The South Bay Labor Council (SBLC) has unveiled a list of preferred candidates in some of the more consequential local races. Don Rocha and Dominic Caserta split an endorsement in the Santa Clara County supervisor’s race. Labor’s picks in San Jose: Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco, downtown Councilman Raul Peralez, Shay Franco-Clausen and Maya Esparza.
But unlike for the other races, SBLC made no public announcement about the contest between five-term Sheriff Laurie Smith and her former second-in-command, retired Undersheriff John Hirokawa. Sources say that’s because labor leaders were none too thrilled with delegates’ vote for a shared endorsement, which meant affiliate unions could make their own decision about whom to back but that neither candidate would benefit from SBLC’s unlimited spending power in the June 5 race.
But the only union with the power to overturn the decision was the one with the most members—SEIU Local 521. And that’s exactly what happened. About a dozen SEIU reps interviewed the candidates on Friday. A few days later, the union then announced its sole endorsement for Smith, making the bid to unseat her that much more of an uphill battle.
It wasn’t a membership vote, as Hirokawa’s camp was quick to point out before going so far as to accuse the sheriff of “1990s era bullying tactics.”
“When you have someone who’s been that entangled in the political scene here for 20 years, you know that’s because they’re accustomed to making these types of tradeoffs,” Hirokawa campaign manager Jeffrey Cardenas says.
Smith didn’t return Fly’s requests for comment. The most recent news from the incumbent’s side came in a press release last week about her getting official backing from the union repping her jail deputies.
The Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA) endorsement was the result of a member poll in which only 48 percent supported Smith’s re-election—a tepid turnout but still almost double what Hirokawa got.
CPOA President Lt. Amy Le defends the process as “thoughtful and diligent.”
Hirokawa says he’s unsurprised by the CPOA’s choice.
“So with the correctional union, we do have a philosophical difference,” he says. “I am pro-independent oversight and no on Tasers in the jails, which they feel are necessary.”