In the June primary we endorsed Rose Herrera and Robert Braunstein for San Jose City Council seats because they stood out from a field of candidates. As both races moved to runoffs, two surprise second-place finishers emerged: Johnny Khamis in District 10 and Jimmy Nguyen in District 8.
We wanted to take a closer look at the second-place finishers before issuing our general election endorsements, and that opportunity came last month at the San Jose Downtown Association’s debate.
Although Nguyen is a candidate worth watching for the future, he’s not there yet. He came across as unprepared on the issues and out of sync with his district’s voters. There’s little to suggest that Nguyen is thinking for himself rather than just toeing the union party line.
When asked whether he supported a municipal minimum wage higher than the state’s, Nguyen said: “I’m still iffy on it. I’m leaning towards not supporting it, but I’m open to it.” Sorry, Jimmy, “iffy” stances aren’t a good thing for decision makers in a city this big; voters need to know where you stand on key issues in this election.
Rose Herrera, despite some missteps earlier in her term, has seasoned politically. She takes stands and communicates them clearly. That’s something her district deserves. With the city’s challenges, there’s just no time for on-the-job training.
We have similar concerns about Johnny Khamis in District 10. At the downtown forum, Khamis read his opening and closing comments from prepared statements. Voters need to know if candidates are thinking for themselves or just reading what a political consultant wrote. When a candidate reads scripts, there’s no way to tell.
Luckily, District 10 voters have a well-qualified candidate in Robert Braunstein, the primary’s second-place finisher by one vote. Braunstein, a sportscaster and small business owner, can think on his feet. Like Khamis, he supported pension reform and opposes a minimum wage, but he’s better than Khamis at explaining why. Braunstein says he “doesn’t want San Jose to be an island” while neighboring cities don’t have municipal ordinances on wages.
Khamis also seems less interested in San Jose issues than in broader philosophical questions. He gets caught up in side issues and doesn’t stay focused on what matters in a local race. He’s also thin-skinned, and politicians need to learn to roll with the punches to remain in the public light.
Braunstein’s moderate, competent and thoughtful, though not afraid to take stands and say what he thinks. We think he’s well suited to represent the Almaden Valley district on the San Jose City Council.