County Supervisor Race Update and Rankings: A New Frontrunner

By Robert Haugh

In this month’s ranking, everyone moved. It’s like of a political game of musical chairs.

We see some candidates spending more time in Santa Clara lately.  That’s a good thing for Mission City voters. We also think the extra activity is related to a poll that was done sometime around 60 days ago. Word must be getting around that Santa Clara is up for grabs.

Here’s the latest rankings:

#1.  Susan Ellenberg, San Jose Unified School District Board of Education President

Ellenberg moves from 3rd place last month to the top slot based partially on her appearances in Santa Clara. She reports that she was at the Soroptimist International meeting, the Mission City Community Fund Gala, the Santa Clara Democratic Club holiday party and toured the Santa Clara High School Wellness Center. We also noticed that her campaign dropped a nice mailer to voters in the district. Ellenberg must be trying to solidify her base early. Smart move. She’s also picking up some new endorsements, but no major Santa Clara names. Ellenberg also says that her campaign has begun precinct walking.


#2. Pierluigi Oliverio, former San Jose Councilman

Last month’s frontrunner drops down a slot because of Ellenberg’s rise. We still think he’s a strong bet to make the runoff. Oliverio was in Santa Clara a lot, too. He attended the Wilcox vs Santa Clara Mission City Bowl football game, the YWCA luncheon at the Santa Clara Convention Center, the Holiday tree lighting, the historic home tour and Bethlehem Santa Clara. Oliverio has been busy writing opinion pieces and letters to the editor about issues relevant to the County Supervisors’ role, like he did in the Fall on mental health treatment.

#3. Don Rocha, San Jose Councilman

Rocha is also a strong candidate to make the runoff but drops down a slot from #2 last month primarily because we haven’t seen him in Santa Clara recently. But he’s keeping his name visible with a recent Mercury News opinion piece about the need to plan for growth.

We thought this was an interesting line: “The city where I serve has recently had friction with its neighbors over new development projects along our borders.” Translation: San Jose doesn’t know how to play nice with other cities. But if we keep losing lawsuits to Santa Clara, we may learn quickly.

(Note to Don: we know you can’t write that now; but if you’re a Supervisor, you can.) Rocha also tells us that he’ll raise the $250,000 contribution max by December 31 and will “hit the doors” in January.

#4. Dominic Caserta, Santa Clara Vice Mayor

Caserta moves up this month from last place. But we still think he’s unlikely to do well in the June primary or make the runoff. He recently lost the endorsement of councilwoman Teresa O’Neill. That’s a big blow. We hear that O’Neill pulled her support after Caserta’s numerous outbursts at council meetings which we (and YouTube) have documented a few times: here, here, and here.

Caserta has now lost the majority of his council colleagues support because of his behavior and temperament. That’s bad news. On the bright side, Caserta is campaigning and walking precincts regularly and was the first to raise the maximum amount of money.

#5. Jason Baker, former Campbell Mayor

Baker did not report any information by our deadline so we had to move him down a slot. He did attend some Santa Clara events, such as the Mission City Community Fund gala.

Editor’s Note: We got tipped from some of our loyal readers to the poll that was done about two months ago. Interestingly, there were some questions about the 49ers and the curfew in there. We expect more polling to happen in early 2018 so if you get called, let us know.

Editor’s Note 2: at 3 p.m., we updated this article with minor corrections. Susan Ellenberg is the President of the San Jose Unified School District Board of Education and sent her mailer to all voters in the District.


  1. Caserta Blew it!

    What an idiot to lose his endorsements from the Santa Clara City Mayor and female Councilmembers. Maybe Dominic has a problem with women? That and your psyco narcissism is most likely the reason people can’t stand you.

    Thanks for taking the bait and showing us who you really are, coo coo.

  2. Teresa O’Neill doesn’t deserve to be on the endorsement list. She can go stand in the corner with all the other LOSERS. When Caserta wins this race, he’ll remember all the people that un-endorsed him.

    OK that list may be in the thousands. But he’ll still remember. Caserta has a memory like an elephant. OK. Maybe a temperamental elephant. But still an elephant with big ears and a long trunk. Count on it folks.

  3. Good for Teresa. I bet she endorsed him just because everyone else did. Now that everyone else has rejected Caserta, she has too. Better late than never.

  4. Thanks for writing about this race. I don’t live in Santa Clara so I wouldn’t naturally read this site. I first found you on Facebook. Your columns get shared a lot online. I can tell you that a lot of people in local politics read this, including people at San Jose City Hall. But only during coffee breaks. LOL. You’re an entertaining read and you’re the only one following this race closely.

    That being said, I think you’re underestimating the power of incumbency, particularly for a full-time councilmember. Look at the history of local races. They usually win. So do San Jose candidates. Like it or not, those are historic facts.

    So, I’d rank Rocha first. Ellenberg and PLO will fight it out for second. They’re both strong candidates.

    You can dismiss Baker and Caserta since they’re from small cities and have no chance. Caserta seems like a really flawed candidate, too.

    • SV Watch:

      The runoff will be Caserta and either Rocha or Oliverio. If I had to pick it will be Caserta and Oliverio, the Rocha campaign has done very little and Don is not an active campaigner. But, Oliverio has HUGE baggage and labor and public safety will run an active campaign against him in the primary. He should be toast quickly but Oliverio does have name ID going for him.

