District 1 Race is On

Sitting at a café table outside Original Joe’s in downtown San Jose, Forrest Williams unzips his binder and starts flipping through the pages within, searching for a document. He finds what he is looking for: a slightly wrinkled, stapled packet of paper with a large amount of handwriting in the margins. This packet contains a long list of city council members, county supervisors, assembly members, senators and water board members—everyone the former San Jose City Councilman has ever worked with in his two decades as an elected official.

Next to each name is a mark indicating the status of their support in his recently launched campaign for the District 1 Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors seat. Among those names he points out who have already pledged their endorsement are San Jose Councilmember Kansen Chu, District 2 County Supervisor George Shirakawa, former City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Cindy Chavez, and State Senator Elaine Alquist. He says many people on the list are still undecided.

“It’s a Democratic group, so with all the people who are running, they’re not picking sides yet,” says Williams. “Right now I’m positioning myself, so I’m in a place where I should be the one. These are all elected officials; I haven’t put any names down who are not elected officials. People in the community, like home and school club groups, I haven’t asked them yet.”

Though the deadline to file for the June election doesn’t come until March 12, 2010, five candidates are already jockeying for position in the early stages of the race for supervisor Don Gage’s still-warm seat behind the dais. Williams and three other Democrats: Teresa Alvarado were the first out of the gate, shortly followed by Santa Clara Valley Water District director Rosemary Kamei, Gilroy Councilman Peter Arellano and Los Gatos Mayor Mike Wasserman, the only Republican candidate so far.

With issues ranging from budget cuts to healthcare and environment up on the table, collecting high profile endorsements and power schmoozing for dollars are at the forefront of these candidate’s minds as they gear up for the June 8, 2010 primary election.

It seems that Williams has had his sights set on succeeding Gage since he was still on the San Jose City Council. The 72-year-old retired IBM engineer went so far as to apply for an internship in the County Supervisor’s office, though Gage politely declined his services.

“I asked for it, but there was no need for an intern,” Williams says. “I’m sure it’s because of who I am, too, because Don has many friends who’re running. There is some relationship there, and it would be seen that I was the one, the knighting of the one.

Since being termed out last year, Williams has spent his time serving on the county’s Sister-County Commission and Commission on the Status of Women, all the while getting his ducks in a row.

Teresa Alvarado, however, has shown even more electioneering ambition. The former executive director of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, and daughter of former County Supervisor Blanca Alvarado, is already handing out glossy campaign bookmarks and flyers adorned with her mug and campaign donation information. She has launched full-force into the fundraiser circuit, and has been busy collected her own impressive list of endorsements. County Assessor Larry Stone, former San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer, current District 5 County Supervisor Liz Kniss and San Jose Councilmembers Sam Liccardo and Ash Kalra all have their names displayed on her polished campaign website.

Surprisingly, Alvarado says that her mother Blanca, who’s second term as County supervisor for District 2 ended last January, wasn’t overwhelmingly supportive when she first brought up running for the board.

“I’ve talked with her over the last couple of years about my interest in running, and her response was always very sobering,” says Alvarado. “It was always ‘Oh, you don’t want to do that. It’s so hard, and the budget in the County is so tough.’ She was coming at it like a mom, after her many years in public office…But, I was determined, I care about the work of the county.”

For Rosemary Kamei, the June election will be her second try at the sups seat, having lost to Gage on her first go at it more than 12 years ago. Since then she has continued to serve a total of 15 years on the Water District Board of directors. Priming herself for the election, she quit her day job as vice president of development at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte to focus on her campaign.

As the wheels the campaigns start to turn, there has been speculation of an impending face-off between Kamei and Alvarado, who are both members of several of the same Latino and community organizations. By sharing much of the same contingency, the two are in a competition with each other as they endeavor to draw supporters and donations from the same pool. As for now, though, both contenders appear to be playing nice.

“I don’t think it’s a big issue,” said Alvarado. “I talk with Rosemary, we’re friends, we’ve known each other for many years. I let her know early on that I was considering running, and I was aware that she was definitely planning to run. But, that’s OK. I think that if we have good candidates, I think that’s a good thing…I’m not an elected official and I want to come at this with fresh eyes.”

Kamei stresses the importance of her years on the water board, and how that’s prepared her to work outside of the Hispanic community.

