Ken Yeager’s Departure from County Board of Supervisors Could Shift Balance of Power

Ken Yeager terms out next year from the county Board of Supervisors, but the South Bay’s first openly gay elected official isn’t ready to call it a career quite yet. In an interview last week, Yeager told Fly he’s “seriously considering” a run for Jim Beall’s open state Senate seat in 2020. That would pit Yeager against fellow county Supervisor Dave Cortese, who confirmed in a podcast interview last month that he’s definitely running for the seat. (Cortese doesn’t term out until 2020.) The two supes haven’t squared off in an election since 1996, when they both fell to former U.S. Rep. Mike Honda in a bid for state Assembly. That race got more than a little contentious, as Cortese’s campaign put out a late mailer that many felt was a dog whistle designed to stoke homophobia. In a book he would later pen, Yeager described a touching meeting between the two men and how they were able to mend fences after Cortese apologized. Since that time they’ve become allies on the county board, but Yeager’s impending departure has created a fascinating dynamic that could shift the balance of power in the county. The two supes often side with Supervisor Cindy Chavez to form a solid majority on the five-member board, but a newcomer could allow supervisors Joe Simitian and Mike Wasserman to assert more control over policy. (Well, really just Simitian because Wasserman, a Republican, has always been more of a “happy to be here” kind of guy.) No less than five candidates are running for Yeager’s District 4 seat—covering Santa Clara, Campbell and west San Jose—and midsummer campaign disclosure reports depict a full-on arms race. Santa Clara Councilman Dominic Caserta has the lead with $289K raised, after reeling in a quarter-million by the end of 2016. He’s a possible labor endorsee due to his incessant power slurping. However, San Jose Councilman Don Rocha ($138K raised) could also secure labor’s support after taking staunchly progressive positions on the San Jose City Council. The real threat to labor’s control of the county, however, comes from Pierluigi Oliverio, who despite appearing a little Lebowski since terming out from the San Jose council, raised an impressive quarter-million in the first half of 2017. Oliverio’s libertarian streak would make him a disruptive force alongside Simitian. San Jose Unified school board trustee Susan Ellenberg ($94K raised) could also shake things up if she nabs some institutional support, while former Campbell Mayor Jason Baker is bringing up the rear with a little more than $50K.

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  1. Shift the balance of Power? To what? The power was supposed to represent the people not the Government!

  2. Thanks for the update on this important race. Caserta is winning on EVERY objective benchmark (money, endorsements, volunteers). In fact, I have received TWO walk pieces and two postcards already from his campaign and ZERO from everyone else combined.

    I know Dominic personally and he admires Ken immensely and knows whoever replaces Supervisor Yeager must continue the progressive legacy of inclusion set by Mr. Yeager!

    I truly believe Dominic will win and serve our County with distinction.

    • Dominic, why are you writing about yourself in the 3rd person?

      Everyone who lives in the City of Santa Clara already knows this, but for everyone else’s benefit please know that Dominic has been a terrible City Councilmember for us and we cant wait to get rid of him.

      Dominic is in the pockets of big monied special interests, whether it is Jed York of the 49ers, or big developers trying to rob residents of their quality of life. The very reason he was able to raise so much money already is because he’s cashing in all those favors those special interests owe him. Just look at his campaign contribution disclosure forms and you’ll see that 80% of them are from developers or the 49ers.

      Dominic does NOT represent the people. He’s consistently voted in favor of his big donors against the quality of life of the residents. His voting record speaks for itself.

      Dominic has a terribly short temper. Often going on 10 minute tirades on the dais, sometimes storming off when he disagrees with other councilmembers or the public. He is also known to openly give the middle finger to members of the public speaking to the council when he disagrees with them and knows that the city cameras are not focused on him (they have lights to indicate which camera is active).

      Despite touting being on the “ethics” committee, he’s known to have given extra credit to his civics class students for walking precincts for him and some have even been caught red-handed stealing opponents’ lawn signs and campaign materials.

      Dominic is the worst kind of politician, caring about nobody but himself and the advancement of his own personal political career, even if it means trampling over the people he supposedly represents. We in the City of Santa Clara can’t wait to dump him as our council member, but we just hope he goes away and doesn’t end up on our County Board of Supervisors.

