


        Have you lived on the East Side?  I have.  I can tell you for a fact that it wasn’t quite as vibrant you describe it.  Maybe crime and poverty and urban blight are your measure of “Vibrancy”  I dunno.

        I used to ride my bike through there, and ride the bus (line 25 I think it was) because most of my friends were in Campbell, Story Road>Alma/Willow is the best route.  So I can authoritatively say I’ve seen the transformation of the area.

        • I hope you don’t most of your “news” from SJI. The item you linked to was satire—not news. Funny though, it sounded like it could have come from Campos.

        • You’re wrong fiver, that is how it went down.  I talked to plenty of people that were there the day of the vote who were all disgusted by it.

      • Alex T – I’m sorry to be direct, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. Story and King was infested with gangs and drug dealers before Nora got elected. Now, we have a vibrant business district. She went and lobbied for that money and got it done for the residents of East San Jose, just like she said she was going to when she was campaigning.

        Our community has changed so much from where it was 10 years ago. If you lived here, there’s no way you wouldn’t have noticed.

        Its ok that you don’t support her. But please don’t ignore the truth.

  4. What a sleazebag Nora is.  C’mon, for $250, someone is gonna’ buy in to SJ politics?!  She spends at least $250 a year for labels sewn inside of her clothes, so she doesn’t forget her name and address!

  5. Nora got rid of the gangs? WOW. 
    And she rebuilt Story road? AWESOME.

    For a politician to have done those things all by herself is just AMAZING. 

    Or perhaps UNBELIEVABLE would be more apropos.

    So what exactly did little brother do?  More importantly, can he sing while she’s drinking a glass of water?

  6. It is too bad there is no other serious contender for Assembly 23 to give Nora a run for it. Instead, we will simply get another organized labor hack in Sacramento who will vote for whatever she is told to vote for.

  7. I’ve noticed a tendency to deal with hide problems in the workplace by promoting problem children to get them out of the way.  I’ve seen this at federal agencies and also at state and local levels.  Give them an office and let them do powerpoints and send emails, just get outa the way of people doing the real work.

    Funny, seems like it works in politics too.  But honestly, who in their right mind would want to be in the Assembly or State Senate right now (from either party)?  Sacramento is broke worse than San Jose (not just financially, but institutionally.)

    Oh well, its another rung on the ladder and odds-are-good that a couple of terms in one house will lead to a couple of terms in the other and maybe a chance at a big office will open up.

    As far as the city council campaign, we get the government we deserve and sometimes the electorate is a lot smarter than the politicians give them credit for.  Sometimes…not always.  We’ll see.

  8. Campos and Labor is running very negative campaign since they are afraid of losing another San Jose City Council seat and ability to give out campaign rewards

    Council majority control rewards to

    – lobbyists bundling contributions to get millions windfall profits from Council’s industrial to residential exceptions to policy rezonings as we saw last Tuesday for Guadalupe Mines Road lobbyist and developer

    – campaign supporters with city tax giveaways, sweet heart contracts, free city services or improvements and grants to favored community groups for campaign help

    San Jose ” Pay to Play ” political campaigns done with city money, Council votes and favors is highly profitable

    Watch District 5, 7 and 9 “Pay to Play” campaign contributors expecting big rewards after election

    • I don’t see how you can be disappointed with last Tuesdays rezoning.  I was there.

      -The current industrial zone has concrete up to the creek.  The residential that is going to replace it is going to restore the riparian zone and extend it, 100 feet from the creekbed.

      -Part of the deal includes a new, publicly accessible trail.  Not just a win for nature, but a win for us as well.

      -It’s all all sugar plums though, we’re trading 1 huge unsightly industrial building for 20 or so Mc Mansions and private roads.

      Overall though I think it’s good deal.

  9. Irrespective of where on stands on the District 5 race (I tend to prefer Carrasco, but as I live in D9, that scarcely matters), I think we can all agree that this is just idiotic.  I mean, a $250 contribution from some rich guy who’s a friend of her ex-husband is basically a courtesy, not an attempt to buy an election.  She lived for five years in Santa Barbara, so she’s really not from San Jose? Ridiculous.  I spent nearly five years during the 1990s living in San Diego, Tustin, and Merced, but if anyone questioned my bona fides as a local, I’d have to laugh (although my time in Santa Clara County, since 1972, was spent about equally in Los Gatos, Campbell, and San Jose).  I know a lot of guys who left this area shortly after high school and basically never returned, and if one of them showed up and ran for City Council, I’d be skeptical.  But Carrasco doesn’t fit that profile.

  10. It’s time to sweep all of the MACSA trash out of San Jose Politics. District 5 for the past 30 years has done nothing to improve the lives of young children poisoned by the lead in that Chinese guetto, where not even Mc kinery, Hammer, Blanka, Gonzales or Reed have gone to champion the children of that neighborhood. We do not need cowards leading this city. We need new blood. Not blood shed.
      I garrentee that this will become a movie. With Silicon Valley on it ass , we have yet to accept that life and the off shore corporations has kicked us in the ass. Billions spent in the down town and it remains a black hole.
      Compost and her little baby brother are the worst of what Sal Si Puedes can’t or should not endure for another 20 years.
      The politics is discusting in our city. Changing the demographics of the down town by setting the dogs on minorities, is the same tactics used by those that think we don’t see thru their perverted designs.
      Who designed our 6 million dollar man? Lets follow the money.
      Figone? She is a team player so we may not get a police chief that will take on the institutionalised good ole boy politics to an honorable level.
      I find that discusting!
    Like Bush, The weapons of mass distruction, were US.

    • Sunshine,

      Your name is Aaron Resendez. You were a candidate for the District 5 City Council seat.

      How do I know? Your call for “sunshine” – that is something you called for repeatedly and exhaustively during your failed campaign. “Enough!!!” – something you stood outside of City Hall and called for at media events on several occasions, whether in English or Spanish (“Basta!!!”). And you call out Figone for her Police Chief selection process which we just read in Scott Herhold’s column yesterday that you had a very public argument with her last week at City Hall about that very subject.

      When you are calling for “sunshine”, you may want to add your name. Sunshine is the same as disclosure.

      And, it’s “disGusting”.

    • With the city facing record decifits with the state and the assembly seat she’s moving up to also facing record budget deficits, with citizens struggling to make ends meet, doesn’t Ms Campos have other things to worry about than if a friend of an exhusband contributes $250 to the opponent of her baby brother? 

      Will Ms Campos be in the gallery tweeting her baby brother during council meetings if he wins?  Will she make sure he eats his veggies and blows his nose when he’s sick?  There are real issues facing this city and Councilwoman Campos makes a mockery of her position and her constituents when she makes a priority of these small matters that don’t concern her.  If her baby brother is big enough to run for office she should let him fight his own battles.  I am tired of seeing and hearing her on the news.  Doesn’t she get that SHE is not the one opposing Carrasco for D5 seat?  She doesn’t get to hand pick a successor and she should let her brother rise or fall on his own instead of making him look like a marionette puppet with strings firmly in the grasp of her greedy little hands.