Nothing stings as much as a politician you helped gain public office betraying you. It’s not uncommon, but it doesn’t make the pain any less real.
The result, of course, is predictable. The aggrieved party works doubly hard for the next opponent; which brings us to the sad case of Councilmember Rose Herrera.
Herrera would not be a San Jose Councilmember if not for the support of progressives, local democrats and the South Bay Labor Council. Her first campaign for a District 8 seat was literally run out of Labor’s headquarters.
Her election solidified a majority of votes on the San Jose City Council for a progressive agenda—or so it appeared. But Herrera chose to abandon her progressive base and join the opposition and their much more conservative and anti-public employee agenda. Her defection was not simply a switch in policy, but a complete transformation to becoming a staunch nemesis of her former supporters.
It was not simply her support for an unconstitutional pension reform plan, but binding arbitration, budget issues and development projects. To add insult to injury, Herrera often indicated she would support or oppose an issue only to change her mind the day of the vote—causing the further chagrin of her already disaffected former base.
And regardless of how one might feel about the progressive agenda; being disappointed by a politician’s lack of allegiance to their previous stated values is an all too often occurrence in the business we call politics.
So it is no surprise that many progressives are supporting East Side School Trustee Patricia Martinez-Roach. Martinez-Roach is no stranger to politics, but she has rarely had the support of establishment progressives. But she is willing to run against a turncoat Councilmember and disaffected Herrera voters will support an ABR candidate (Anybody But Rose). If Martinez-Roach can unite her neighborhood and education base along with establishment progressives, Herrera could face a tough election.
Add to Herrera’s woes the candidacy of Jimmy Nguyen. Nguyen is bright, articulate, independent and has a responsible fiscal agenda that calls for a reduction of executive salaries and no tax increases. He is the type of person many voters say they want in public office. But such new, independent and out-of-the-box candidates rarely win the first time out. Win or lose, Nguyen has a bright future and has impressed on the campaign circuit.
So, Rose Herrera has some work cut out for her. As the incumbent she is the natural favorite. She will not be able to rely on her former base, but incumbency has its own base of support.
As for progressives and the unreliable elected officials who sometimes let them down, politics is a harsh mistress and, in the words of Hyman Roth in Godfather II, “this is the business we’ve chosen.”
Rich Robinson is a longtime political consultant in Silicon Valley who is currently working on Steve Kline’s District 6 campaign. Robinson’s columns for San Jose Inside are independent of his campaign duties.