Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran says he’ll follow through on his threat to mount a recall campaign against council colleague Anthony Phan. The 33-year-old mayor even set a firm deadline. If Phan, 23, doesn’t resign by the end of the last day of the year, Tran vows to start gathering signatures the very next morning.
Their dispute stems from an 11th hour campaign mailer admittedly authorized by Phan’s political committee, which basically cast Tran as a commie apparatchik. Backlash ensued. It was widely agreed upon that Phan, as a Vietnamese-American, should’ve known better than to reopen old wounds for the community as a whole and for Tran’s war refugee mother in particular.
Phan commended Tran on his re-election, but said he’s committed to carrying out his own term. “Right now, the only think I’m focused on is continuing to ensure a high quality fo life for Milpitas residents,” Phan said. “With humility and optimism, I look forward to working on the issues that matter most: affordable housing, transportation and fiscal sustainability. As always, I welcome collaboration with any who is willing.”
That the attack ad backfired by evoking more sympathy for Tran, and that he handily won a second term over more veteran rivals—namely Councilman Bob Nuñez and former Mayor Jose Esteves—suggests that the tide has turned for the young mayor.
After two years on the defensive, batting away claims of plagiarism and uninvited hugging, among other things, Tran is flexing his political muscles. Meanwhile, the tentative victory of Carmen Montano, who’s back after a 2016 re-election loss, and newcomer Karina Dominguez over incumbents Marsha Grilli and Garry Barbadillo could be interpreted as a referendum on the sitting council.
“The voters are tired of politics taking over the issues that most people care about in the community,” Dominguez says. “I think people here are ready to move forward.”
Tran echoes that sentiment, and says he’s learned from his early mistakes, like when he introduced his first policy—a ban on the sale of non-rescue cats and dogs—without first trying to build consensus. It was promptly shut down. “Members of the council thought it was a political effort,” he recalls. “It was a great lesson about politics in City Hall.”
While Dominguez may not always see eye to eye with Tran, she shares his affinity for using social media to reach voters and his emphasis on mundane quality-of-life issues like weed abatement and trash cleanup. On her agenda for the coming year: a push for tenant protections, new affordable housing construction, job creation and crime prevention. On Tran’s: reining in development so Milpitas families don’t get displaced, cracking down on illegal massage parlors, creating a comprehensive homeless strategy.
There’s some conflict there, especially when it comes to their stances on development. But should Dominguez hold on to her lead over Barbadillo—and she most certainly will, considering how it widened to 568 votes Tuesday—the former state legislative aide says she’s ready to collaborate. “If we learned anything from this election,” she says in a phone call, “it’s that we need to move past our own differences.”