SAN JOSE. The calendar shifts to 2022, and the three-term incumbent and his archrival are showing encouraging signs of support in their early campaigns for district attorney in Santa Clara County.
The June primary will mark the first time that incumbent District Attorney Jeff Rosen will be challenged in a re-election bid after being left without a challenger in 2014 and 2018.
One of his opponents, Deputy Public Defender Sajid Khan, is on an aggressive platform of criminal justice reform in hopes of repeating the political fate of Rosen, who in 2010 became the first person in the county to oust an incumbent DA in almost a year. century. In terms of fundraising, Khan’s campaign reports raising around $236,000 distributed to more than 1,100 donors, half of whom have donated less than $100 since he publicly announced his candidacy in July. Rosen’s campaign, meanwhile, reports that it has more than doubled Khan’s amount, bringing him closer to the $500,000 fundraising cap for the June 7 primary.
The second contender, Daniel Chang, who was recently a prosecutor working for Rosen but became a harsh critic of his old boss after a public row, declined to provide information about the status of his campaign.
As a multiple-time official, Rosen enjoys broad support within the county’s political leadership, including from South Bay Rep. Zoe Lofgren, San Jose Mayor Sam Licciardo, and County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, while Khan has built a support base social justice at the grassroots level. groups, as well as the support of former Rep. Mike Honda, Assemblyman Alex Lee, and Mountain View Mayor Ellen Kamey.
Garrick Percival, chair of the political science department at San Jose State University, said that for Rosen, the incumbent remains a huge force.
“DA racing inevitably favors the incumbent. They go to the campaign and the elections with this story,” Percival said. “It will be an uphill battle for both Chang and Khan.”
But he also pointed to the recent district attorney elections in San Francisco and Los Angeles, in which reform-minded candidates Cheza Boudin and George Gascon upset incumbents in those cities.
Khan wants to capitalize on the same voter sentiment in his campaign. His campaign commissioned a poll of 350 county voters by Florida-based SEA Polling and Strategic Design that showed Khan competing with Rosen after poll subjects were given “brief descriptions of the candidates.” and strong support for alternatives to imprisonment, transparency and accountability in law enforcement. . However, the same poll also showed Khan trailing behind in initial name recognition, with 8 percent compared to Rosen’s 20 percent and Chang’s 10 percent, who campaigned minimally.
Citing voter support for criminal justice reform measures, at least one of which Rosen unsuccessfully challenged in court, Khan argues that people in Santa Clara County are “not satisfied with the status quo” and that his past absence from political office is property. “I was not a county official. I was not part of this prison system and part of the system that led to the need for an alternative and a way forward.”
“We live in a community and a state where over the past few years and decades we have invested heavily in guarding, arresting, punishing and incarcerating our people, and the feeling of insecurity has increased despite this huge investment,” Khan said. “It proved to us and demonstrated that our path to community safety is not an extension of a broken system.”
But Rosen’s political adviser, Leo Briones, suggested that Khan did not have exclusive rights to reform and expressed skepticism about this campaign’s polling results.
“D.A. Rosen’s office is not interested in internal polls or underlying politics,” Briones said. “They are too busy working for the safety of the two million people who live and work in Santa Clara County.”
In a statement, Rosen added that he is “honored to have the support of more than eighty elected and retired public servants in Santa Clara County. I believe their support reflects the fact that while Santa Clara County remains one of the safest in the Bay Area, we also halved our prison population when I was DA.”
Percival said people would be “well done if they were more careful” about Khan’s campaign poll, noting that the results may reflect that the county’s overall voter didn’t have much practice talking about the DA given how long it’s been. since the office has been disputed.
“Mostly it’s instructive because it shows that there are a lot of undecided voters and a lot of those who don’t know what the DA is doing. We hope people become more involved in the race and become more knowledgeable in the office,” Percival said. “There is room for campaigning and persuasion, which could potentially make the race competitive.”