Cindy Chavez won’t run for San Jose mayor in 2024

The decision leaves Mayor Matt Mahan without a clear opponent in the upcoming election.

Cindy Chavez, a South Bay labor icon, has announced that she will not run for San Jose’s top political seat next year, removing a major impediment to Mayor Matt Mahan’s re-election bid.

“San Jose has wrapped her arms around me, and I have done my best to do the same,” Chavez wrote to supporters in an email on Thursday evening. “While I have decided not to run for mayor of San Jose, I will continue to help move our city forward and help tackle the critical issues impacting our residents and community.”

Chavez, 59, has been a fixture in Silicon Valley politics for decades and is the current Santa Clara County supervisor for District 2 in last year’s election. Many saw his victory as a major upset in a race that pitted a longtime elected official against a relative newcomer.

It was also a nail-biter, with Mahan winning by a couple of percentage points after a campaign marked by sharp ideological differences over how to address some of the city and region’s most difficult issues, such as homelessness and housing affordability. The campaign also brought in record amounts of cash for both candidates.

Following Chavez’s announcement on Thursday, Mahan, a moderate who was supported by the city’s business bloc during last year’s campaign, will face no clear opponent in next year’s March 5 primary. According to the city clerk’s office, the application deadline is December 8. Aside from the mayor’s race, five district seats are up for grabs, with a total of 16 candidates already filing. San Jose voters approved a measure in 2022 that moved mayoral elections to coincide with presidential election cycles beginning in 2024, allowing Mahan to run for two full four-year terms in addition to the shorter two-year term.

Chavez, who will leave her county seat at the end of her term next year, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Chavez stated in April that she was in the running for a top administrative position in San Diego County, but it was unclear whether she was still being considered for the position on Friday.

Jean Cohen, president of the South Bay Labor Council, described Chavez as a “brilliant” and “impactful” regional leader.

“Her leadership has changed Santa Clara County permanently,” Cohen said in an interview. “She is part of a growing movement of business, labor, and community leaders who believe San Jose can do better.” I’m confident she’ll continue to have an impact both locally and regionally.”

Cohen would not comment on other labor leaders who might challenge Mahan. Susan Ellenberg, a rising star in the region’s labor bloc and a Chavez supporter, also declined to comment on whether she would run.

Terry Christensen, emeritus professor of political science at San Jose State University, said he is not surprised by Chavez’s announcement. Any Mahan challenger would have had to begin raising funds in August.

“It would’ve been a really tough race, and a lot of money to raise in such a short period of time,” Christensen said, adding that he does not expect a serious challenger to emerge against the mayor.

When asked how Chavez’s announcement would affect the mayor’s race, Mahan responded, “I’m just very focused on getting San Jose back to basics and making us the safest big city in the country again, treating homelessness like the emergency that it is, cleaning up our streets, and attracting greater investment in jobs and housing.”

“And I’m confident that if we focus, embrace pragmatic solutions and increase our level of accountability at City Hall, we’re going to move the needle on these challenges, and that will speak for itself.”

Since the late 1990s, Chavez has been a champion of progressive politics, first as a San Jose councilmember for many years before becoming a Santa Clara Supervisor in 2013. Her first run for mayor of San Jose was in 2006, when she was defeated in a November runoff by Councilmember Chuck Reed. She has also held positions of leadership at the South Bay Labor Council and the labor think tank Working Partnerships USA. Chavez has been an advocate for women’s rights and affordable housing initiatives during her political career, helping to pass a $950 million bond for affordable housing in 2016.

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