Evergreen and Alum Rock voters basically ghosted the institutional powers in the District 8 primary election, as neither the Chamber of Commerce’s preferred candidate (Denise Belisle) nor the South Bay Labor Council endorsee (Josh Barousse) finished in the top two. Instead, Sylvia Arenas and Jimmy Nguyen finished first and second, respectively, in a tight five-way race. What makes their fall runoff so intriguing is that both candidates were encouraged to run by active council members hoping to acquire allies.
Arenas has the backing of District 5’s Magdalena Carrasco, who mentored her fellow Latina for several months as an unpaid council intern after the pair worked together in the nonprofit sector. A two-year Evergreen Elementary School District board member, Arenas also has a master’s degree in public administration and has shown a sustained commitment to her community for more than two decades. She lands squarely on the side of labor Democrats on most issues (minimum wage, Measure E and Measure F), but she has yet to receive the endorsement of the South Bay Labor Council. That’s actually a good thing.
Arenas breaks from the ranks of lapdogs who continue to kowtow to the Campos Clan, who have done so little for the East Side over the course of nearly two decades.
Nguyen had his own recruiter in District 4’s Manh Nguyen (no relation), who lost a nailbiter primary to Lan Diep and is contesting the results in court. Manh had hoped to create a three-person coalition along with District 7’s Tam Nguyen (again, no relation) that could give the Vietnamese community an unprecedented bloc of representation. That could still happen if Jimmy prevails, but we have concerns about his allegiances. Unlike four years ago, when Jimmy lost a close race to incumbent Rose Herrera and had the SBLC and San Jose Police Officers’ Association’s backing, he’s now riding shotgun with the Chamber. (Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Nguyen is an outspoken Republican. While his views align with many conservative positions, he is a registered Democrat. San Jose Inside regrets the error.)
Jimmy, an attorney, suggests his views remain consistent, and that his stance against Measure B pension reforms was based on the legality, similar to outgoing Councilman Ash Kalra’s position. This is hard to reconcile.
Sylvia Arenas presents a better option for all of District 8’s voters.
San Jose Inside will be publishing endorsements and information on local races, ballot measures and state propositions throughout the rest of the week.