The celebrations started early Tuesday night at the Labor Temple, where Cindy Chavez supporters gathered to watch results come in from Tuesday’s special election. No more than a half-hour after polls closed for the District 2 county supervisor race, South Bay Labor Council leaders asked the crowd for a “big labor clap” for Chavez’s lead.
A harmonica solo by SBLC head Ben Field caught the room’s attention for the first round of rejoicing. Chavez held a 12 percent lead with 41.2 percent against Teresa Alvarado’s 29.5, with eight of 58 precincts reporting at 8:37pm.
Alvarado gained and closed the lead by almost two points and by the end of the night it was official: Chavez and Alvarado will meet in a runoff for the seat of disgraced former county Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. Final polling results from all 58 precincts, according to the county Registrar of Voters website, had Chavez in first place with 41 percent of the vote, while Alvarado garnered 31.25 percent of the vote.
Scott Hung Pham made a solid finish in third place with 14.2 percent of the vote. Patricia Martinez-Roach, Joseph La Juenesse and David Wall rounded out the candidates in descending order. Turnout for the special election was underwhelming as expected, with only 16.85 percent of eligible voters casting ballots.
But that didn’t stop the top two candidates’ campaigns from enjoying themselves after a very brief primary.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are number one,” Field cheered, sparking raucous applause from the packed Labor Temple, decorated with colorful tissue paper blossoms. About 200 people, maybe more, squeezed into the reception area, and some circled around tables dining on tri-tip and grilled chicken or nibbling on frosting-rosette-topped cupcakes. Some stood in line for cheap wine or Rolling Rock, others were relegated to the perimeter of the place.
Field rattled off a list of notable attendees, including San Jose councilmembers Kansen Chu and Xavier Campos, former councilmember Forrest Williams, reps from 25th District Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski’s office, Santa Clara County Water District Vice Chair Tony Estremera and county Supervisor David Cortese. San Jose Councilman Ash Kalra also attended the party.
But before more people could be counted, a tap on the shoulder interrupted the observations.
“Are you Jennifer Wadsworth?” asked Stacey Hendler Ross, the SBLC’s PR flack.
“Come with me,” she ordered, not smiling and motioning toward the door.
Sidling through a crush of politicos and supporters to slip outside, an introduction began and a conversation ended.
“I’m Stacey, I do communications here,” Hendler Ross said tersely. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Can I ask you a few questions first?”
“No. I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” she repeated, before turning around to head back inside the party.
Unfortunately, San Jose Inside’s photographer had an even briefer stint at the Labor Temple. Within 10 minutes of his arrival, Hendler Ross also instructed him to leave the premises. No reason was given.
On the night of the November 2012 election, Hendler Ross was a little less resistant, asking a San Jose Inside reporter not to interview Chavez. When approached, Chavez seemed not to mind and mentioned during the interview that she had personally invited Shirakawa to that party, despite Metro and San Jose Inside’s reports detailing his misuse of campaign and public funds. Shirakawa failed to show at the party and months later resigned the same day he was charged with five felonies and seven misdemeanors. Chavez is now vying for the job Shirakawa held and has refused multiple interview requests since announcing her candidacy.
A text message to Hendler Ross on Tuesday evening, asking if Shirakawa attended the special election night party, was not returned. Shirakawa resigned from the D2 supervisor seat in March and is expected to be sentenced Friday to jail for his misuse of county and public funds. A report by the Mercury News this week seemed to suggest that he could have voted for his replacement.
The mood at Alvarado’s election night party at Flames Restaurant in downtown San Jose may have been less crowded but no less enthusiastic. San Jose councilmembers Sam Liccardo, Rose Herrera and Madison Nguyen all stayed for results, while Mayor Chuck Reed made a brief appearance earlier in the night.
Others in attendance, as people sipped wine and pints and snacked on finger-food, included Jim Reed, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce; potential San Jose mayoral candidate Pat Waite; Magdalena Carrasco, who in addition to running Alvarado’s campaign also serves on the East Side Union High School District school board; and Charles Munger Jr., a conservative millionaire who funded several defeated state propositions in the November 2012 election.
Alvarado thanked her supporters around 9:30pm and vowed to continue being “inclusive, not polarizing.”
Rose Herrera, who had her own campaign last fall in which organized labor forces actively opposed her, said she had a feeling Alvarado’s campaign was coming on in the final weeks of the primary. By finishing within 10 percent of Chavez’s vote total, observers at the Alvarado party said the runoff should now be considered a real race.
Josh Koehn and Jennifer Wadsworth contributed to this report.