Local and state legislators are pushing for support for an initiative to limit special interest money in San Jose politics they’re hoping makes it on the city’s November 2020.
If passed, the Fair Elections Initiative would prohibit candidates for mayor and City Council from accepting political contribution funds from for-profit developers, landlords managing more than 10 rental units in San Jose, businesses that received or bid to receive over $250,000 in city funds over the last two years, and lobbyists for the same entities.
The measure also proposes moving the city’s mayoral election to presidential election years, starting in 2024 — meaning the person elected mayor in 2022 would serve a one-time, two-year term.
Legislators present during an Oct. 11 news conference included Assemblyman Kansen Chu, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese and City Council members Maya Esparza, Sergio Jimenez and Magdalena Carrasco.
Chu, a San Jose resident, said “the democracy works best when more people are involved,” adding that he is “fully embraced in this initiative.”
Esparza said that holding mayoral elections during gubernatorial years is “historically rooted in suppressing voter turnout and restricting access to the ballot,” acknowledging after that she was elected during such an election cycle.
The legislators said the ballot measure could help end “pay-to-play” politics in San Jose and limit the influence of major corporations and lobbyists on elections throughout the state.
They said their main concerns include boosting participation in elections from minority constituents, especially people of color, who are disproportionately nonvoters.
Carrasco said if the ballot measure makes it to the upcoming ballot, voters will pass it to limit developers in San Jose from using large profits to buy elections.
“If you look throughout the city, these guys make a lot of money once their building goes up, not in perpetuity, but close to perpetuity,” Carrasco said last Friday. “What the measure calls for is, if it is a development that there’s a lobbyist lobbying for, he can’t contribute to [elected officials].”
Cortese also spoke in support of the measure, and said developers would likely be one of the main political influencers impacted if it passes.
“We’re all here because our system isn’t working,” Cortese said.
The initiative needs more than 69,000 signatures by February to qualify for the 2020 ballot.
Cortese called the initiative “a step in the right direction” for local politics.
“It’s probably a relief to some of those interests because once it’s limited, they can keep their money in their pockets instead of giving it to candidates,” Cortese said. “Hopefully it’s a win-win for everybody, especially people who are underrepresented right now in the process.”