SANTA CLARA COUNTY — In one of the most consequential Santa Clara County races in recent memory, a San Jose council member is trying to break District 1’s decades-long conservative winning streak, potentially leading to a board of tipping the balance toward the progressive camp of supervisors. come on

Sylvia Arenas, who represents parts of East San Jose, faces Johnny Khamis, a former San Jose City Council member. Khamis is trying to capture moderate and conservative voters in the mostly rural district, which stretches across southern Santa Clara County.

Whoever is elected will help decide how to spend a huge budget north of $11 billion — roughly the size of the gross domestic product of the Bahamas — and oversee a district that I include the cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy and are among the largest populations. shifts

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While both Arena and Khamis share similar priorities – both are promising to address homelessness, public safety and post-pandemic economic recovery – their approaches to solving the problems are quite different.

“I believe in investment and changing the system,” said Arena, whose term on the San Jose City Council ends in 2024.

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Meanwhile, Khamis says he’s wary of the county’s unchecked spending. “Before we get into anything, I want to study the pros and cons,” he said, “if we’re getting a good price or if we’re getting ripped off.”

SAN JOSE – MARCH 17: San Jose City Council Member Sylvia Arenas speaks during a press conference outside the San Jose Police Department on Wednesday, March 17, 2021 in San Jose, California. (Randy Vazquez/Bay Area News Group)

Questions and answers to problems

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What do you think of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s CARE Court, a new program that would mandate California counties to provide mental health care under certain circumstances?

Playground: “It’s not the solution to all of our problems. What’s missing is very long-term care. That’s what’s really going to set people up for success. Just forgetting about those people is not the solution. “

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Fifth: “There’s a lot of support. I want to make sure (the funding) is spent wisely.

A new Santa Clara County jail proposal was recently pushed aside. Will you vote to build this facility or not?

Playground: “I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to land. I want to make sure that there’s a dignified environment for those who work and for those who are incarcerated. And I want to make sure that There are mental health facilities that no longer exist.

Fifth: “I think we can’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Going to bid for years is not the right way to get (things) done.”

The county is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against a San Jose church seeking to recover millions of dollars in COVID-related fines. It has also gone after small businesses for similar violations. What do you think about this pandemic and the county’s overall outlook?

Playground: “I think it was more important to keep people safe. I certainly go to my church to meet my spiritual needs. But I don’t ask them for my medical recommendations.

Fifth: “I thought the entire county’s approach from day one was tough. I want to waive these fines for everyone. Why do we continue down this path? Stop chasing money that I don’t think we’ll ever get. going to do.

A sand and gravel mine is being proposed in D1 near Gilroy. Do you support or oppose it?

Playground: “I know that indigenous tribal groups are hoping to protect this land. Sometimes, (mining resources) have been prioritized over respecting the land of the people before us. We have to make sure that We must continue to support him.”

Fifth: “I have to look at the numbers. How bad is it for the environment? Are we pushing our pollution to another country? I don’t know where I stand … but I want to look at the facts, the pros and cons. But will lean in, as I do in every decision.

What is one good thing you can say about your opponent?

Playground: “I like Johnny. We get along. What I respect about him is his focus on family. He’s a testament to how people can overcome in this country. And can be successful.

Fifth: “I think she (Silvia) is very personable. She has really good social skills. I think she’s very socially adept. I think she connects well with people.”

Councilman Johnny Khamis is pictured during a city council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in San Jose, California.  (Randy Vazquez/Bay Area News Group)
Councilman Johnny Khamis is pictured during a city council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in San Jose, California. (Randy Vazquez/Bay Area News Group)

Who will come out on top?

Although Arenas managed to beat Khamis by 1,462 votes in the June primary, political analysts of the race say there is no clear front-runner at this point.

“These kinds of races are very difficult to predict,” said Larry Garston, a political science professor at San Jose State University. “The turnout and voter turnout is very low. And when you’re talking about something so small, a difference of four to five thousand votes can completely rewrite what someone is thinking.

However, some developments since the primaries may indicate who will be the next supervisor.

Khamis has secured the endorsements of incumbent D1 Supervisor Mike Wasserman — who is ending this year after serving since 2010 — and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who have helped attract moderate and conservative voters in the area. can be important.

But the labor-backed Arena captured the endorsements of two of its primary opponents in June: Claudia Rossi and Rich Constantine. If Rossi and Constantine’s voters jump on Arena’s bandwagon, it could pose a threat to Khamis, who has a comfortable lead over his conservative opponent.

On the other hand, Gerston said, Republican voters who would root for a conservative candidate like Khamis are traditionally more likely to turn out than progressives.

“If you’re able to get more Republican votes in a place where Democrats are slow, you can tilt a lot of elections differently,” he said.

Gerston said another key indicator of how the D1 race will tilt is the outcome of the mayoral race between San Jose Councilman Matt Mahan and D2 County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who came out ahead by more than 10,000 votes in the June primary. were

“I think the D1 race will probably reflect that,” he said of the results of the November mayoral race. “I think an increase in Chavez’s vote is probably going to help Arena. And Mahan will help Khamis. That’s going to have some effect on what happens.”

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