Mahan and Kolstad Voted to Fill Council Vacancies in the Past, Now Say They Won’t Even With Qualified Candidates Applying

By Robert Haugh

The Council will screen 24 applicants tonight to try and fill disgraced Councilman Dominic Caserta’s vacated seat.

That’s twice the amount of candidates that applied in March, 2016. A lot of them are well-qualified. It shows a lot of interest in what’s happening at City Hall.  Kudos to the council and city staff.

Today, the Council needs a super majority vote – five of six Councilmembers to make an appointment. That’s because of a measure drafted by the Charter Review Committee and approved by Santa Clara voters in November, 2016.  The purpose was to force the council to select a consensus candidate, not just someone favored by the majority.

Councilwoman Patty Mahan has vehemently voiced her displeasure about the Council making an appointment, even a consensus one. Councilman Pat Kolstad has also said he’d like to leave the seat open until the November election. But most Santa Clara political observers don’t believe them and think they’re playing politics with the appointment.

Maybe that’s because in 2011, Mahan and Kolstad were  among the majority vote that appointed current Mayor Lisa Gillmor to Jamie Matthews’ vacated council seat (Matthews won a bid for Mayor).  Kolstad also voted to appoint current Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe to a council vacancy in 2016.

Now, Mahan and Kolstad suddenly say appointing someone to Caserta’s seat is inappropriate.

It doesn’t make any sense. Neither does their argument that voters should pick the Caserta replacement.  The Mission City overwhelmingly decided (by 80 percent!) that the council should pick a consensus candidate to fill vacancies.  And Santa Clara voters will have a chance to fill the seat in November — regardless of an appointment.

If Mahan and Kolstad refuse to appoint a councilmember, it’ll be the first time in the Charter era that a seat will be left vacant.  Here’s the history:

Council and Mayor appointments in the Charter era:

  • Larry Marsalli 11/1965
  • John Mahan 4/1977
  • Vern Deto 12/1985
  • Lisa Gillmor 1/2011
  • Lisa Gillmor — Mayor 2/2016
  • Kathy Watanabe 3/2016

Ironically, the Mahan that was appointed in 1977 was Patty’s father John Mahan.

The 24 Applicants:

David Ladd Anderson; Nancy A. Biagini (Serrano); Andrew Chan; Christina Cielusniak; Noah Clemons; Abhik Dutta; Susan Ellefson; Eversley Forte; Hosam Haggag; Kevin Heller; Sudhanshu (Suds) Jain; Sowmya Krishnan; Joie Le; Ashish Mangla; Kevin M. McMahon; Robert Meier; Mohammed Nadeem; Vincent Navarro; Kevin Park; Lara Ruffolo; Frederick Armstrong Shaul; Chris Stampolis; Susan Beth Tsolinas; and Sara Yoders.

Three candidates ran for city council recently:  Jain, Nadeem and Park. They can all claim to have a following for that reason. All three have served on city commissions, too. But Nadeem may have shot himself in the foot with his endorsement of Caserta for Supervisor. He looks like the only one on the list who did so.

Six other candidates have served on city commissions, according to their applications: Biagini, Chan, Forte, Haggag, Mangla and Stampolis.

If a consensus candidate emerges, look for someone from this group of nine.

But that means Mahan or Kolstad will have to do what they’ve done in the past — appoint a well-qualified candidate.  Or they’ll make history by failing to do what the voters overwhelmingly approved.

It should be interesting to hear them explain that.