      Remember, Caserta is well known in Santa Clara and San Jose being educated in Cambrian at St. Frances Cabrini, Bellarmine College Prep in the Rose Garden of SJ, and Santa Clara University. Caserta has deep roots in D4. Hi mother’s side of the family is very active in SC and father’s side is a well known established San Jose family. As the only educator in the race, his occupation will connect with D 4 voters. Susan claims she is an educator but will be sued if it is on her ballot statement as she is not paid as an educator. Additionally, Susan represents a small sliver of the district. Caserta is the only fifth generation candidate of the country in the race, that resonates with voters in the district. Along with Baker being a young father and husband will connect with voters which will bolster Caserta’s chances.

      Traditionally, this is a SJ seat, but Caserta has corss-over appeal and seen by his traction in this race in SJ. Not to mention he is the hard campaigner I have ever met, laser focused! A Santa Claran like him can win this race, just my thoughts…

    • I’ve heard this we’ll “sue Susan if she says she’s an educator” before. Who will sue her? And I looked up her bio, she was an educator up until recently…she’s also a lawyer and so is her husband I believe. It just appears this threat is being repeated but who is the “we” that will sue and why make issue before she does or doesn’t do it.

  5. Interesting development…I continue to have faith that Ellenberg and Rocha will take the runoff, Rocha for the win. Pieri if an upset. I have to wonder what Caserta “knows” that is making his campaign confident in his chances. My question is what votes outside of SC can he count on?

    • Hi NanNy:

      Team Caserta is confident because we are doing the work that makes successful campaigns. We have talked to thousands of voters at their doors and in their living rooms. Caserta’s biography, service, and record of getting things done is connecting with D 4 voters.

      We feel good about where we are with five plus months to go, thanks…

  6. Thanks for keep us informed. Will there be a candidates forum in Santa Clara? I think we need to find a good candidate who will represent our city.

  7. Even with all his colorful outbursts he does in the comments section of this website and on the dais, Dominic Caserta knows he has no chance at winning top 2 slot in the primaries. When the Santa Clara City Council was discussing redistricting, he was adamant that he not be excluded from being able to run for re-election in Santa Clara as a councilmember due to being drawn out of his district.

    Doesn’t sound like someone who’s SOOOOOOO confident that he’s going to win the Supervisor race, now does it?

    • I have worked weekly on Team Caserta and I know firsthand that Dominic focused on this Sup race, he asked those questions on the dais about the process of redistricting as many Santa Clarans will be excluded from running with just 2 districts. Dominic used himself and other like Kathy as an example to highlight his point, not because he was thinking about running for council again.

      We at Team Caserta are working hard and feel good about our campaign as we are talking to voters everyday and those conversations are extremely positive.

      We are confident of our chances!

  8. Robert your monthly rankings on this critical race for Santa Clarans is a joke without any empirical nor consistent evidence. For example, you give high marks to candidates that attended a few Santa Clara events but do not mention the numerous Santa Clara events that Caserta attended last month. In addition, you mention Rocha might raise the max of $250,000 but continually ding Caserta for raising the most money in this race. You also mention Susan has picked up a few more endorsements, which ones? And you never mention that Caserta has the most endorsements of ALL the candidates including TWO huge endorsements in a county race: Public safety with the SCPOA and health care with the California Nurses Association. Why do not not ever mention those endorsements Robert. You will not even have the professionalism to even answer those simple and direct questions on your own blog, which very few people read!

    People who follow Santa Clara politics know why Caserta lost Gillmor and her disciples support: because Caserta is independent, he speaks his mind, and protects taxpayer dollars and you divert by saying things like his behavior. If he disagrees with Gillmor Caserta is throwing a tantrum, what a joke Haugh! If he agreed with Gillmor that would not be an issue. Give us a break Robert, you know that and you continue to distort the truth. Gillmor, Davis, Watanabe, and O’Neill endorsed Caserta for OVER 15 months for this race and when he disagreed with them on a FEW issues they pulled their endorsement, what a JOKE and a true reflection of Gillmor and her bobbleheads lack of integrity NOT a weakness of the Caserta campaign.

    The clear benchmark of a successful campaign is the money you raise to get your message out (Caserta is 1st), volunteers that show up to help which reflects enthusiasm for the campaign (Caserta is 1st), endorsements which is a validation for voters (Caserta is 1st), and geographical representation (Caserta is 1st). Susan represents the SMALLEST part of the district while Santa Clara is the largest represented area by one candidate which helps Caserta. Caserta has won Santa Clara FOUR times in a ROW without the support of Gillmor and her bobbleheads in 2014 by the way and will win the Mission City again in this race without a doubt!

    Caserta should be ranked 1st or 2nd in any respected poll and by most credible insiders which you are NOT Robert. You are a biased, disgruntled blogger who barks at the moon and is unemployable!

    This ranking is WRONG!

    • “what a JOKE and a true reflection of Gillmor and her bobbleheads lack of integrity” – tell us how you really feel Dominic. And to lecture the council about respect when you lack it yourself? Ha! What a hypocrite.

      Let’s look at your “clear benchmarks”:
      1. “the money you raise to get your message out (Caserta is 1st)” –> the money you collect from big-donor corporate sponsors whom for which you’ll do their bidding over the needs of the residents. For proof, see the 49ers campaign contributions and how you represent them over the residents.
      2. “volunteers that show up to help which reflects enthusiasm for the campaign (Caserta is 1st)” –> you mean all your students whom you give extra credit to for doing work for your campaign? If you consider doing extra-credit projects as enthusiasm, then yeah sure…. (note my sarcasm)
      3. “endorsements which is a validation for voters (Caserta is 1st)” –> you mean endorsements by people who either owe you favors or for whom you’ll owe favors for in the future? Yeah, no thanks.
      4. “geographical representation (Caserta is 1st)” –> this would only matter if Santa Clarans actually LIKED you – but they don’t. Take your last council race for example: 61% of Santa Clara voters did NOT want you to be elected as councilmember.

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