Interest groups dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into San Jose’s District 6 race have made it one of the priciest elections in Silicon Valley.
On Nov. 3, Councilwoman Dev Davis squares off with biomedical engineer Jake Tonkel for the San Jose City Council seat that represents Willow Glen, Santana Row, the historic Rose Garden and The Alameda.
Like Councilman Lan Diep, who is running for re-election in District 4, Davis has been a reliable vote for business-friendly Mayor Sam Liccardo on a council that favors business over labor by a 6-5 vote margin. The dynamic has made both seats a key target for progressives looking to flip the council.
Since the March primary, the battle for the D6 seat has become increasingly polarized as the candidates have voiced opposing viewpoints on nearly every issue.
If re-elected, Davis says her top priorities for a second term would be the economic recovery from Covid-19, public safety, crime and blight and housing and homelessness.
“We need to create a recovery roadmap for San Jose to ensure that we have a comprehensive strategy for our recovery from Covid-19,” Davis said. “This would factor in our small and medium businesses, how to help our homeless population and how to ensure we can deliver the quality core services all our residents deserve.”
Since the George Floyd protests this past summer, the issue of policing has helped shape the D6 race as Tonkel and Davis have differing opinions on the future of San Jose’s force. On her campaign website, Davis lists voting to increase the number of officers in the city and increasing the department budget as some of her “first-term accomplishments.”
If awarded a second term, she says she wants to add additional traffic enforcement cops and with work SJPD “to stay on top of developing hot spots in District 6.”
The self-described fiscal conservative said she also plans on continuing to enact financially sound policies.
“We’re facing a major budget crisis, and I will ensure every taxpayer dollar is spent responsibly and has the maximum impact possible,” Davis said. “I will ensure that we focus on our core services and keep our funding directed at core services and not be distracted by pet projects or pork spending.”
Another key issue in the D6 race has been opportunity housing. In August, San Jose’s General Plan review committee recommended that the council further explore opportunity housing, which could allow duplexes, triplexes or fourplexes to be built in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes.
Davis has publicly stated that she supports the city’s current “urban village” model, which would focus on densifying certain neighborhoods in the city. If elected to a second term, she says she will continue fighting to protect single-family neighborhoods.
Over the course of the campaign, Davis has raised $392,108, according to election filings. She lists her top endorsements as Liccardo, the League of Conservation Voters, The Mercury News and BAYMEC.
Tonkel, a Green Party candidate, told San Jose Inside that he decided to run for the D6 seat because he thought “the city of San Jose was not really moving forward with policies that put the city first.”
The former Peace Corps volunteer lists his top priorities as ensuring more affordable housing is built, helping homeless individuals get off the streets and the economic recovery from Covid-19.
With the race and the district becoming increasingly polarized, Tonkel says that if he’s elected, his day one priority is to ensure all residents—including those who voted against him—have the opportunity to voice their concerns.
“Generally, supporters are happier to talk to you about what’s going on and how they’re feeling and what they might need, so I’d love for us to start off by just building relationships with everybody in the community as best we can,” Tonkel said.
He added that he also would want to check-in with residents about Covid-19, the recent fires and ecnomic recovery to make sure they start a “robust discussion” about the next steps for the district.
Over the last few months, Tonkel has been an active participant in Black Lives Matter protests and the fight for racial justice in San Jose and across the country. Instead of increasing the number of officers in the city—like his opponent—Tonkel has advocated for redirecting resources and hiring social workers and mental health professionals to aid in calls where police presence is not always needed.
Another issue where Tonkel has clashed with his opponent on is opportunity housing, which he has has stated his support.
Despite recent misleading political mailers that claim Tonkel would eliminate single-family neighborhoods, the Green Party candidate says he just wants to ensure the city is using every tool at its disposal to get out of the housing crisis.
“We certainly have a community that sees [renters and homeowners] as different economic classes and I think it’s extremely damaging to the policy that we put in place, it’s extremely damaging to community building and neighborhoods and I want to make sure we are building a socioeconomically diverse healthy community,” he said.
Since the beginning of his campaign, Tonkel has raised $177,358.45, according to election filings. He lists his top endorsements as California Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), the San Jose Teacher’s Association and the California Nurse’s Association.