SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- As the countdown to Election Day dwindles, eyes are on San Jose's mayoral race.
With Mayor Sam Liccardo terming out, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and San Jose Councilman Matt Mahan are facing off for Liccardo's seat.
In their pitch to voters, top priorities include homelessness, affordable housing, public safety and combatting crime.
"The number one deterrent to making sure you don't have crime is having police officers," Chavez told ABC7 News. "Making sure those crimes get investigated and prosecuted is how you stop repeat offenders."
Mahan says there are measures to prevent repeat arrests.
"We can't continue to have this revolving door at the county jail, where our thinly staffed police department is arresting the same people over and over again-largely for lack of intervention around addiction and mental illness," he said.
Of course, the candidates differ in their responses and also in their resumes.
Chavez has dedicated more than two decades to various public offices, including having served as the city's vice mayor.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez discusses mayoral race
San Jose City Councilmember Matt Mahan discusses mayoral race
Going further back, she said her parents were always involved in the community, having volunteered in church and in classrooms. Chavez said she grew up believing that it's what everyone did.
Chavez said in 1997, there was a shooting on her street. In the city's response, she met local leaders and engaged in conversation.
"One of the things I was really concerned about was, what were they gonna do relative to public safety as an example," she described. "And everybody gave me an answer that I thought, 'I'm not sure they're gonna dig in.' And, the thing I knew is I would dig in."
Mahan is fairly new to local leadership. He was elected to council in January 2021 and has a background in teaching and tech.
He grew up in Watsonville, and attended Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose.
"I came to San Jose as a work-study scholarship student. In fact, I got a great deal. I worked on the maintenance crew all summer and they forgave my tuition," Mahan described.
Mahan said he came back to the city after college, as a teacher in East San Jose, teaching 7th and 8th grades.
"Just making our case to the community for change," he said, when asked about his relatively new experience. "San Jose needs a different direction. If we keep electing the same people with the same policies, we're gonna get the same outcomes."
However, Chavez says experience is needed to navigate the challenging times expected ahead.
"The economy's gonna be challenging," she said. "We have to get the police department back together. We need to get San Jose building housing again to address this homelessness crisis. And we've got to get San Jose clean if we really want to see it safer."
Chavez says quick, critical response and collaboration during the pandemic uncovered potential and pushed her to seek the mayor's seat.
"I would not be running for mayor now, had COVID not happened," she told ABC7 News.
Chavez was Chair of the Board when COVID hit. She described having met with every city mayor and city manager every Saturday to develop a shared response to address COVID questions.
"You could see business, labor, nonprofits, government, working together to save lives," she continue.
Motivation for Mahan comes from his involvement in civic engagement and his understanding that politics and public service matter.
He said the pandemic highlighted for him, "that not all parts of our city have equal access to city services, or equal opportunity. And that has to be a focus of our government."
Mahan's campaign is dubbed the "Revolution of Common Sense."
"It's getting back to basics," he said. "It's focusing on safety, cleanliness, affordability, insuring the city is setting measurable goals around core services, reporting publicly on our performance, and actually tying our pay raises to moving the needle on these issues."
"A lot of the safety initiatives that I'd like to pursue, do not require us to raise another dime," Chavez said. "It just requires us to spend our money better."
As an example, Chavez said that the City of San Jose has spent $45 million per year over the last five years in police overtime.
"By taking a fraction of that, they could've hired fulltime officers, expanded community center and library hours, and focused on getting San Jose clean," she said.
On the subject of homelessness response, Mahan told ABC7 News, "We need to scale up basic, cost effective shelter. We need to expand in-patient treatment facilities for addiction and mental illness. And when safe, dignified individual shelter and treatment is available, we need to require that people come inside."
The decision will be up to voters in a matter of days. For now, both believe they are the answer to addressing some of San Jose's most serious issues. Both plan to take action to help shape the future of the nation's 10th largest city.
"I think San Jose can be the city in America that leads the way to a more transparent and accountable government," Mahan told ABC7 News.
"What I say to people is that the 10th largest city in the country is ready to shine again," Chavez said.
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