      • > Dominic is the worst kind of politician, caring about nobody but himself and the advancement of his own personal political career, even if it means trampling over the people he supposedly represents.

        How is it that “democracy” results in people like Dominic Caserta being elected to public office?

        Is there something wrong with “democracy”?

        • “How is it that “democracy” results in people like Dominic Caserta being elected to public office?
          Is there something wrong with “democracy”?”

          Yes, the way council members are elected in Santa Clara creates a loophole where unpopular candidates can still win. Dominic won his last race by only winning 39% of the vote. Here’s the tally:

          KEVIN PARK 7,194 35.22%
          DOMINIC CASERTA 8,042 39.37%

          That means that 71% of Santa Clara did NOT want Dominic to be their council member. If Kevin or Roseann dropped out of the race, Dominic would NOT have won. He even acknowledged this on the dais when the Council was voting to approve the Charter Committee’s recommendation of changing (fixing) our broken election system.

  3. A checklist of what we need.
    Santa Clara County is at the forefront of challenging Trump.
    Oliverio is tied to Republican consultants with ties to Trump
    Caserta is fighting for DACA as a teacher and college instructor
    Caserta has initiated actions on immigration and minimum wage and is a passionate fighter.
    We need a fighter for ideals, Caserta, a maker of actions, Caserta, and a delegate for working people, Caserta.

  4. When my daughter needed a letter of recommendation for a scholarship, Mr. Caserta not only wrote one, but he solicited two more. She is a shy girl, with few friends, Mr. Caserta helped her in her team make friends with some popular kids. We need a supervisor who cares for each person like Mr. Caserta

  5. > That race got more than a little contentious, as Cortese’s campaign put out a late mailer that many felt was a dog whistle designed to stoke homophobia.

    I never knew this fly. I’m glad they made up but, Ken, if you happen to read this just FYI.. I’m sorry he did this to you. I have no issue with LGBTQ folks. A very close relative just recently came out to me, and I told them, “This doesn’t change a thing about our relationship, I still love you and whatever makes you happy we’re still family, I’ll always be here for you.”

    Even though this rag made fun of my Sulu analogy, the point I made then holds very true today. Homophobia is stupid. You never know who is in the closet, and are you still going to be homophobic when they step out of the closet? If you’re openly non-homophobic, they will have no fear of coming out. Sorry for this somewhat OT rant SJI, I just got triggered I guess.

  6. The thought of being free of Yeager and his gay bar values is pleasing, which is not something I can say about the list of dismal thinkers that pass for political front-runners in this valley. The thought of these clowns, each totting a political agenda that has nothing to do with improving the quality of life or productivity in this county, bringing further progressive ruin here is heartbreaking.

    • > The thought of these clowns, each totting a political agenda that has nothing to do with improving the quality of life or productivity in this county, bringing further progressive ruin here is heartbreaking.


      You’re not even TRYING to cheer me up.

  7. I found Yeager to be a hero, a person of grace. I do not vote for Caserta for Assembly. I called him. This year, he actually walked in my area and I approached him. He said he remembered me. We talked for about 20 minutes about buses and about the hospital. Caserta was really impressive. He took notes! I guess I will vote for him this time. He said his students took my bus and he seemed to care. I like that.

  8. Labor is likely to split support between Caserta and Rocha. Caserta is a weak candidate who can’t win races outside of Santa Clara. Rocha is a lazy campaigner who has never beaten anyone good.

    So look for Oliverio and Ellenberg to make the runoff because Labor divided it’s resources rather than push one candidate who needs help into the runoff and later victory.

    This truly then would change the Board dynamics.

  9. Ellenberg: She has been a great board member and I see her everywhere not campaigning but doing actual work around the county. I have personally seen her at several speaking engagements where she seems to be really very knowledgeable and energetic.

    • I agree with you that Susan Ellenberg has grace and style. Dominic Caserta has been fighting for Dreamers, people with needs all of his life. Caserta has the passion needed to be a champion of our old people and our immigrants. He is the Energizer Bunny with the smarts. Santa Clara County is in a backroom fight with Trump, and I am betting Caserta can winit.

