SAN JOSE — With just four weeks before the Nov. 4 general election, Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) announced Oct. 3 that former White House Cabinet secretary and former San Jose mayor Norman Y. Mineta has endorsed his candidacy for San Jose City Council District 1.
“Norm Mineta has served our nation and San Jose with courage and distinction, and I am proud and honored to receive his endorsement,” said Fong.
Prior to becoming U.S. secretary of transportation under President George W. Bush and U.S. secretary of commerce under President Bill Clinton, Mineta was elected mayor of San Jose in 1971 with 60 percent of the vote, beating out 14 other candidates. Mineta served in the U.S. Congress from 1975-1995.
Fong also announced the endorsements of Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager, who represents at the county level the west San Jose district where Fong seeks election, and former San Jose City Councilmembers Judy Circo and Charlotte Powers.
“Great San Jose leaders, like Norm Mineta, Ken Yeager, Judy Circo and Charlotte Powers, as well as all of the other San Jose leaders who have endorsed me, know what I’ve done for San Jose and how much more that I can do for San Jose on council,” Fong stated. “I have dedicated my heart and soul to fight for the residents of District 1 and all of the residents of San Jose.”
In the June primary, Fong placed first out of seven candidates. His opponent in the runoff is San Jose Neighborhoods Commissioner Charles “Chappie” Jones.
With ballots mailing to District 1 vote-by-mail voters on Oct. 7, the Paul Fong for City Council campaign announced over $54,000 raised for the race, $12,000 more than Jones.
“We are humbled by the strong and growing support for our campaign,” said Fong. “This level of support reinforces the strong desire in our community to move away from the failed polices of the past and to focus on bringing ‘safety first’ back to San Jose.
“With the active support of our donors, elected and community leaders in San Jose, the Santa Clara County Democratic Party and the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, we are in a strong position to communicate our message to District 1 voters in the final weeks of this campaign.”
Campaign Manager Replaced
In response to a controversy over a member of his staff, Fong made the following announcement on Sept. 24: “Today, in order to move forward, refocus on the issues truly affecting the residents of District 1, and to be sensitive to the concerns expressed over the last couple days by members of the Palestinian and other Middle Eastern communities, I accepted the resignation of my campaign manager, Dennis Chiu.”
Several members of the Palestinian community were offended by an email written by Chiu on Sept. 22 to Fong contributors that referenced Jones’ political consultant, Vic Ajlouny, as being a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Fong campaign later quoted The San Jose Mercury News as saying that Ajlouny had not been a member of the PLO, but had advised its chairman, Yasser Arafat.
Ajlouny, who said he was not an advisor to Arafat but was a member of the Palestinian delegation in peace talks in Washington, D.C. in the early 1990s, told The San Francisco Chronicle, “This was done to raise money from anti-Arab donors. It’s abhorrent and it’s beneath somebody running for office in San Jose. What does my nationality have to do with Chappie Jones’ qualifications to be a council member?”
Chiu admitted making a mistake and apologized directly to Ajlouny and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on the same day the email was released. Chiu also apologized to the larger community on television and in radio interviews on Sept. 23.
Fong stated, “What Dennis did was wrong, and I’m taking this action to state that clearly. However, I have known him for almost 18 years. He has a long history of fighting against discrimination and for the civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. I do not believe that Dennis ever intentionally attempted to insert race in to the campaign.”
Chiu stated, “Having experienced discrimination as a gay Chinese American, I am profoundly and sincerely saddened that I caused hurt to another minority community.” He pledged to proactively reach out to members of the communities that voiced anger and disappointment to learn, listen and become better informed so that he can grow from this incident. Fong also directed Chiu to enroll in sensitivity training.
Fong announced that his field director, Patrick Ahrens, was promoted to campaign manager, effective immediately. Ahrens has previously worked on other campaigns, including Rep. Janice Hahn’s in Los Angeles.