Judge Thomas Kuhnle Rules that Santa Clara Must Create Six Council Districts

By Robert Haugh

Judge Thomas Kuhnle ruled yesterday that Santa Clara must create six city council districts. He says there’s racially polarized voting in the City and district elections are better than at-large elections for Asian candidates to win.  We’ll see.

Kuhnle also ruled that the Mission City should continue to have a directly elected mayor.  Mayor Lisa Gillmor is up for re-election in November and will continue to run city wide. She shouldn’t have a problem.

Kuhnle is rushing everyone to make the November ballot. This could be disastrous especially if you think about the Registrar’s track record.

Kuhnle who really doesn’t have any political experience is also making life difficult for candidates and campaigns.

Here’s what the City’s press release says:

The Statement of Decision does not address the “sequencing” of elections. In other words, the City still does not know which districts or how many of the Court ordered six districts will have elections in November 2018. Although the decision states that the court will provide this direction “shortly”, at this point the City Clerk will not be able to provide this information to potential candidates seeking to run for Council Office or the voters.

Open Seats, Appointment?

We’re hearing that there may be two open seats in November — likely the ones held by disgraced former Councilman Dominic Caserta and Councilman Pat Kolstad who lives in Washington, but votes in Santa Clara.

Rumors are circulating that councilwoman Patty Mahan may step down early. Her term is up in 2020. But she’s had major health issues. Mahan also frequently misses meetings or leaves them early.

Will there be two open council seats in November and an appointment soon?

Political Impact?

Emily DeRuy of the Mercury News writes that this could be a big political change for the Mission City.

Gillmor, who will also be up for reelection in 2018, has led a four-member majority which could ultimately be in jeopardy under the new system. Her allies Davis, Watanabe and O’Neill have terms that run until 2020 and they are likely to be able to serve until then, but it is unclear who will win those seats under the new single-member district system.

Not likely. The Mercury News has never understood Santa Clara or the recent changes.

The council majority, led by Mayor Gillmor, has taken control of stadium management issues from the 49ers. That’s been good for Santa Clara. Money has been paid back to the city and Measure J is being followed to protect the City’s general fund. The majority who made this happen will be in power until January, 2021.

Caserta, Kolstad, and Mahan were critics of the Harvey Rose stadium and Measure J audit. They also supported lifting the weekday curfew for the 49ers. But Caserta is gone, Kolstad is going and Mahan may be going.

The 49ers lost the council majority when former Mayor Jamie Matthews mysteriously resigned in February, 2016. Looks like they’ll lose all their long-time supporters soon.

And remember, how the 49ers screwed up with the notorious dark money group BluPac in 2016? Anyone linked to the team will have a tough time winning a seat. Newly elected (or appointed?) councilmembers won’t bend over backwards for the team. Whether those candidates are Asian, African-American, Latino or White, that’ll be good for Santa Clara.

Santa Clara Six Districts
The six districts proposed by the City of Santa Clara.




  1. This is not just about getting a seat on the council. It is about knowing our city and being able to speak, so that we can under stand them. I have heard some people speak and did not know what that person was saying.

  2. I am not prima facie opposed to the concept of district boundaries and elections, as they COULD help people get representation based on specific concerns and issues within specific neighborhood. However, I also do not know that moving to districts from the current at-large system will necessarily facilitate better prospects for “minority” candidates. I guess time will tell.

    I am just glad that the judge did not require the City to adopt an appointed Mayor (as had apparently been proposed by the plaintiffs). I prefer having a mayor who is elected, and as such is accountable to the citizens.

  3. Apparently the judge assumes two things, one showing ignorance and one showing a complete disrespect for Santa Clara voters.
    1. All ethnic groups take part in elections equally. That is all whites, Hispanics, black and Asians turnout and vote at the same rate. Not true.
    2. All Santa Clara voters vote based on race and color of skin. Pure BS.

    I am appalled by both views.

  4. This is such bs. There is no racial voter polarization. Hopefully the city speaksa this decision.

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