      • Four Oh Eight,Yolanda Chapman,Linda Delaney,

        Have any of you researched the other candidates running for office? It is important that you do because the office of the BOS differs vastly from a school board member, teacher, or City Council Member.

  10. Great employees often make terrible managers. For similar reasons, just because someone may be, say, an effective and popular teacher or excels at fundraising doesn’t necessarily make them likely to be an effective politician. I care a lot more about someone’s long-term history of doing what’s right for the community as a whole, not doing what special interests want. I form my opinions from thousands of hours of watching, attending and participating in City Council and similar meetings and reading committee minutes, not from postcards and staged sound bites. I’m not associated with any campaign in this election cycle and don’t mean to pick on any particular candidate.

    I encourage others to make a similar investment – even a modest one – to become more educated voters. Sometimes it’s very enlightening to ask yourself what might have motivated a politician to say/do a particular thing. Even seemingly innocent questions by a politician during a public hearing often have a hidden agenda that’s rather blatantly obvious to the informed.

    Watch the way a politician acts during the public testimony part of a meeting. Do they encourage and sincerely pay attention to public input or zone out, roll their eyes or even leave the dais? Do they have a history of leaving before long meetings are over? What might that imply about how they represent you or whether their mind is already made up on a vote before all of the facts are in?

    Taking the time to read political campaign financial disclosures to discover not only how much money someone raised but where it came from can also be very enlightening. Does campaign money come from the common man or from special interests?

    How might someone’s future political aspirations influence how they vote on a particular issue? Are they voting the way they truly believe or just to get votes in the next election?

    Look at seemingly mundane things like committee assignments. City Council members are often assigned to serve on multiple local or regional committees. Policy decisions made by these can have profound effects on a community, even though the deliberations are often far less publicly covered. (VTA is a good example, influencing/controlling not only buses but also a much broader range of transportation issues and related funding.) How does an incumbent candidate’s share of committee assignments compare with that of his/her colleagues? Are they pulling their share of the weight on the mundane duties or just taking the politically beneficial ones? Do they have a track record of serious participation in these committees or are they just checklist items?

    How does an incumbent candidate balance between governing and campaigning? While it’s great that a candidate may spend a lot of time walking precincts and engaging directly with the voters, each hour an incumbent spends doing that is also potentially one less hour they’re spending researchig the volumes of data from staff reports and the like. These reports relevant to upcoming votes not infrequently exceed 1500 pages in length. Do you want a candidate who takes the time to actually understand the often subtle and conflicting issues in depth or one that only superficially understands the issues and may be more interested in campaigning and fundraising for the next election?

  11. Speaking of California politicians, it looks like California Attorney General Xavier Becerra may have been imprudent if not just downright naughty.

    Politicians like to boast about their “relationships” and their “connections” and their clout with political bigwigs.

    So, inquiring minds want to know, WHAT local politicians are known to be exceptionally “friendly” with Xavier, and do such politicians need to be concerned about possible “bad publicity”?

    If any of the confidential information that Becerra put on his House of Representatives network was scooped up by Pakistani, or Iranian, or North Korean intelligence, can Becerra be accused of “colluding with the North Koreans”?

  12. The sad part of voting for the BOS or the Sheriff is that people in San Jose, or other cities, don’t know the candidates outside of their own City, thereby, voting only for people THEY know. We do need to carefully research ALL candidates before voting. For example, the City of San Jose has a Police Chief who is NOT elected so very few people know who the Sheriff actually is. Only people in the unincorporated areas of San Jose know who the Sheriff is. If you don’t have kids, how do you know who to vote for a school board member? I ask parents and people I know.

    We’ve all experienced Oliverio on the City Council. Need I say more? Hum… On thing I can say about the City of Santa Clara is that they tend to be more actively involved in their local government than San Jose is, but that is not a good reason for them to vote for someone they know, without looking into everyone who is running for a BOS. A vote is a precious thing that is not to be taken lightly, so at least take the time to research ALL the candidates and attend any debates that are held so that you can make an informed decision.

    • Don’t worry about Santa Clara – the very fact we are actively involved in our local government is enough to tell you that MOST Santa Clarans will NOT vote for Dominic Caserta despite him being our Council Member. We know better!

      • Caserta has won FOUR races in a row in Santa Clara and we will Santa Clara in June, no doubt!

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