Challenger Outraises Incumbent in San Jose’s D6 Council Race

A 29-year-old progressive political newcomer is giving San Jose Councilwoman Dev Davis a run for her money in the race for District 6, which spans Willow Glen, the Rose Garden, Santana Row and The Alameda.

Davis’s young challenger, Peace Corps volunteer-turned biotech engineer Jake Tonkel, gained a slight lead in the latest round of fundraising. From July 1 to Sept. 19, according to campaign filings, Tonkel raked in $49,113 compared to $49,064 for Davis.

Tonkel’s haul came from 692 individual donors—421 of them from San Jose. Davis’ money came from 150 individual donors, with 93 from within the city.

All told, Tonkel raked in $121,831.78 in 2020; Davis, $152,097.

Davis, who worked as an education researcher at Stanford University for 12 years before becoming a councilwoman, seems unfazed by her challenger’s fundraising momentum.

“I was satisfied with how I did,” Davis told San Jose Inside. “I feel really good about the campaign and the connections that we’re making with people.”

The Willow Glen resident took a shot at her opponent for accepting eight donations from political action committees since the start of the contest. “It’s interesting that he’s going on about special interest and he has more PAC money coming in than I do,” she said.

Tonkel’s eight PAC donations total $3,950 and include $600 from the Teamsters Local 856, $600 from Silicon Valley MEPS, $600 from the California Nurses Association, $100 from the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 8, $600 from the Teamsters Local Union 350, $250 from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, $600 from the Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Building & Construction Trades Council and $600 from the IBEW PAC Educational Fund.

Meanwhile, Davis accepted $4,200 in political action committee donations, including $1,200 from the Build Jobs PAC, $600 from California Real Estate, $1,200 from the Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California Chapter and $1,200 from the Silicon Valley Organization.

Tonkel defended his PAC support, saying it largely came from unions—not large corporations. “When IBEW 332 donates $600 and they have 800 members in San Jose everyone is donating 50 cents to me,” he said. “It’s a democratic process it’s not a unilateral control from a CEO or executive.”

The Green Party challenger noted that most of his donations are small-dollar as opposed to the larger checks that went to Davis.

“It’s very exciting we’re at a point in the campaign where we’re hitting a lot of momentum and that really shows,” Tonkel said.

Garrick Percival, a San Jose State political science professor, said raising money is often the “biggest barrier” for candidates trying to unseat an incumbent, which makes Tonkel’s war chest especially notable. “He’s sort of tapping into the small donor base,” Percival observed. “He sounds like he’s done an effective job of reaching out a broader base of smaller contributors. That speaks to the strength of his campaign. He’s appealing to a pretty diverse group on the progressive side.”

The strength of the progressive movement going into the November general election could also bode well for Tonkel’s chances of snagging the D6 seat, Percival added.

Election Day is Nov. 3. To register to vote, visit registertovote.ca.gov.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

10 Comments

  1. Davis will win re-election by a large margin, as PLO did when he faced a formidable challenge by Steve Kline. Maybe not quite the same margin if she hasn’t delivered the same degree of constituent services that PLO was known for, but I think most people can tell that, regardless of policy differences, Davis gives much more substantive answers to questions at debates. Tonkel basically says the generic things any progressive candidate running for city council would say, and Willow Glen voters are smart enough to smell that. Cohen in D4 is very similar in that regard, but it’s hard to look informed when you’re running against an intelligent incumbent steeped in the work of the city council.

  2. Rich white liberal progressive male. How many times does the same thing break before you learn?

    You deserve the fallout this clown will bring.

  3. Davis has been entirely useless during what I hope is her first and last term as D6 representative. She turns a deaf ear to constituent concerns, NEVER personally answers e-mails, and instead passes responses off to her do-nothing staff that only knows how to pass the buck. We contact Davis to cut through bureaucratic red tape, and instead we are thrown back onto that path by her staff. This has happened when I’ve sought help for street sweeping issues and very simple things like obstructed parking signage for which the city is responsible.

    Maybe Davis produces for her constituents in Willow Glen, but the rest of D6 doesn’t see any results. Even Lassie would be a better option. Jake has had my vote since well before the March primary, and you will find lawn signs indicating support for him throughout the Rosegarden area. This is quite telling. The D6 boundaries clearly need to be re-drawn to slice through Willow Glen. That’s the only way to get equal representation for the entire district instead of only a certain portion of it.

  4. Jake Tonkel is a far more impressive performer in the debates. He consistently refutes Davis’ vague statements point-for-point with policy specifics. You’d expect Davis to have enough experience that she’d do better in the debates, but she is unimpressive. What do you expect from a former Republican? She has no place on the city council. Time to give someone else a go. She’s done.

  5. I was totally disgusted when Davis changed her Party registration to court votes. Had she stuck to her guns I would have had respect for her. Regardless of her opportunistic change in registration she is a Republican and one of the most conservative members of the Council. TONKEL FOR D6

  6. Jake Tonkel is the real deal. What he and his team have accomplished so far is impressive. He is running an entirely grassroots and corporate-free campaign. He has a real chance of winning in November and D6 residents will be much better off with him as their representative than with his opponent!

  7. In the past six days, I have delivered Jake Tonkel campaign literature to more than 400 doors in District 6 and will deliver more in the days and weeks ahead. (I also knocked on more than 350 doors for the Tonkel campaign for the March 3 primary.) I hope to be celebrating a Tonkel victory over neoliberal Dev Davis on November 4.