“I think the world of Teresa, we’ve worked well together, and I like her. I have a lot of respect for her, but I do believe that my support is broader,” Kamei says. “I’ve worked with all different communities from all different backgrounds.”

Also in the run for the Latino vote is South County native Peter Arellano. A family practice physician at Kaiser Permanente, he is currently serving his forth term on the Gilroy city council. Arellano is banking on his heath care experience to bring him kudos when it comes to county issues. 

“I’m just letting people know about my background is in the medical field, the public health field, and the government field. Almost 50 percent of the county budget now deals with healthcare and the health issues of the community, and for me, that’s where I’m coming from,” He points out that he has a masters in public health from UCLA and has worked in free clinics over the years.

Wasserman, for his part, has refused to officially comment on his cadency until the launch of his campaign site on Oct. 15, though he has filed his candidacy papers. He did, however, mention to Metro how proud he is that the town of Los Gatos implemented several large new civic projects during his time on the council.


  1. Good Grief!  So many of the names mentioned are lifetime public trough-feeders.  Forrest has actually done other things but, in watching him when he was a member of the City Council, it sure seemed like a lifetime… yak, yak, yak!

  2. Forrest Williams=Long Time community and elected leader, past council member, county commissioner.

    Teresa Alvarado, Leader in non profit community and also from a family with long roots in the community.

    Rosemary Kamaei.  Draws nice.

    Oh, she is on a water board that is about as well run as the Karzai Re Districting Council.

    Is this really going to take very long?  We have one tier of long time leaders, and the second tier who has a long record of, well she draws nice.

  3. Looking at this from a multicultural perspective, it appears that what one might call ordinary white Christian European Americans are lacking any voice in this essay.

    There appear to be white American Latinos and white Jewish Americans involved, but no ordinary white Christian people.  So it will be interesting to see with what tactics this rainbow-rich batch of candidates approach the diverse white Santa Clara County residents.

    Lest anyone think this is a nostalgic look at Gage, he was in fact totally hostile to white interests in a multicultural society, banning white and Christian organizations from testifying at hate crimes hearings and resolutely endorsing slurs expressed against young diverse white county residents and students. 

    I’ll be interested to see how the 1/3 of voters in this county district are approached on these issues:

    1) genuine support for a slur-free society;

    2) genuine support (where none exists at present) for dealing with white gangs (existing task forces pointedly exclude any outreach or intervention to white kids); and

    3) genuine support for white kids explicitly caught up and very over-represented in three social ills for whom there is no county support at all (binge drinking, meth use, and tobacco smoking).

    That’s not too much to ask, but Gage could not be bothered to act on any of these three points.

    • Could you be any more offensive or transparent? You rail against the Merc and their so-called “white bias” and then you blather something far worse than anything the Merc has ever published. You say there are “no ordinary white Christian people” in the D1 race. As if that is not offensive enough, you then go on to further separate people by saying “white Jewish Americans.” I won’t even bother with your comment about “white American Latinos” but you certainly are an equal-opportunity offender. Gee, and to think Gage ignored the nonsensical stuff you spew. I’m shocked!

      • Yes, the the word “ordinary” blows me away.  “Ordinary white Christian people?”  Oh my.  We currently have Liz Kniss, Ken Yeager, and Dave Cortese on the BOS.  Are they “ordinary white Christians?”  Do we need one from District 1 as well?  Wow.

        • Perry White and “ordinary” may understand the phrase “ordinary white Christian people” when they understand that it has the same meaning that President Obama meant when he referred to “typical white persons.”  I regret that White and “ordinary” didn’t speak up at that time to reject “typical” with the same urgency that they reject “ordinary.”

          And Perry you should read more closely.  I said “that what one might call ordinary white Christian European Americans are lacking any voice in this essay”—if you can find one, let me know.

  4. Forrest Williams: Former San Jose City Council member, and I think IBMer?

    1. Name ID = Strong,

    2. Strong Support with Cindy Chavez (yeah fmr SJSU!) and I still wear me Cindy Chavez for Mayor t-shirt, funny = $$$

    Teresa Alvarado: Sounds good because I love Blanca Alvarado!

    1. Name ID = Ok

    2. Mom, sounds bad but I love Blanca, because very light on important things like, experience.

    Peter Arellano: Medical Doctor, Public Health Expert, Council member.

