Oddsmakers: Who Will Replace Shirakawa?

There’s blood in the water, and the number of political sharks circling Supervisor George Shirakawa‘s not yet vacant seems to be growing. Top on the list of candidates to replace Shirakawa—who may have to resign and/or face criminal charges for his flagrant misuse of taxpayer money for personal vacations, dinners and golf outings—appears to be Teresa Alvarado, a popular communications manager for the Santa Clara Valley Water District and daughter of former supe Blanca Alvarado. But a number of others could also take a run at the seat. Among the possibles are San Jose councilmembers Sam Liccardo and Madison Nguyen, who both have their eye on a 2014 mayoral run, and Xavier Campos, a frequent Shirakawa dining companion and principal beneficiary of the supe’s spendy ways. Scandal seems to follow Campos around. He never seems to notice when his associates are charging personal expenses to all of us or diverting teachers’ pension funds, as happened when he was COO of MACSA. It seems Assemblywoman Nora Campos’ baby bro may have to stay in his room this time. Darcie Green, recently installed on the county education board, has also trained her eye on Shirakawa’s seat on the way to succeeding Nora, but timing’s poor. It seems one likely nominee—along with Alvarado—to replace Shirakawa could be Cindy Chavez, headmistress of the South Bay Labor Council. If a vacancy occurs on the county’s Board of Supervisors, the leftover cast of four must appoint someone or call for an election within 45 days. Current supervisors Dave Cortese and Ken Yeager, both laboristas, could help her cause. If supervisors fail to act or call for an election within 45 days of a vacancy, however, Gov. Jerry Brown must step in and appoint a new supe. A deadlocked four-member board could increase odds for a Chavez appointment by Brown, who owes labor some love after Prop. 30’s passage.

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.


  1. Xavier Campos seems to never notice when people are breaking the law around him.  He’s useless.

    Funny the title of the article appeals to Oddsmakers to speculate about Shirakawa’s replacement.  Now that it is becoming clear that Shirakawa has a gambling issue with his many taxpayer billed personal stays in Vegas, Reno, Tahoe, Thunder Valley and other casinos I bet he is itching to get in on the action. 

    Whoever the replacement is should first have to tell the taxpayers just how many county paid for lunches & dinners and perks they were party to with Shirakawa’s fake generosity.  Especially Cindy Chavez.  With the way the Supervisors have been so silent and spineless on the whole matter they should call for an election.  As a Santa clara County voter I do not trust any of their judgement right now.  Vote of no confidence in all until they clean up their acts!  They let Shirakawa get away with tens of thousands of dollars of abuse so an election wouldn’t be too bad.  We’ll just right it off as the costs that Ol’ Georgie boy would have asked to be reimbursed for had he stayed in office.

    • Cindy Chavez would easily triumph as a Shirakawa successor. However, we should keep our eye out on her taking the mayor seat. Any political junkie can see her well trained labor troops and established political networks are a powerful force that would easily march her to victory this time. As for Darcie Green, if being a qualified candidate boils down to being listed on a hundred committees with no verifiable accomplishments and no public official experience beyond her short term ARUSD seat where she fell short of her 4 year commitment, then we are truly being fooled.  Can we stop already with the Good ol’ boy politics in our wonderful city?

      • I couldn’t agree with you more.

        Maybe Dave Cortese will see the flash of mayoral ambition in Cindy Chavez’s eye and realize that despite his nose being firmly up labors bottom that backing her as a Supe replacement puts his already shakey personal mayoral ambition in jeopardy.  His mistep in the D8 Council race by backing the Martinez-Roach will not be forgiven easily by his voters.  If ever there was a political joke bigger than Darcie Green it is Patricia Martinez-Roach

  2. It appears also that County Supervisor David Cortese has spent more money on reimbursed expenses than Shirakawa has spent.  It may be that Cortese’s expenses have a higher quality to match the higher amount, but it is a phenomenon that tends to shelter Shirakawa.

    Cortese complained about the way expenses were reported during the Nov. 20 Supervisors meeting.  It turns out that most of the supervisors have 2 credit cards, one for the supervisor and one for the office staff.  Cortese only has one credit card, so all his staff expenses go on that one credit card too.  Shirakawa’s office expenses go on a separate credit card.  It’s easy to go through all the credit card charges so that legitimate office expenses aren’t included.  If Cortese wants to run for mayor he should not leave this up to the press.  He should do this for himself, and he should release the comparisons.

  3. Purely as an exercise in considering Shirakawa’s early departure voluntarily or under threat of law, let me lay out some issues.

    1)  Elected politicians are unwilling to resign because it doesn’t say, “I’m sorry.”  It says, “I was guilty,” and such an plea is extremely unlikely.

    In addition, resignation is something that is a trade-off in any negotiated criminal trial.  Resigning would be a part of the punishment, something not to be relinquished lightly.

    2)  There is a state statute which allows judges to assemble a jury of peers to try the fitness of an office-holder in the absence of proof of criminal conduct, mainly for things like abuse of power & failure to carry out one’s statutory duties.  I know of only one case like this in Santa Clara County.  But the process does allow for dismissal from office without a drawn-out criminal trial.

    3)  Another issue is the mysterious way that Ann Ravel finds herself wound up in this matter.  She served as county counsel for a decade and, in fact, was there when the tighter rules for reimbursements were trashed in 2003. 

    She left the number one attorney position in county government in mid-2009 which was also the midpoint in Shirakawa’s first year as county supervisor.  Which is to say she had an opportunity for full recognizance of his failure to file campaign finance papers with the county from his 2008 campaign, as well as his reimbursed expenses during his first six months as a county office-holder.  She will be a very important witness in all these matters.

    Ravel is now the chief of the FPPC, the state agency deemed responsible to look into campaign filings and related financial statements.  There is no way she can sufficiently recuse herself from the Shirakawa matter because none of the FPPC agents would dream of dragging her potential failure to act appropriately between 2003 and 2009 into the case.

    4) It appears that criminal penalties attach only to wrongful filings of campaign papers, and that only fines attach to failure to file campaign papers.  An odd loophole that could generate huge fines unless Shirakawa files or filed papers wrongfully from his 2008 campaign late, and thereafter in which case he would possibly trigger criminal charges.  Guess what his attorneys would recommend he do or not do?

    5)  A thorough-going investigation into Shirakawa’s reimbursements would require a similar investigation into the other elected county supervisors’ similar filings.  No wonder the other supervisors, past and present, are relatively mute on the subject.  It appears also that County Supervisor David Cortese has spent more money on reimbursed expenses than Shirakawa has spent.  It may be that Cortese’s expenses have a higher quality to match the higher amount, but it is a phenomenon that tends to shelter Shirakawa.

    6)  The last point is one that is hard to understand, but is one that is very meaningful to political understandings and that is that a kind of shield is created for some events prior to an election if they are questioned after a subsequent re-election.  Shirakawa isn’t quite the perfect case for that situation, but he did win re-election this past June which followed all his allegedly actionable failures since 2008.  It’s not forgiveness, but it’s often taken as voters giving someone a pass of some kind.

    In fact, this reality tends to raise the question, why wasn’t the hue & cry raised last fall when someone could have contested Shirakawa’s re-election at the voting booth this June?  His failures to file were in existence last fall as were the questionable reimbursements.  Why and how did this scandal come into existence at this time?  I don’t know that Shirakawa or his attorneys have the political or legal skill to make this “one year too late” into a quasi-defense, and I certainly appreciate Metro’s and SJ Inside’s disclosing this situation, but someone had all this information a year ago and failed to put it into the record.  That’s another little mystery but, as some say, more will be revealed.