Election 2018: Close Races to Watch in Santa Clara County

A week after Election Day, voter turnout is on track to reach about 62 percent while about 100,000 ballots remain uncounted. That’s enough to change the outcome for some of the following candidates, or to widen the margins in races initially too close to call. With approximately 84 percent of of votes tallied as of 9am Tuesday, here’s a look at some of the most competitive local matches.

San Jose City Council

District 7. Upward of 5,176 more votes have been processed since Maya Esparza first overtook Councilman Tam Nguyen on Friday. The labor-backed nonprofit executive is now 1,373 votes ahead of the incumbent, or 53.8 percent to Nguyen’s 46.2 percent.

District 9. In the city’s only open council race, business-aligned Pam Foley’s lead over Kalen Gallagher continues to shrink. Her edge over Gallagher went from nearly 1,000 right out the gate to just 420 by the latest tally, or 50.8 percent to his 49.2 percent.

If Foley succeeds Don Rocha, who was generally a sure vote for labor, that would shift the council to the right. Gallagher, for his part, is considered an independent, having made it to the runoff without institutional support from either labor or business.

Should Gallagher emerge victorious, that potentially means another swing vote on the 11-member body, which translates to either greater unpredictability or greater collaboration. In a best-case scenario, that could lead to a council that’s more willing to compromise.

Cupertino City Council (Vote 3)

It looks like the closest race in the county right now is in Cupertino, where the council will decide the fate of the contentious Vallco Mall development. Jon Robert Willey is only two votes from finishing in the top three.

As of this morning, Savita Vaidhyanathan kept her incredibly tenuous hold in third place, with Liang Chao in second and Mayor Darcy Paul in the lead. It’ll be interesting to see if Willey swaps places with Vaidhyanathan after the next tally.

Mountain View City Council (Vote 3)

A trio of challengers held onto their lead over incumbents in Mountain View up until this morning, when Councilwoman Pat Showalter swapped places with Alison Hicks for third. But they’re close, with Hicks just 20 votes behind. Ellen Kamei remains ahead of the pack, but now with 10,629 votes. One percentage point down from her is Lucas Ramirez, who garnered 18.1 percent of the vote as of this a.m.

Morgan Hill City Council (Vote 1)

Julie Hutcheson’s fortunes have reversed since last week when she emerged 18 votes ahead of John McKay in the bid for Morgan Hill’s open District D council seat. By Monday it was McKay in the lead by the same margin. By today, his lead narrowed by a single vote, putting him 17 ahead of his rival.

Milpitas City Council (Vote 2)

In another upset, Carmen Montano and Karina Dominguez edged out incumbents Garry Barbadillo just a tad and surpassed Vice Mayor Marsha Grilli by a comfortable margin.

Montano garnered 5,308 votes so far and Dominguez 5,127, or 19.4 percent and 18.9 percent, respectively. Barbadillo was just a few-hundred votes behind on Monday, but he’s unlikely to gain much more traction from here on out. As of Tuesday morning, he trailed Dominguez by 543 votes.

This looks like a game-changer for Mayor Rich Tran, who handily won a second term despite challenges from his predecessor Jose Esteves and council colleague Bob Nuñez and attack ads that tried to cast him as a communist. With Montano and Dominguez, the mayor will now have two potential allies on the council.

San Jose Unified School District

Area 2. Newcomer Jose Magaña held onto his lead over Helen Chapman for yet another round of tallies, putting him at 42.5 percent compared to her 40.2 percent. That’s 6,554 votes for Magaña, 6,205 for Chapman.

East Side Union High School District (Vote 3)

After 28 years as trustee, J. Manuel Herrera’s tenure on the five-member board may be coming to an end. By the Monday night count, the six-term governing board member lagged behind third-place vote-getter Frank Biehl by just 27 votes. By today, Biehl’s lead expanded to 172 votes. In the top two: it’s still Lorena Chavez and incumbent Van Le.

Fremont Union High School District (Vote 3)

In the high school district serving Cupertino, Sunnyvale and parts of San Jose, incumbent William Wilson coasted to another term. It appears that Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto and Rosa Kim will join him on the board, considering that runner-up Meena Juttukonda-Gajula falls 766 votes behind.

Alum Rock Union Elementary School District (Vote 3)

This is one of the most closely watched races in the South Bay because of the five-member board’s notorious dysfunction, which a civil grand jury report credited to the majority bloc: Khanh Tran, Dolores Marquez-Frausto and board president Esau Herrera (brother of J. Manuel in East Side Union).

Well, it looks like Herrera’s troubled reign will soon be over, having fallen in sixth place with just 11.1 percent of the votes so far. Tran was surprisingly close behind the top three up until this morning, trailing Ernesto Bejarano by just 173 votes on Monday. That Tran didn’t fare worse surprised observers for a host of reasons, not least of which is the fact that he can’t attend board meetings because of a stay-away order filed against him by Superintendent Hilaria Bauer.

But this morning, Raymond Mueller gained traction, pulled ahead of Tran by 92 votes overnight. Now it’s a contest for third-place, with Mueller just shy of 300 votes behind Bejerano as of the tally that posted at 9am today.

Staying steady in the top two are incumbent Andres Quintero, a vocal critic of the so-called Alum Rock Three, and Linda Chavez.

Oak Grove School District

Area 2. Unlike the contest in Oak Grove’s Area 5, where Brian Lobue vanquished incumbent Carolyn Bauer, the Area 2 race is a nail-biter. As of this a.m., Tami Moore held just a 33-vote advantage over Diego Alfredo Martinez, a slight uptick from Monday.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

One Comment

  1. Well, Election 2018 is over. Time to move on to 2020.

    Politics junkies might want to get their juices flowing early by attending one of the thirteen “Evenings with President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton”.


    Inexplicably, THREE of the evenings are in Canada, and NONE are in the Bay Area.

    What do the Clinton’s have against San Francisco/Palo Alto/San Jose?

    Feels to me like a snub.

    Was someone mean to Chelsea when she attended Stanford?

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