  1. I do not believe there should be an appointment
    I went for in 2016 well knowing they already had their favorite in Kathy
    Yet in Kathy’s defense she was appointed 9 months before her oath in December 2016, that is understandable though because of that seat needing to be filled especially after Lisa moved chairs. 9 months in 2016 was close to a year versus the 5 months we are faced with now.
    Lisa Gillmor was appointed council member in 2011 where should would run in 2012 a year later, that is understandable because their would have been an open seat for for over a year after Jamie Matthews was appointed. But this was also a time when Mahan,Matthews and Gillmor were in unison over the 49ers so her appointment was no surprise.
    Lisa was appointed to mayor in a very interesting period Feb 2016 2 Years 8 months before the next election. 1 this should have been elected yet two it’s appintment made sense at the time because Matthews was barely into his second term 1year 1 month and 7 days.
    So the remainder of his term was needing to be filled either by a special election or the appointment so we appointed Lisa
    She has been appointed twice
    Yet my argument now over the appointment process is the words “electorate advantage”
    When I lost the appointment against Kathy Watanabe, her role as freshman council member was for 9 months (before she was resworn in) and that appointment gave myself and other candidates in seat #6 a disadvantage because of the word appointed incumbent the word ‘incumbent’ stands out to voters plus there was unanimous support for her support. That’s fair I understand that part
    But the same will go to whomever they do appoint (if they do)
    It’s an unfair advantage
    Nothing against any council members but no more appointments to council this is a people’s voice , not who the council thinks the voters should pick.
    Leave the seat open for 5 months
    The individual who will win the election for that seat win take oath in Beginning of December. A 5 month gap isn’t that bad , it actually will make council work harder in coming to an agreement, could be a blessing in disguise
    I respect their decisions but may not agree with them this should only be the people’s choice
    But after all this I stated
    The pattern in appointments have created big advantages. the average voter that does not know the deep politics of Santa Clara, they will only believe what flyers state that come in the mail.
    3 appointments in 3 years ? (Twice in 2016, possible once in 2018) that’s nearly half of a council And a big chunk of votes

    Think of this if I had been appointed in 2016 instead of Watanabe, I would have lost the General election because of money
    It’s not only an advantage having incumbent but having money is Big too including council and large endorsements

    Therefore if council wants it they will give one an advantage if they want to be fair they would pick a nobody and someone from the outside

    But in reality this seat needs to be elected not appointed

    • An election in November is unlikely. Rather, there will probably be a special election ordered by the judge who will (deservedly) stick it to City residents where, last night, the Council knowingly ensured that any new voting plan would be devised by six white council persons to the exclusion of Santa Clara Asian Americans. Residents are gonna pay for Kolstad and Mahan’s subterfuge, big time.

  2. If true, the consequences of their obstructionism will be disastrous for Santa Clara residents. Here’s why: The most immediate consequence is adding $millions to the damages and attorneys fees the City will be ordered to pay in the CFVRA litigation. In that case, the judge has found the City liable under that law for violating the voting rights of Asian-American Santa Clara residents.

    • They need five of six votes for an appointment. Of 24 applicants, you know who is going to be appointed?
      A set up? Wow.
      Voters overwhelmingly approved INCREASING the threshold for an appointment – it now requires a super majority vote, not a simple majority vote.
      Had that not been approved in 2016, it would have only taken a simple majority for an appointment.

      So who is getting appointed – tell us here.

    • I agree. I think there are at least some possible “5 vote” candidates, of the 24.
      There has been a lot of speculation that our November elections are off. I would think that mayoral election might continue, but even some debate about that since “rolling seat” or a Council-elected mayor are possible. If November is off, that gives greater weight to the argument to make an appointment, and even greater importance for a good selection.

    • I’d look for:
      1. Someone who will be independent and make decisions on the issues, not thee alliances. It might even be good if it’s a candidate that comes in whom has mostly disagreed with the Council majority in the past, but could be a swing vote on particular issues.
      2. Someone with past experience on City matters, either through any number committees or volunteer work or someone who has attended and spoken out on issues or projects requiring council approval.
      3. Someone with Asian origin per CRVA definitions. People commented for this in the earlier Council decision re the appointment. Easy to say that’s a reverse discrimination, but it might give the City a better hand is the Court’s remedy proceedings. (Hopefully no one is talking about appealing the Court’s liability decision.)
      4. Considerations might also be given to age and to status as renter vs. homeowner.
      I won’t be there, but it’ll been interesting to watch later and hear the selection; if any.

  3. I hope people remember Chris Stampolis and his horrible behavior while on Santa Clara Unified School Board. I cannot imagine that anyone wants that kind of behavior on City Council.

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