With 55 percent of the ballots counted Thursday, Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran is on track for an easy victory. The 33-year-old mayor trounced his predecessor, six-term Mayor Jose Esteves, despite a barrage of negative hit pieces that tried to depict Tran as a lush, a flake and—bizarrely—a communist.
Tran currently claims more than 47 percent of the vote compared to just 26 percent for Esteves and 18 percent for Councilman Bob Nuñez. Voltaire Montemayor and Yoon Il Lee trailed way behind with 4.3 percent and 3.5 percent of the votes, respectively.
Meanwhile, two incumbents on the council, Marsha Grilli and Garry Barbadillo lagged behind former Councilwoman Carmen Montano, who received Tran’s endorsement, and newcomer Karina Dominguez.
As soon as early returns posted Tuesday, Tran knew he had reason to celebrate—because of his own commanding lead, of course, but also over the prospect of gaining some allies on the historically fractious council.
Shortly after the white-noise-and-tongue-clicks beat of “Drop It Like It’s Hot” began to play, Tran entered Crawdaddy, a small crawfish restaurant about a stone’s throw from the Great Mall where he spent his election night with friends and supporters. Despite the dramatic timing, his entrance was unceremonious and surprisingly laid-back.
There was no applause, no speech and no announcement. It was clear that the young mayor didn’t want this to be a stuffy political event. Besides the waxy white butcher paper covering the table at the by-the-bag seafood joint, decoration was at a minimum. Instead of a button-up and tie, the mayor donned black jeans, a black Nike polo shirt and a cursive “Milpitas” tattoo visible on his inner forearm.
“You’re not supposed to make requests, but I’m a big fan of Jay Z,” the mayor said, standing a few feet from where DJ Raymix played a mashup of “ABC” and “OPP.” In 2016, Tran was criticized for quoting Jay Z in his apology for cribbing Obama’s acceptance speech in his own.
The self-described “hugger” sauntered around the room embracing constituents instead of shaking hands. At every table, people gathered around to take selfies with the 33-year-old mayor, a photo op he seemed more at ease with than many politicians.
As the night progressed, the atmosphere loosened and livened up at Crawdaddy. Before long, Tran began handing out shots of Hennessy to the crowd as DJ Raymix scratched over the chorus of Toto’s “Africa.” Another win hung in the air. “I’m keeping it real,” the mayor philosophized as he maintained a strong lead in early reports.