Election 2018: Two Schools Trustees Jockey for San Jose’s District 9 City Council Seat

The race to replace termed out San Jose Councilman Don Rocha in District 9 has narrowed down to two dynamically different choices for voters: a political newbie with less experience than his opponent and no special-interest alliances or a more seasoned candidate with a recognizable name and establishment connections.

Whoever wins after Cambrian residents cast their ballots Nov. 6 could determine whether the council leans in favor of business or labor over the next four years.

Although not initially considered a threat, Kalen Gallagher, a Campbell Union High School District trustee, surprised political circles back in the June primary when the dark horse shot past favored labor candidate Shay Franco-Clausen to go up next month against business-favorite Pam Foley, a trustee with San Jose Unified School District.

The former UC Davis student body president has no institutional backing but plenty of Cambrian Park residents have thrown their financial support behind Gallagher, who has been busy defending himself against more than $80,000 worth of negative mailers sent out last week by the Silicon Valley Organization PAC, a major backer of Foley’s campaign.

Gallagher, a San Jose native who worked as a middle school teacher for several years before helping launch startup ClassDojo, has been vocal about his refusal to accept endorsements or donations from business or labor groups.

It’s also why he didn’t seem too fazed by the below-the-belt hits when he spoke with San Jose Inside, which he chalked up to establishment power players taking aim at a contender who can’t be bought by monied interests.

“It’s no secret that money in politics is destroying our country and it’s destroying our region as well,” Gallagher said in a phone call earlier this week. “So it’s no surprise that we’re trying to be one of the first campaigns that doesn’t fill out loyalty applications or accept money from special interests.”

With a number of stakeholders representing business or labor agendas, Gallagher said the dynamic at City Hall is like “a chess game between two political gods” that he wants to avoid playing so he can “represent District 9 residents and drive real solutions for people who live here.”

“I’m willing to work with anyone on the planet who’s willing to focus on the issues that matter to District 9,” he said. “I think there’s a difference between having a healthy conversation towards real solutions and being beholden to those groups.”

But Gallagher also acknowledged that being independent goes both ways and could require sometimes compromising with those same groups and possibly alienating some constituents in the process.

“You need to have honest conversations with people and bring people who don’t agree to the same table and work towards finding a solution,” he added. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to necessarily agree with every single person in the district.”

It’s uncertain how Foley plans to balance her relationship with the same crowd that’s thrown thousands of dollars at her election so far and also representing the interests of district residents. Her donors and supporters include Republic Urban, CORE, Schoennauer Co., SummerHill Homes and the California Apartment association, District 10 Councilman Johnny Khamis, ex-Mayor Chuck Reed, and former Vice Mayors Judy Chirco and Madison Nguyen.

Those business-friendly ties and developer support could mean more building in the area and possibly adding more jobs to a city with less than one job per resident. But Foley, who runs a small mortgage company with her husband, has said she thinks the proposal to redevelop the Cambrian Park Plaza is too large for the site and that she would work to downsize it. Even so, it’s impossible to know how much Foley intends to push back on developers who are eager to add to San Jose’s housing stock.

The two-time council candidate (she ran back in 2009 but dropped out for personal reasons) supports building more urban villages but said at a candidate forum in April that the Cambrian Park Plaza lacks the necessary public transit to make it workable.

Foley didn’t respond to requests for comment—possibly because she’s pre-occupied, having walked so much for her campaign this season that she’s nursing a tibia fracture.


  1. So Madison Nguyen supports Foley – not surprised! The thousands of dollars being spent on false accusations against Gallagher reminds me of the dirty tactics Madison Nguyen’s PACS used against Ash Karla. Fortunately it didn’t work then and hopefully won’t work now.

    • Foley disavowed the attacks. I have a lot of issues with Pam Foley, and I love Gallagher. But Foley stepped up. That has to be a applauded. I can think of two instances in another city where a big consultant goes around calling commissioners stupid, makes comments about their family and their Thomas Aguianas council friend says nothing
      Foley showed mettle

    • You do realize Madison Nguyen is the Executive Vice President of the SVO right? Is Foley going to give back all campaign contributions from the SVO because of these false photoshop mailers?

      We need to vote for someone from outside the establishment.