    Davis apparently has not missed a single opportunity to give away City taxpayer revenues to wealthy property developers. One of the most egregious episodes occurred on September 25, 2019 when she joined the Council’s “gang of six” headed by Liccardo (with Diep, Foley, Jones and Khamis) to reduce taxes and fees and relax affordable housing mandates for a handful of the largest and wealthiest property developers in downtown, a move that cost the City an estimated $54.5 million in forgone revenues. And for what purpose? To guarantee downtown developers (including Borelli Investment Company, KB Homes, Peery-Arrillaga and Jay Paul Company) an average profit rate of 5.25% rather than their anticipated 4.13% rate, as estimated by the business-friendly analyses the Council relied on. (For sources and details see: https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2019/09/24/what-to-watch-for-as-sjs-city-council-votes-on.html; https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/09/20/san-jose-to-consider-extending-subsidy-for-downtown-high-rise-residential-projects/; https://www.sanjoseinside.com/2019/09/25/sj-council-extends-high-rise-housing-incentives-on-split-vote/)

    This past May, some two months into the COVID-19 crisis, the City announced an anticipated 2020-2021 City budget deficit of $71.6 million (see https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2020/05/14/san-jose-budget-shortfall-2021-recession.html). Last September’s gift to wealthy donors alone was equal to more than 75 percent of the anticipated deficit. In August 2020, a 7-4 neoliberal majority, including Davis, further undermined City finances by succumbing to real estate developers and completely eliminating the affordable housing mandates on residential projects, an even bigger give away (https://sanjosespotlight.com/san-jose-city-council-whopping-break-for-high-rise-developers/). Davis and her kind give away potential City revenues and now want to convince us that City services, especially those that benefit the working and working poor in our City, must be cut back.

    Compare the kowtowing that passes for Council policy toward wealthy interests in San Jose with the hardball played by the Santa Clara City Council vis-a-vis the San Francisco 49ers who rent the City-owned Levi’s Stadium and who are seeking to undermine the leadership of the City government. Santa Clara Council members fight tooth and nail for the City’s rights and prerogatives, regardless of the size, wealth and influence of the 49ers (https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/49ers-in-brawl-with-Santa-Clara-over-a-13709980.php; https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2020/02/13/santa-clara-vs-49ers-levis-stadium-management.html).

    Show me a City government that does not back down from a fight with wealthy corporate entities and I’ll show you a City with dignity. A victory for Jake Tonkel will be a step toward building a dignified City government that serves all of its people, with a special attention to the needs of those who live on the margins of sufficiency. Anyone interested can join the campaign at this crucial time by referring to this website: https://jake4d6.com/

  8. In the past week, I have delivered Jake Tonkel campaign literature to more than 400 doors in District 6 and will deliver more in the days and weeks ahead. (I also knocked on more than 350 doors for the Tonkel campaign for the March 3 primary.) I hope to be celebrating a Tonkel victory over neoliberal Dev Davis on November 4.

    Davis has not missed an opportunity to give away City taxpayer revenues to wealthy property developers. One of the most egregious episodes occurred on September 25, 2019 when she joined the Council’s “gang of six” headed by Liccardo (with Diep, Foley, Jones and Khamis) to reduce taxes and fees and relax affordable housing mandates for a handful of the largest and wealthiest property developers in downtown, a move that cost the City an estimated $54.5 million in forgone revenues. And for what purpose? To guarantee downtown developers (including Borelli Investment Company, KB Homes, Peery-Arrillaga and Jay Paul Company) an average profit rate of 5.25% rather than their anticipated 4.13% rate, as estimated by the business-friendly analyses the Council relied on. (For sources and details see: https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2019/09/24/what-to-watch-for-as-sjs-city-council-votes-on.html; https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/09/20/san-jose-to-consider-extending-subsidy-for-downtown-high-rise-residential-projects/; https://www.sanjoseinside.com/2019/09/25/sj-council-extends-high-rise-housing-incentives-on-split-vote/)
    This past May, some two months into the COVID-19 crisis, the City announced an anticipated 2020-2021 City budget deficit of $71.6 million (see https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2020/05/14/san-jose-budget-shortfall-2021-recession.html). Thus, last September’s gift to wealthy donors alone was equal to more than 75 percent of the anticipated annual budget deficit. In August 2020, a 7-4 neoliberal majority, including Davis, further undermined City finances by succumbing to real estate developers and completely eliminating the affordable housing mandates on residential projects, an even bigger give away (https://sanjosespotlight.com/san-jose-city-council-whopping-break-for-high-rise-developers/). Davis and her kind give away potential City revenues and now want to convince us that City services, especially those that benefit the working and working poor in our City, must be cut back.

    Compare the kowtowing that passes for Council policy toward wealthy interests in San Jose with the hardball played by the Santa Clara City Council vis-a-vis the San Francisco 49ers who rent the City-owned Levi’s Stadium and who are seeking to undermine the leadership of the City government. Santa Clara Council members fight tooth and nail for the City’s rights and prerogatives, regardless of the size, wealth and influence of the 49ers (https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/49ers-in-brawl-with-Santa-Clara-over-a-13709980.php; https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2020/02/13/santa-clara-vs-49ers-levis-stadium-management.html).

    Show me a City government that does not back down from a fight with wealthy corporate interests, and I’ll show you a City with dignity. A victory for Jake Tonkel will be a step toward building a dignified City government that serves all of its people, with a special attention to the needs of those who live on the margins of sufficiency. Anyone interested can join the campaign at this crucial time by referring to this website: https://jake4d6.com/

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