Candidates for San Jose City Council have raised $234,814 between the March 3 primary and June 30, according to the latest round of election filings.
Two seats—District 6 and District 4—are up for grabs in the November 3 election.
District 6 encompasses Willow Glen, the historic Rose Garden, Santana Row and The Alameda and voters will decide between current Councilwoman Dev Davis and Jake Tonkel, a biotech engineer and former Peace Corps volunteer.
District 4 covers the northern part of San Jose, including the Berryessa and Piedmont neighborhoods and Alviso. On the ballot are incumbent Councilman Lan Diep and Berryessa Union School District Trustee David Cohen.
Davis raked in the most campaign cash, totaling $81,341 from 204 donors. The average donation amount was just shy of $400.
Davis also had the largest percentage of donors from San Jose, with 62 percent coming from within city limits, according to a San Jose Inside analysis of the data.
“I’m proud that ours is the campaign supported by an overwhelming majority of local neighbors,” Davis said in a recent phone call. “I’m particularly grateful for the diverse coalition of San Joseans and local business owners who have put their faith in me to reignite our local economy and usher us through this challenging time to build a San Jose for all that we’re proud to pass on to our kids.”
Davis’ opponent, Tonkel, amassed contributions from the greatest number of donors: 587. The Green Party challenger raised $59,392.42, with the average donation coming out to $101.12. Fifty-one percent of his donors list a home address in San Jose.
Tonkel announced earlier this year that he was swearing off campaign cash from corporations, developers and the fossil fuel industry.
“The way we build a community-powered campaign from small-dollar donations to hundreds of volunteers lets me put my constituents first,” he said. “I want to normalize running from the grassroots. That’s what we’re doing, and I could not be more grateful for the support we are receiving in District 6 and across our city.”
In D4, Diep raised $55,286 from 155 donors; the average donation amounted to $356.68.
The incumbent councilor told San Jose Inside that he was initially uncomfortable fundraising after the primary, as Covid-19 has taken an economic toll on so many people.
“Everything is rough in Covid times, so I’m extremely grateful to those who give,” he said. “I’m continuing to build my resources and my capacity. I remind myself that I won the seat that I have now with about $50,000.”
Of the four San Jose council contenders, Cohen has raised the least since the March primary: $38,794.60 from 207 donors. The average donation was $187.41.
Cohen said fundraising is an important “indicator” to the type of elected official someone will be, noting that he has five times as many donors from inside the district than his opponent. According to San Jose Inside’s analysis of campaign finance data, however, that estimate is a little off. By our calculation, Cohen had three times as many donors than Diep from D4—not five times as he claimed.
Cohen clarified that he arrived at the five-times figure by excluding the two businesses with D4 ZIP codes. One of those businesses—HMH Engineers—lists a District 3 address, and therefore was thus excluded from San Jose Inside’s accounting of D4 donations..
Fifteen of Diep’s donors, or 9 percent of the total, live in D4 compared to 45 of Cohen’s (21 percent). Meanwhile, 45 percent of Diep’s donations came from within San Jose compared to 55 percent of Cohen’s.
“Even when Covid-19 has prevented my campaign from going door-to-door or holding in-person house parties to get our message out directly to voters, local residents are hearing it via word-of-mouth,” Cohen said. "Contributions from folks I don’t even know are showing that they’re excited about my record of serving this community and doing so with an open door and a community-based approach.”