Cortese Concedes; Liccardo Wins San Jose Mayoral Race

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Sam Liccardo declares victory at a press conference. (Beth Willon/KQED)

Update, Monday 5 p.m.: Nearly one week after voters went to the polls Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese late this afternoon conceded the San Jose mayoral race to Councilman Sam Liccardo.

Update, Monday 8:23 a.m.: All of the vote-by-mail ballot counting was completed by 8 p.m. Sunday night. Still uncounted: 14,000 provisional ballots. The tally now stands:

  • Liccardo: 87,950   51.06 %
  • Cortese:   84,282   48.94 %

Update, Thursday 4:15 p.m.: Liccardo has widened his lead over Cortese after the release of the latest vote totals. But at a press conference Thursday afternoon, Cortese said that he wanted to wait for all the votes to be counted before conceding the race.

Original Post:

The San Jose mayor's race is still not decided this morning. It's too close to call.


Throughout the night, City Councilman Sam Liccardo held a consistent 2-point lead over county Supervisor Dave Cortese. Liccardo declared victory this morning at a press conference. However, Cortese has not conceded the race yet.

Cortese does not expect a winner to be declared for at least a week. He believes a handful of voters will decide who is San Jose’s next mayor. He’s calling this race "San Jose’s Florida without the hanging chads."

Early this morning, Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey said ballots from all of San Jose's 495 polling precincts had been counted. But there are still tens of thousands of outstanding provisional and vote-by-mail ballots to tally. KQED expects an updated count on the South Bay's remaining ballots around the close of business Wednesday.

Santa Clara County election results trickled in all night because of website and computer problems at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters office. The glitches seemed to suck the air out of the election parties for both candidates, with many supporters leaving before midnight.

Liccardo dominated the vote in West San Jose and Cortese got the majority of votes on the East Side.

Sam Liccardo leading the race for mayor says goodnight to supporters at his Gordon Biersch Brewery election night headquarters.
Sam Liccardo, leading the race for mayor, says goodnight to supporters at his Gordon Biersch Brewery election night headquarters. (Nicholas Ibarra/San Jose State) (Nicholas Ibarra)

"We knew it would be a tough battle and here we are at the finish line. I think we're at the end of the tunnel," said Liccardo.

The San Jose councilman, who has a reservoir of support from former San Jose mayors and city leaders, said the unions ran a bruising, expensive campaign against him.

"We knew we were taking on the machine, and right now the machine is shivering in its boots," said Liccardo.

Cortese, who is backed by the unions and police, said it's possible the race will be decided by just a handful of votes.

"It's just a very competitive race and it's a very diverse city. This is what happens when you get a blend of votes on different issues from around the city," said Cortese.

Dave Cortese says good night to his supporters at the Marriott in San Jose after a long night of waiting for election results.
Dave Cortese says good night to his supporters at the Marriott in San Jose after a long night of waiting for election results. (Nicholas Ibarra/San Jose State)

The two men who want to be the next mayor of the largest city in Northern California have been sparring for months in an exhausting flurry of town hall meetings, debates and forums in every San Jose neighborhood.

"The side that mobilizes voters the best wins the mayoral election because, in a low voter turnout year, it won't take that many votes to do it," said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University.

The overriding issues of the campaign were residential crime, putting more police on the streets and pension reform.

In a city once called "America's safest big city," many residents say they've lost their peace of mind. They are demanding that the city's next mayor have solutions to reduce the residential crime plaguing neighborhoods from Willow Glen to East San Jose.

Official San Jose Police Department statistics show the number of burglaries for every 100,000 San Jose resident has gone up by more than 40 percent since 2009. Auto theft is up 51 percent. The loss of about 380 San Jose police officers in the last five years is part of the problem.

"This is a contest between two men who are viewed very differently by voters," said Gerston. "Cortese is viewed more as the common man and Liccardo is viewed more as the consummate professional. Each has their reservoirs of support. Cortese has the support of many former San Jose police chiefs, and Liccardo has the support of former San Jose mayors."