San Jose could see a stunning shakeup next year with seven new faces on the City Council, with two current elected officials potentially leaving office early.

If the results from last week’s election hold, District 10 Councilmember Matt Mahan will be the next San Jose mayor and District 8 Councilmember Sylvia Arenas will represent Santa Clara County District 1 as its supervisor—leaving two vacancies on the 11-member council. This will be part of the other turnover with seats changing in Districts 1, 3, 5 and potentially 7.

Councilmember David Cohen and Sergio Jimenez want the city to figure out how to fill those vacant seats by Dec. 18, while the council still has all of its members. Their proposal will be considered at the Rules Committee meeting on Wednesday.

“We are still counting ballots, but the trend is going in a particular direction that points to the fact we are going to likely have two vacancies,” Jimenez told San Jose Spotlight. “We want to make sure that those communities, as quickly as possible, are able to have representation on the council.”

Cohen said the process could take up to six months and could play out in several ways.

“As councilmembers, the job is not just about policy and positions but also working, responding to calls and being there for the residents of the district,” Cohen told San Jose Spotlight. “We don’t want to leave the seat vacant for too long. It’s important to have somebody fill it.”

Last week, South Bay voters turned out to pick a new San Jose mayor and Santa Clara County supervisor, among other representatives. Roughly 79 percent of votes have been counted as of Monday. The replacements for the District 8 and District 10 seats will serve two years before facing reelection in 2024—when their terms are up. If elected mayor, Mahan will also have to fight for his seat again in two years because voters approved a measure in June to move San Jose’s mayoral elections to presidential years.

According to the city’s rules, when there’s an empty seat on the dais, councilmembers can choose to make a permanent appointment, hold a special election to fill the seat or pick an interim appointment while the special election is taking place. The city would have to pay the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters for a special election.

Spokesperson Michael Borja said two special elections in Districts 8 and 10 could cost millions of dollars, but the county is still working out the actual costs. The special election in 2015 to fill a vacant seat in District 4 cost roughly $1.2 million, according to the county.

Mahan, whose seat could be up for grabs, advocates for a special election. He was first elected to the council in 2020.

“We can’t talk about how democracy was on the ballot in 2022 and then take it away from San Jose voters in 2023,” Mahan told San Jose Spotlight. “The people should choose their representatives via a vote of the people.”

Arenas’ office didn’t say how her potential open seat should be filled, but agreed the process should start soon. Arenas has served on the council for six years after being elected in 2016 and winning reelection in 2020.

“Councilmember Arenas believes it’s vitally important that District 8 residents continue to have a strong voice on the San Jose City Council without interruption,” Patrick McGarrity, Arenas’ policy director, told San Jose Spotlight. “So even as the Registrar of Voters continues tabulating the results in the supervisors’ race, the council must begin working to quickly fill this anticipated vacancy.”

The 2015 vacant seat proved to be contentious. Then-Councilmember Kansen Chu, representing District 4, left his seat two years early after winning a state Assembly position. Mayor Sam Liccardo, then mayor-elect, called an emergency meeting to appoint an interim replacement, prompting protest from other councilmembers who said the process was rushed, according to news reports.

The council ultimately voted to hold a special election to find Chu’s successor, drawing 10 people to compete in the race. Manh Nguyen ended up winning the race in the runoff election in June 2015 and served until the end of 2016.

Cohen said he expects the process to stir up heated conversation.

“I’m sure it’ll be a vigorous debate just like it was (in 2014),” Cohen said. “Whatever we do will be controversial, but we’ll be able to come to a collective decision about the best path forward.”

The San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee meets Wednesday at 2 p.m.

This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight. Please use the original link when sharing: https://sanjosespotlight.com/how-will-san-jose-fill-vacant-city-council-seats-election-2022/