    1. Name ID = Needs help.

    2. Experience, medical doctor from Stanford, Masters in Public Health from UCLA (UCLA, father and mother will love this.) is by far the most qualified with the positive experience, I like. And he has elective experience.

    Rosemary Kamei: Ran before, Water district (what?)

    1. Name ID = who(I’m sorry).

    2. I like that she worked with Planned Parenthood, but, who? I never see her at community centric events. At least Peter and now Forrest & Teresa shows up. Girl needs to work on campaigning!

    Mike Wasserman: Mr. Mayor of Los Gatos, wow…

    1. Name ID = who(I guess, Los Gatos Mayor).

    2. Los Gatos Mayor = must be $$$ and have many Mr.BIG MONEY guy friends?. But he is Republican and I’m a young Latina from San Jose State, trying to makes end meet and pay for my education, so sorry!

  5. This is the diversity seat on the board of supervisors, but for a reason most people don’t get at first blush.  For years we’ve had urbane types climbing the ladder of local machine politics and spending their tenure on the board of supervisors making political stands while the system fell apart.  The devolution of both transit and water from being under the control of the elected supervisors has yielded really mixed results.  The battle over the jails and the sheriff’s department, ditto.  I suspect there was more ego than common sense.

    That’s the diversity we’ve usually gotten from District 1, the common sense voice.  Someone from a small town, South County, where acreage isn’t just development potential but usually means working ag land and such.  I’d like to propose a Dark Horse candidate – Kathy Napoli, she’s a local, not a carpetbagger, has lived in coyote valley for years, runs a business and knows how to make money without public dollars.  Do we have anyone with that kind of experience right now on the board or running?

    I feel bad, because the last time I supported her it was against that carpet-bagger from Sunnyvale who was just too good to be true, and the machine chewed her up because she wasn’t a team player in a close knit political town where the right people have to support you before you’re allowed to win.

    Oh well, it’s my district, I’ve been registered to vote there since I turned 18, and I look forward to a good primary and run-off and hope we get the candidate we need and not the one who needs us.

  6. San Jose’s progressive Democrat political machine candidates who do not have same values and concerns as south county will split the primary vote

    It will come down to primary voters in San Jose vs South county and
    * if South county can run a strong enough candidate ( don’t see one yet ) to get into the run off and
    * if the south county runoff candidate can appeal to majority of voters after millions will be spent on attack ads

    If not BOS will be controlled by San Jose progressive Democrats political machine and the small town suburban conservative family values republican south county will get more progressive urban land use, environmental, traffic and growth restrictions, social policies, and more taxes to pay for county urban area services with less south county services spending they will not like

    • Don’t worry.  Whoever gets elected will expand the South County Airport.  Plans are already made to extend the runway to 5000 feet for jet aircraft.  Believe me, your life is going to get a whole lot worse with a bigger, more active airport.  To rub salt in the wound, only a very, very, very small percentage of county residents will benefit from the airport.  As is the case with all 3 county airports.

      But, you are going to hear non-stop propaganda about how much you, and the rest of society, benefit from these recreational airports. 

      Ask yourself a question:  How often have you, anyone in your family, any friend, anyone you know, ever used a county airport in the last 10 years?  For 99.9% of the population the answer is 0, zero, none, nada, squat,  and any other word representing zero.

  7. About 20 years ago there was another supervisor, Zoe Lofgren, who maneuvered to shut down Reid-Hillview Airport and turn the land over to her real estate developer buddies in a classic political land-grab.  She ultimately got elected to Congress in 1994 and failed in this local effort.  Her worthy successor, Blanca Alvarado, took up the torch and continued where Lofgren left off, until the airplane owners, renter pilots and businesses based at Reid-Hillview organized, finally putting the matter to rest, pointing out that the county would owe the U.S. government for all improvements made with federal money—$10 million, or more—and that the airport had importance to the area as a reliever for San Jose International, a place to launch lifesaving donor organ flights and that it had played a significant role in flying vital materials into Santa Cruz County after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.  Blanca Alvarado was identified as the spearhead on the Board of Supervisors in that issue.  Teresa Alvarado is the daughter of Blanca Alvarado.  Someone who comes from the same family would need to work extra hard to show county voters that she’s not a “chip off the old block” to convince those who remember.  So far, I don’t see any evidence.

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