SAN JOSE -- The open District 1 seat on the City Council has attracted more candidates than any other council race on the June 3 ballot, and voters in West San Jose will have no shortage of political viewpoints to choose from.
The seven challengers vying to replace termed-out Councilman Pete Constant include a state assemblyman, a former tech manager with big endorsements and a few community leaders active on commissions that typically serve as steppingstones to the council.
With so many contenders, no one is expected to get more than 50 percent of the votes needed to win outright in the primary. So the top two vote-getters will then compete in a November runoff election.
The candidates have mostly focused on crime in the oddly shaped district, which borders Saratoga, Campbell and Cupertino. They also have debated two issues unique to the district: the proposed conversion of the Winchester Mobile Home Park and the planned development at the domed Century theaters that recently shut down. Most of the major candidates want to keep the mobile-home residents in the park and want to save the theaters in some capacity.
But the similarities mostly end there, starting with the two candidates with by far the better-funded campaigns. They are, by San Jose standards, ideological opposites. Each is backed by one of the city's two large political machines: organized labor and big business.
Carrying the flag for the unions is Assemblyman Paul Fong, who is termed out of office in Sacramento. Fong, who still lists Sunnyvale as his address in Assembly dealings, bought a condo in San Jose just last year but notes that's he's represented the District 1 area in various regional political roles for decades.
"I know the San Jose area very well because I've driven by it every day, too," Fong said.
Fong wants to settle the lawsuit brought by the city's unions against Measure B, a pension reform measure voters approved in 2012, which would leave the city to abandon the elements of the measure under dispute, such as a requirement to make existing workers pay more for their pensions. He says this is the only way to stop the bleeding at the Police Department, where officers continue to flee for better-paying cities as the city struggles to quickly respond to and investigate crimes.
On the other side, Charles "Chappie" Jones is backed by the city's business establishment as well as Constant, Mayor Chuck Reed and his council allies. Jones, who left a sales management job at Apple to run for office, has, unlike Fong, no elected political experience or the name recognition that comes with it, though he has been appointed to the city's neighborhoods commission.
Jones, whose dad gave him his nickname as a kid, wants to keep fighting for the pension reform measure in court and is running on a platform of fiscal restraint.
"I'm different because I bring a wealth of business experience to City Hall," Jones said.
But while Fong's critics are concerned he will be too influenced by unions, Jones' opponents fear he will be unable to mend the broken relationship between City Hall and its employees, just as the council members who support Jones have struggled to do.
There are three more candidates -- Bob Levy, Susan Marsland and Richard McCoy -- who are not backed by special interests and are running smaller campaigns.
Levy, who's fourth in the fundraising race and is endorsed by former Mayor Susan Hammer, is perhaps the most experienced of any candidate when it comes to San Jose City Hall. He's headed the pivotal Planning Commission as well as the Parks and Recreation Commission. Initially a pension reform backer, he now says the legal battle to protect the disputed parts of Measure B should be put on hold to appease angry employees, even as he says he's running on a platform to get the city's "fiscal house in order." Levy says some savings could be attained at the bargaining table.
Based on his commission experience, Levy said he'll also push hard to make sure neighborhoods are well-informed, as well as make sure the district's fire station and community center are upgraded.
Marsland, the only women in the race and a former arts commissioner, is focusing largely on issues she says she's heard from moms, such as advocating for adding music in the park and a local farmers market -- popular elsewhere in San Jose -- to her district, and getting rid of fees for hosting block parties.
"I believe that we are missing the voice of women on the City Council," said Marsland, noting that only two of 11 council members are women. She is backed by former Vice Mayor Judy Chirco and has raised the third most money in the race. "I believe we need to have diversity of thought and experience on the council."
McCoy -- who is retired and the oldest of the candidates, and the only major candidate who is a Republican -- calls himself "very senior-conscious" and has focused on ideas such as special senior rates for home project permits and making sure new urban-style villages include affordable housing for the elderly.
"What I've found out is unless you're a senior you don't care about seniors," said McCoy, a senior citizens commission member.
Rounding out the field are Tim Gildersleeve and Art Zimmermann, neither of whom is fundraising nor has any endorsements.
Zimmermann, a previous parks and recreation commissioner, points to his experience chairing several boards -- from sports leagues to the PTA to even Girl Scouts -- in citing both his leadership skills and his network: "I've got a huge network of friends," he says. "I'm super entrenched in San Jose neighborhoods."
Gildersleeve, who regularly says "Jesus Christ is the chief motivation in my life," is the only no-party preference candidate in the race and has an unusual platform pledge. He says he would almost always vote the way a majority of his constituents want -- even if he disagrees with them.
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at Twitter.com/rosenbergmerc.
Correction: This article originally stated candidate Richard McCoy was endorsed by Councilwoman Rose Herrera, based on information McCoy provided. On Sunday, McCoy said he is not endorsed by Herrera.
Occupation: State assemblyman
Education: Master's degree in public administration, San Jose State; master's degree in education, University of San Francisco
Hobbies: Football and basketball fan
Occupation: Paratransit operator
Education: Bachelor of science degree, San Jose State
Hobbies: Hiking, volunteering, philosophical discussions
Charles "Chappie" Jones
Occupation: Left Apple, where he was a business manager, to campaign
Education: Master's degree in business administration, UC Berkeley
Hobbies: Cycling, golf, latest tech gadgets
Occupation: Information technology project manager and senior business analyst.
Education: Master's degree in urban planning, San Jose State
Hobbies: Gardening, long bicycle rides
Occupation: Moreland School District teacher
Education: Master's degree in public administration, San Jose State
Hobbies: Playing guitar, making jam, attending boot-camp workouts
Political party: Republican
Education: Bachelor of science degree, UC Berkeley
Current job: Lynbrook High School coach
Education: Associate of science degree, De Anza College
Hobbies: Golf, coaching youth sports