By Robert Haugh
Last night, the League of Women Voters hosted Santa Clara council candidates for a forum/debate. It was the third such event for the council candidates. The Mayoral candidates have had three debates. The City Clerk candidates have had four.
There were some differences on issues. But mostly the candidates have a lot of similar positions. They really differ from each other in style and substance. So, we evaluated and graded their performances.
Nancy Biagini — Biagini had the best opening statement of the night. She used a “Santa Clara first” theme nicely throughout the debate. Biagini was clear where she stood on development. She’s not a fan of high density near neighborhoods, like the El Camino. She had the best line of the night: “If it doesn’t fit, you’ve got to quit.” She said the Kylli development is way too intense. Biagini showed good knowledge of most issues. For example, she had to educate her opponents about Measure M. It’s a vote to approve a tax on marijuana sales. It’s not a decision to build dispensaries. Biagini also showed some political savvy by referring to The Related Company’s City Place project as “uptown.” That showed some respect for Reclaiming our Downtown.
Mario Bouza — Bouza told the most jokes and was the most relaxed. Maybe he was too relaxed. He didn’t look well prepared. Bouza ran of out time to finish his opening statement. He didn’t know what Measure M was when he was the first to get the question. But was clear that he’s not a fan of high density, including monster homes. He also reminded everyone that he opposed the stadium.
Raj Chahal — Chahal’s opening statement was just okay. There was nothing interesting and his style is low key. But he had a clear theme that he repeated throughout the night. He’s against high density. On the Planning Commission, he opposed most of the residential developments he said. At one point, he said his opponents never opposed these developments. That caused Bouza to pull out his rebuttal card and say that Chahal was wrong. Bouza was visibly annoyed. But Chahal never responded. A lot of Chahal’s answers were rambling and hard to follow. Some of his proposals didn’t see clear. Maybe it’s because he tried to explain them in one minute.
Karen Hardy — Hardy was confident and knowledgeable on all the issues. In her opening statement, she talked about her qualifications and service. It’s a good list. She mentioned her Planning Commission term a few times, including her approval of Rivermark and support of Ulistac. Smart move. Hardy is for following the General Plan, especially on El Camino. That’s not good for the massive Mariani development proposal. She’s clearly anti-tax. Hardy opposes the gas tax, sales tax and marijuana tax.
Sam Kumar — Kumar did not start well. His opening statement was confusing and he went negative right away. He said Hardy was unqualified. Bad move. She’s well qualified. Later, he criticized her for low math scores at Wilcox High School. A cheap shot and another bad move. Kumar had a long, complicated answer about where he lives. It sounds like since 1998, he’s been living in Fremont and has an apartment in Santa Clara for the weekends. Kumar seems pleasant even when he was negative. But, unfortunately, he wasn’t knowledgeable on most issues.
There’s still three weeks of campaigning. Things could change between now and election day. But based on the candidate’s performance last night, it looks like Santa Clara may have an all-female council next year.