      • neither of these candidates are “outside the establishment”

        one is sold out to them
        and the other tries to hide that they sold out

        maybe this council area will have better options in 4 years
        these choices are terrible
        write-in “ANYBODY ELSE”

        • Sal, there’s no way you can be a resident of District 9. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

  2. If Foley was sincere in her attacks on the Silicon Valley Organization, who received thousands from the 49ers (though Teresa ONeill ignores that in her effort to make the SVO A power in Santa Clara despite their support of anti gay candidates), then Foley should be supported for this seat.

  3. Fair article, but how is Gallagher a “political newbie” when he’s been serving on the local school board for years now, just like Foley? To be clear, I’m supporting Kalen because he’s a smart, genuine person and I’m sick of the labor/chamber fight screwing up every single policy discussion in our city.

  4. Pam has served her community well, has worked hard and deserves to represent District 9 on the City Council. Just because Kalen didn’t receive the endorsements he strongly sought from Mayor Sam and multiple councilmembers doesn’t mean he needs to go sour grapes and bash Pam for receiving so much support. Plus Kalen’s supporters seem increasingly desperate online with their trolling. Go Pam!

    • I haven’t read a single “sour grapes” comment or a “bash” attributed to Kalen Gallagher. Lol, looks like the only troll here is you. Vote for Kalen Gallagher!

  5. Kalen Gallagher has my vote! Foley has too much baggage, and is a part of the Chamber whom has gone way too far in bashing a candidate who doesn’t deserve to be lied about, and have his character sullied.

    BTW- I don’t believe that Foley wasn’t involved in trashing Kalen Gallagher. She did the same types of things to other candidates in the past.

  6. I was undecided. Not any more after those negative fliers biotching about oponent without content. Seriously? Are you in elementary school? It just gave me a message that you have ill-gotten money, are scared, not mature and wise.

    Kalen is the future. More like him and of his generation should come into politics and lead the community.

  7. Kalen Gallagher has our vote! He’s genuine, intelligent and he cares about District 9 residents. And, he’s never made a negative comment about his opponent.

    If Foley was sincere about disavowing the unwarranted and untrue attack ads, she would have disavowed the endorsement of the Silicon Valley Organization PAC. But she hasn’t done that.

    Kalen Gallagher is exactly who our Cambrian community needs. Vote for Kalen Gallagher!

  8. How can Pam Foley justify running for a higher office when she has done such a poor job in her current job as trustee. Academic performance in San Jose Unified is poor. For example, only 6% of 11th grade English Learners meet standards as measured by th State Math Test! Yet Pam wants to leave this important work unfinished so she can step up to the next level! Voters should reject this advancement until she gets her first job right!

    Pam is all hat and no cattle!

    See SJUSD lackluster academic performance at http://sipbigpicture.com

  9. > has been vocal about his refusal to accept endorsements or donations from business or labor groups.

    > so he can “represent District 9 residents and drive real solutions for people who live here.”

    > “I’m willing to work with anyone on the planet who’s willing to focus on the issues that matter to District 9,” he said. “I think there’s a difference between having a healthy conversation towards real solutions and being beholden to those groups.”

    Criminy! What utter contentless pap!

    I can’t discern a SINGLE reason for voting for this guy. He could be running for coroner or dog catcher for all I know.

    Maybe he could at least deny being an axe murderer or a cat hoarder.

    Say something REAL!

    Local politics is s-o-o-o-o-o dreadful and depressing. They talk to us like we’re retarded children.

      • Careful what is motiviating your vote – look at the issues and what they stand for. Is Kalen really qualified to do this incredibly important job?

        • > Is Kalen really qualified to do this incredibly important job?

          We have virtually NOTHING on which to judge his qualifications, and the same is true of just about every other candidate for local office.

          No birth certificate.
          No citizenship records.
          No genealogy.
          No education history
          No transcripts.
          No degrees.
          No employment history.
          No professional certifications.
          No disciplinary actions
          No military records
          No arrest records.
          No outstanding warrants.
          No lawsuits.
          No judgements.
          No restraining orders.
          No divorces.
          No evictions.
          No bankruptcies.
          No tax records.
          No property records.
          No election history.
          No medical records.
          No vaccination records.
          No background checks.
          No FBI investigations.
          No security clearances.
          No awards, no commendations, no Nobel prizes.

          I don’t know this guy. He could be a Chinese communist spy or a Nazi collaborator or an insider in the Hillary Clinton campaign. He could have fondled Christine Basely Ford in high school.

          On the basis of the information he has provided me to convince me to vote for him, my answer is: HELL NO.

          And, it’s pretty much the same answer for most other local candidates as well.

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