City Council Candidates Forum — Grading the Candidates Performance

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.

District Two

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.

Grade: B+/A-

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.

Grade: C+

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.

Grade: B

District Three

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.

Grade: B+/A-

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.

Grade: D


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.



  1. Whoa! Just watched the Forum from Wednesday. As a member of ROD, I gotta’ say I have concerns about Morse mansion and Raj Chahal thought the City didn’t spend money right. Really? Isn’t Morse mansion a part of downtown and history of SC? I have concerns about him? Does Chahal support downtown? from what I heard, i don’t think so.

  2. Karen Hardy is a phenomenal math teacher. It’s not her fault that Wilcox math scores are deplorable. Santa Clara Unified School District is spending it’s energy begging for bond funds, not prioritizing our children’s basic educational needs. SCUSD has lowered it’s “Books and Supplies” budget by over $23 Million in the last year (66% drop) saying the chrome books bought with Measure H of 2014 funds will suffice. It’s a classic scam. Use bond money to shift money from children to administrator salaries. Perhaps stealing money from our children isn’t working out so well for test scores? Also, Sam Kumar isn’t living in Santa Clara at all. He has never even moved into his legal Santa Clara residence (#74 Poinciana apartments). A “Vote for Karen Hardy” flyer has been wedged into his front door for over a month. A friend of mine who lives in this complex put the flier there and walks her dog past Sam Kumar’s residence 3X per day. There has been no sign of life there ever. No lights are ever on, no sound is coming from inside, no one has opened the front door to cause the flyer to drop down. Sam Kumar is a carpetbagger, just pretending to be a Santa Clara resident. Karen Hardy is hands down the best choice for Santa Clara City Council, District #3.

  3. Nancy presented herself very well. It was encouraging to hear how although she believes in growth, she believes in protecting the existing neighborhoods from being put in the shadows.

    Nancy’s priorities seem to be in order with also understanding of fiscal responsibility.

  4. I watched the forum with great interest and agree with your evaluation of the District Two candidates. Both Nancy Biagini and Raj Chahal presented themselves well. Mario Bouza was funny and personable but seemed to lack answers to some questions.

    I was surprised and bothered at how District Three candidate Srinivasan Kumar began his opening statement by denigrating his opponent, Karen Hardy. He reminded me of the politicians in Washington DC – not a good comparison. I tried to keep an open mind during the rest of the District Three forum; however, Mr. Kumar seemed to have minimal understanding of how the city works – council has no jurisdiction over the state of El Camino Real (a state highway) or local schools (run by the school boards) and he seems to have no experience in Santa Clara beyond running a business (a great restaurant, I have to say). He listed no volunteer activities, no committees or commissions he has served on and on top of that, I was confused by his answers to the questions of how long he lived in Santa Clara (county or city). It sounded to me like he maintains an apartment here but lives in Fremont? He wound up the forum by again attacking his opponent.

    Mr. Kumar should re-evaluate his approach to running for office. Insults and attacks make me think that the candidate would only continue such bad behavior on the council – and I’ve had enough of that to last me for years.

  5. Winning requires knowledge of the issues not just sticking your sign all over town or going negative on your opponent.

    Good job, Karen and Nancy.

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